Ireland day 0067. Saturday 04 December 2021- Castles

Ireland day 0067. Saturday 04 December 2021- Castles
Today’s summary Quick walk round Malahide Castle garden in the early afternoon, then revisited Swords Castle in the evening while Val was at work
Today’s weather Cool and bright.   Sun most of the afternoon.   Moderate westerly breeze.  About 6C
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Today’s overview location
(the red cross in a circle shows where Val and I are at the moment)
Close-up location
(Click button below to download a GPX of this evening’s walk to Swords Castle and back)
Swords castle Christmas

It’s funny how when you live somewhere you just take for granted place names which probably sound a bit odd to an external reader.   Swords is a perfect example.   I had never thought about the word much before coming to Ireland – it was just what you called collections of mediaeval weaponry.   But in fact it’s a town which is one of Malahide’s nearest neighbours – just 5km / 3mi to the west of here.   It’s an unusual name and when I actually bothered to research it a bit, I discovered it was derived from the old Gaelic word “sord” meaning “pure”.   It refers to the water from an ancient well venerated by St Columba (Cholm Cille) who founded a monastic settlement on the spot in 560AD.

Anyway, fast-forwarding fifteen centuries, Val and I had spent the morning enjoying the sunshine in the grounds of Malahide Castle, where she is working.   She gave me a quick tour of the Wonderlights display which she is stewarding and which seems to be bringing joy and delight to generations of Malahidians young and old alike.   Sadly we didn’t have long to visit as we wanted to have lunch before Val returned to work and I set off on a longer walk in the evening.   (I served up lamb chops with colcannon and peas, followed by orange jelly and custard and it was delicious, even though I say so myself).

After Val returned to the castle for work, I set about exploring our next-nearest castle at Swords.   You already know how it got its name, now, and will probably remember that on Thursday I had tried to have a look round but ended up looking like a drowned rat by the time I got there.   Today the weather was much more benign – cold and bright, with the sun’s light persisting in the sky long after it had set.   Though it was one of those weird days today when suddenly it would start raining when there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.   It happened to us once in Malahide castle in the afternoon, then again as I was walking along the coast to Swords.   I have no idea where the water came from though I do sometimes wonder if perhaps a passing aircraft had taken the opportunity at that moment to purge its bilge tanks.   Better not to think about it.

I followed the well-trodden coast path and then under the motorway and entered Swords from the north.   I was quickly in Swords community park and walking towards the town centre alongside the Ward river.   It was a bit dark so rather hard to see anything, but as you approach the castle, you do get a good view of the fine (recently restored) northern perimeter wall.   To the right, on the far side of the river, is a large industrial estate which I think accommodates several of the biotech and pharma giants which have been attracted to Ireland – and Swords in particular – recently.

Flip-flopping through history takes us back to about the year 1200 when the original Swords castle was built by Archbishop of Dublin, John Comyn.   The castle didn’t remain in full use for long, though.   There is some evidence that it was starting to fall to bits as long ago as 1326, after having being badly damaged in one of the many foreign invasions of Ireland.   This particular one having originated in Scotland in 1317 and led by Edward Bruce, brother of Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland.   In the 1500’s the castle was apparently occupied by a colony of Dutch protestant weavers who had been brought in to teach weaving skills to the locals.   For the next 300 or 400 years, occasional use was made of the castle, including becoming a market garden.   Eventually, in a state of considerable disrepair, the excellent OPW took it on in the 1930s and in 1996 a restoration programme was initiated which is still going on today.

So in a final see-saw through the ages, coming back to the 21st century – tonight in fact – I arrived at the castle, illuminated in all its glory, to discover that a Christmas market was in full swing inside the castle keep.   It was a jolly occasion, with lots of stalls selling local produce and hot drinks.   I hadn’t known that the fair was being held so it was a real surprise to come across it.   It wasn’t very busy – though the evening was cold – and one of the stallholders I spoke to said she was a bit disappointed with the footfall.   Bit she did sell very nice chocolate and Smartie cookies, and of course I had to have one.

Re-carbed, I headed out of the castle again and turned for home.   I had worked out a circular route which avoided doubling back on the walk out along the coast.   It unfortunately involved quite a lot of road-walking, which I don’t particularly like, but there were plenty of grass verges to walk on which softened the impact on expensive-to-replace knees and hips.   I made managed a good pace and was back in time to get some dinner (re-heated colcannon and serrano ham, if you must know, followed by chocolate biscuits) and with plenty of time to pick up where I left off reading the story of one man’s attempt to walk across Ireland.

Tomorrow I’m hoping to join the Dublin Walking Group again so need to get on and make some sandwiches.   It seems like it’s endless food preparation at the moment!


Today’s photos (click to enlarge)

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Here’s Val, showing off her “office” where she works four evenings a week Exploring Malahide castle Wonderlights.   Very romantic
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Malahide castle itself, looking splendid in the afternoon sun Swords Castle itself also looking splendid but in the evening gloom rather than the sparkling sun.   The crenellated wall isn’t the original one, but the product of 20th century restoration
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Well I could hardly leave the Christmas Fair empty handed, could I? One of the more ruinous sections of Swords castle wall, currently undergoing a slow process of restoration
In Swords Green – quite the longest park bench I have ever seen!
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