Ireland day 0063. Tuesday 30 November 2021- Newbridge
After yesterday’s far-ranging travels, today we decided to stay a bit closer to home and attempt something a little less ambitious.
Our choice of destination was fairly easy, actually. Just 5km / 3mi from our flat in Malahide is a fine country house at Newbridge, which is owned and run by Dublin Council. Since we are members of the Malahide castle society, because Malahide castle is owned by Dublin council, we also gain free admission to Newbridge. So as we had no other plans for today, apart from than my Spanish lesson this evening, it seemed like a good time to schedule a visit.
The challenge is that while Newbridge is only 5km away, there is a large intervening body of water in the form of the Broadmeadow Estuary between us and it. While we are car-less (still no news on the Yaris by the way – though there are some hints of progress), the only options for getting there are either to take a long walk and detour inland to the small bridge upstream of the motorway, or to take the train across the embankment. It would be a 12km / 8 mi walk each way and by the time we decided we were going to go, we didn’t think we would have enough time to get back before it got dark.
So we took the soft option and caught the train. It took all of 4 minutes to cross the causeway on the Drogheda express, and then only another 20 to walk to the house. All in all, it was a far more practical option.
Newbridge House is set in a giant demesne (grounds) of some 160 ha / 400 acres. Strictly speaking, as the grounds are owned by Dublin Council, they actually comprise the second largest public park in Dublin. Only Phoenix Park is bigger. They are nicely laid out grounds – not with Capability Brown flair, but considerably more mature than Tymon park that I visited on Sunday. There is a herd of deer – some with impressive antlers – and a couple of flocks of heritage sheep breeds within the grounds. The the deer are fenced off, which is a bit of a relief considering the enormity of the antlers that some of them were sporting.
We had a quick look round outside then joined a guided tour of the house interior (actually we didn’t so much “join” the tour as form it completely). Our knowledgeable and chatty host explained some of the house’s history, and pointed out some of the interesting historic artefacts it contained. The house was built in 1752 for Archbishop Cobbe to a design by architect James Gibbs (who also designed the Ashmolean library in Oxford). Gibbs never actually visited the house – in fact he never set foot in Ireland – as he was a catholic whereas the Cobbes were protestant. The house stayed in the Cobbe family until 1985 when the upkeep became unaffordable and the then owner sold it for IR£ 1mln to Dublin council. In a model which is almost unique in Ireland, the owner and her descendants retained the right to live in 4 apartments in the top of house.
The house itself is interesting inside though you can see why the family sold it – the fabric seems to be crumbling in parts and it must be an endless, and cash draining, task to stop it form falling apart. But the very fact that it is still here to view today is down in part to a historic quirk. The Cobbe family were seen as having treated their tenants well during the famine years in the 1850s. This served them well in the war of independence in the early 1920s when the then IRA burned a lot of similar mansions but spared Newbridge on account of the family’s generosity three quarters of a century earlier. Just shows – you never know when your (or your forebears’) past will come back to haunt you.
After the tour, we paused for a cup of coffee then beat a retreat to Donabate station and arrived just in time to catch the train for the quick journey across the causeway to Malahide.
So now we’re back in the flat and I’m in mid-rehearsal for my Spanish speech this evening. It’s going to be quite a stressful experience even though my audience will be only six not six hundred, and I shall be quite glad when it’s over. “Buenas noches. Mi llamo Adam etc. etc.” Watch this space tomorrow to find out how I got on!
Today’s photos (click to enlarge)