Ireland day 0312. Saturday 06 August 2022- PlanB

Ireland day 0312. Saturday 06 August 2022- PlanB
Today’s summary Planned to visit the Áras an Uachtaráin but arrived at Phoenix Park visitor centre too late this morning to get to get tickets.   So had to pivot to plan B which was a tour round Farmleigh House (fascinating), a look at the Knockmaree dolmen (a bit underwhelming) and a pint at the Nancy Hands pub (delicious).   Worked out pretty well in the end
Today’s weather Dry and bright with some sunny intervals.   Light westerly wind.   About 18C.
Today’s overview location
(The blue mark shows the location of our route)
Close-up location
(The green line shows where we walked)
(Click button below to download GPX of today’s walk as recorded, or see interactive map at bottom with elevations corrected):
Phoenix Farmleigh Dolmen and Nancy

The best laid plans and all that.

With Val being at work quite a lot recently, and with our various trips away, we haven’t really had a lot of time when the two of us were both free at the same time, and even less frequently has that free time coincided with a weekend.   Anyway, a bit of advance planning a few weeks ago revealed that today would be one of those happy occasions when the planets aligned, so we looked for something a bit out of the ordinary which we could do to mark the occasion.   Val is much better at researching these things than I am and she soon discovered that the Áras an Uachtaráin is open to visitors on Saturdays, though no advance tickets are bookable so you just have to turn up at the Phoenix Park visitor centre first thing and hope for the best.

I should at this point explain what the Áras an Uachtaráin actually is.    The clue is in the name – but only if you can read Irish.   It actually means “House of the President” – and it’s a large stately house in the middle of Phoenix Park.   It was formerly the residence of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (i.e. the British King’s ruler in Ireland) until Independence in 1922.   The first President of Ireland, Douglas Hyde, moved there in 1938 and the building has been occupied by successive presidents of Ireland since then.   The current occupant is Michael D Higgins.

So our plan for today was clear.   We would make an early start, head down to the Park, and see if we could get tickets.   It was all going swimmingly well until the second cup of tea in bed this morning was followed by a short involuntary snooze which meant we didn’t get away until a bit later than we intended.   Anyway, needless to say it was after 10:30 when we finally made it to the visitor centre.   At which point the kindly lady on the reception desk explained that all the tickets had gone within minutes of the centre opening at 9:30.    She gently suggested that if we really wanted to secure tickets, we should probably actually aim to be there closer to 8:30 than 10:30.

So a bit of an early disappointment.   But, ever resourceful, we headed to the café for a rather nice cup of tea, breakfast blaa and jam scone, and a quick rethink.   (And to learn more about these peculiarly Irish delicacies, just take a quick look at the photos below).  We came up with a Plan B for the day – which would make the most of the good weather and the beautiful surroundings of Phoenix Park, and allow is to see some things we hadn’t visited before.

First up, we crossed to the western end of the park and managed to get ourselves booked on a tour of Farmleigh house.   It’s beautiful mansion, most recently (until 1999) owned by the Earl of Iveagh – a member of the Guinness family.   Nowadays, it is owned by the Irish state and managed by the OPW.   As well as being a stately home open to the public, it is a “working” government building.   The Taoiseach regularly hosts receptions there and visiting heads of state are also accommodated in its upper rooms.   In 2011, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip stayed, as did Barack and Michelle Obama.

The tour was interesting and well narrated – not too short to learn anything interesting and not too long to be boring.   I was fascinated by the milk-maid and by the chandeliers, though to find out why you’ll just have to read the captions to the photos below.

By this time, it was time for lunch so we had our sandwiches on the lawn out the back, then had dropped in to the art gallery in one of the out-houses, where an exhibition of outstanding Irish craft work was underway.   I resisted the buy anything as there was nothing for sale under €500, and most of the items were marked “POA” which I think roughly translates to “Too expensive”.

Lurking almost on the opposite side of Phoenix Park from Farmleigh is, believe it or not, the Knockmaree dolmen.   A dolmen is, in fact, a type of prehistoric burial chamber, which usually consists of two or three vertical standing stones with a large capstone on the top.  They were used for ceremonial burials, with the venerated body being enclosed in the chamber under the capstone.   I find it unusual, at least, because I can’t think of anywhere else that a 5,000 year old burial chamber can be found right in the middle of a major capital city.

The dolmen was discovered in 1838 when workmen were excavating a tumulus which covered the site.   It must have been in almost pristine condition, because two intact male skeletons, who both died aged about 45, were found in the central burial chamber.  Nowadays, though, the dolmen looks a bit forlorn.   You can see it in the banner image at the top of this blog and from the modern human being conveniently placed on it for scale, you can see it’s not very big.   Also, the capstone has cracked so it is rather inelegantly propped up by a block of concrete underneath.

By this stage, we were both a bit history-ed out and more to the point were getting thirsty.  So we beat a retreat from the park and into Nancy’s welcoming hands.   A couple of pints later, we were rejuvenated and ready to hit the H2 back to Malahide.   An upper deck front seat gave us a ringside view of the seaside vistas unfolding in front of us as we trundled north – a nice way to round off a day which could have ended in disappointment, but which didn’t.   And Áras an Uachtaráin will still be there waiting for the next time our diaries coincide.


Today’s photos (click to enlarge)

This is a Breakfast Blaa – which is similar to a breakfast bap, except that it isn’t.   Blaa is a type of speciality bread made in Waterford and it’s lovely.   I’ve never seen it anywhere outside ireland.   It has a nice crispy outside and a soft floury inside.   It’s thought the recipe may have been brought to Ireland from France by the Huguenots in the 17th century.   The name may also have a French origin, possibly derived from the word “blanc” – for “white” For anyone wondering, this is what an Irish scone looks like.   An excellent start to the day and delicious.
In the entrance lobby to Farmleigh House.   Some of the chandeliers were imported from Venice and it is thought they were packed in butter or animal fat to stop them getting damaged in transport.   The 19th century equivalent of bubble wrap I suppose, though I hope Amazon don’t try reintroducing it for their Prime deliveries In the Sunken Garden at Farmleigh house.   Like almost everything the OPW does, it’s beautifully restored
The Farmleigh Gallery, in an out-house behind the main house, always has interesting things to look at.   Today it was a display of Irish sculptures, rugs, furniture and pottery and some of it was stunningly beautiful.   Most of the items were for sale but a lot of them were marked “POA” which I assume means I can’t afford them. There are number of these 17th century Belgian tapestries  hanging Farmleigh House.   And if you look very carefully at the girl milking the cow, you will notice something distinctly odd about her.
Val with Nancy Hands.   A nice spot for a refreshing pint after a dry day in the park.   Good atmosphere too.
Interactive map

(Elevations corrected at  GPS Visualizer: Assign DEM elevation data to coordinates )

Total distance: 13391 m
Max elevation: 70 m
Min elevation: 8 m
Total climbing: 223 m
Total descent: -259 m
Total time: 07:35:00
Download file: Phoenix Park Farmleigh And Dolmen compressed corrected.gpx

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