Sunday, April 3, 2011

Ardgillan Castle

City bound people will never have been as far as Balbriggan, but I assure you it is in Dublin.  Ardgillan Castle was once the home of the O'Caseys, later owned by the Earls of Tyrconnell and then by the Taylor family.  It has belonged to Dublin and later Fingal County Council for the last 20 years.  The current structure is only really a castle in name, like Malahide Castle, no one has defended it from the battlements.
It was extensively restored and is open to the public for tours.  I didn't do the tour today but I have done it previously.  The tour guide told us a wonderful story about how the fireplace in the entrance hall once was in another Big House, but was won in a poker game!  Imagine coming home to tell your wife you'd bet away the fireplace.  Most of the furniture inside is not original but it is the right period and style.  There's a beautiful walled garden with roses, fine landscaped gardens around the house and a very good cafe that does homemade cakes. A Victorian glasshouse (which was donated by a Malahide family) replaces the castle's own original glasshouse.

The real prize is the extensive free park, with fantastic coastal views (including Lambay Island) and an awesome kids playground (though this did not stop me having a go on the swings).  There were plenty of happy children playing in it today.  A huge climbing frame dominates one end of it and it has that special rubbery surface to cushion little people's falls.  There's a few different walks but they aren't well sign-posted.  One thing to note is that it's built on a hill, so at some stage you will find yourself walking back up it towards the carpark.  They have picnic tables too.

I took the below photo today just before a massive thunder storm. The rain was so bad I had to pull in on the motor way and wait for it to subside.  To get to Ardgillan, head up the M1 and take junction 5, then follow the signs for it through Balrothery.  It is accessible by train and bus, but I wouldn't recommend the bus journey; it goes through Swords, Rush, Lusk and Skerries before it gets to Balbriggan, but it does stop right outside the end of the demesne.


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