Ireland day 0325. Friday 19 August 2022- Russborough

Ireland day 0325. Friday 19 August 2022- Russborough
Today’s summary A relaxing morning to celebrate Val’s day off work.   Then drove down to Russborough and spent the afternoon exploring this fine Palladian mansion.   Sadly the nice vegan café in Blessington has permanently closed.
Today’s weather Mostly dry and bright with a light shower mid afternoon.   Moderate westerly wind.   About 18C
Today’s overview location
(The green mark shows the location of our route)
Close-up location
(The blue 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):
Russborough stroll

First of all, a bit of historical background.   You can skip the first couple of paragraphs if history isn’t your thing, but it does help understand what we were doing today.

Russborough is a large Palladian mansion, just outside Blessington and nowadays is close to the shores of the Poulaphouca reservoir.   It was opened in 1755 and built for wealthy landowner Joseph Leeson to a design by the Franco-German architect Richard Cassels.  Leeson had inherited a fortune from, among other things, brewing, and became a politician and later, Earl of Milltown.  The house stayed in the Leeson family until 1922 after which it passed through a number of owners before ending up with Sir Alfred and Lady Clementine Beit in 1952.

Beit, like Leeson, had inherited his fortune – largely from diamond mining and the De Beers corporation.   In 1976 the house and estate was passed to the Alfred Beit Foundation – a charity which manages it to this day (it isn’t OPW).   I had visited Russborough with the walking club back in November last year (the occasion when I was introduced to the Lord Mayor of Dublin, readers might recall) but Val wasn’t with me that time.

Anyway – back to this morning.   Val had a much-needed day off work today so we had a very relaxing morning in the flat, catching up on the comings and goings of the week, and making plans for the future.   Once we’d had a light breakfast, we thought we would go down and explore the delights of Russborough, since Val had missed out last year.   En route I thought we could call in at a really nice vegan café in Blessington for lunch, that I had discovered back in November.

I called the café to check on the opening hours only to discover that it had permanently closed.   I gathered that it had been something of a one-person-show and the economics were  always a bit perilous.   So when the lease came up for renewal, the tenant elected not to renew it but rather to close the business and go travelling for a while.   Then to reflect on what to do next.   In the meantime, it’s RIP The Eating House, Blessington.

So we adjusted our plans and decided to drive round straight to Russborough and get our lunch there.   It turned out not to be a bad idea, as the lunch was excellent though (unsurprisingly) very expensive.   We pushed the boat right out and paid to go on the guided tour of the house which was actually quite interesting.   Even if you aren’t normally a fan of these things (I’m not, really, as I have a very low boredom threshold), this one was worthwhile and the guide was excellent.   Despite the massive frontage (over 200m / 700ft) the house is quite small.   There’s a lot of canny design work gone into making it appear a lot bigger than it actually is.

The interior is opulent and well restored and I liked the fact that it didn’t smell musty like old houses often do.   It’s so solidly built, you can almost feel the silence of the interior pressing on your ears.   After having lived above Malahide station for the last ten months, I must say the peace and tranquillity felt lovely!   There was also an exhibition of film costumery dotted around in the house itself, which added to the interest.   The only jarring note was the installation of a bridal suite bed in one of the front downstairs reception rooms.   It was done for exhibition purposes but I thought it seemed quite out of place and slightly spoiled the room.

I’d hoped that we would have time to fit in a walk round the perimeter of the estate, but we had taken so long over lunch and on the tour that we had almost reached closing time.  So we just took a short stroll down to the Lady’s Island – which was no longer an island today as the moat had dried up through the recent absence of rain.

By this time it was six o’clock and the estate was closing.   We beat a hasty retreat before we were locked in, but instead of going straight back to Malahide we dived off the M50 at Junction 5 and dropped into Decathlon (again).   We liked it so much last time we were there that we decided to pay a return visit just to buy some socks and to try out the checkout system where you just drop your purchases into a box and it works out how much it all costs.   It’s a really impressive system and I love it.   Makes a trip to Decathlon worthwhile just in its own right.

Well that’s enough for now.   Another big day tomorrow – dial back in same time same place to see how it all turns out.


PS on the saga of the watch – I was woken up by a beeping sound at about 3am this morning which was the battery running out and the watch turning itself off.   So I removed it from its bed of Basmati when I got up, and am now going to leave it un-powered for a day or two, then charge it up and see what happens.   Keep watching this space..


Today’s photos (click to enlarge)

The hippodrome at Russborough house.   The word derives from the Greek for “horse course”.   This one is probably too small for horse racing but may have been used for outdoor concerts (as it still is sometimes today – there is a removable canopy to cover it) About to set out on the tour and Val looking like she owns the place.  I think she would probably be quite comfortable living here (minus the tourists, of course).
The house is highly ornate and is (or rather was) full of priceless artwork.   But, after a series of robberies in the 1970s and 80s – including a particularly violent one by the IRA in 1974, led by Rose Dugdale – the then owners, Sir Alfred and Lady Clementine Beit, decided to donate much of the collection to the National Gallery of Ireland for safe keeping. Looking like extras from “Men in Black”, here we are about to view some of Sir Alfred’s 3D films.   They were quite an interesting record, actually, of life in the early 1950s
There’s currently a display of the costumes worn by stars of various degrees of notoriety in films shot in Ireland.   This one was worn by by Liam Neeson for the film “Michael Collins”.   Almost coincidentally, the centenary of Collins’ assassination at Béal na Bláth by anti-treaty forces is in three days time, on 22 August Beautiful Eucryphia tree in full bloom in the gardens.   In my view it’s a much under-rated spectacularly flowering, sweet-smelling tree.   But it requires acid soil, so it may be hard to grow in many areas
The view from the master bedroom.   Imagine waking up and seeing this first thing every morning!
Interactive map

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

Total distance: 1690 m
Max elevation: 211 m
Min elevation: 194 m
Total climbing: 44 m
Total descent: -44 m
Total time: 00:24:01
Download file: Russborough corrected.gpx

You can read earlier and later days’ blogs below

Previous day’s blog
Next day’s blog
Ireland home page