Ireland day 0333. Saturday 27 August 2022- Shackleton

Ireland day 0333. Saturday 27 August 2022- Shackleton
Today’s summary Val was at work so I went into Dublin on the train then out to Ashtown and walked down the Royal Canal to the Shackleton Garden at Clonsilla.   A real hidden gen and a thoroughly enjoyable walk
Today’s weather Dry and sunny most of the day.   Light easterly wind.   About 20C.   Perfect weather
Today’s overview location
(The blue mark shows the location of my route)
Close-up location
(The green line shows where I walked)
(Click button below to download GPX of today’s walk as recorded, or see interactive map at bottom with elevations corrected):
Ashtown station to Shackleton Garden walk

When I was out with the walking club last Sunday, we were talking about possible short walks for the Autumn season and someone mentioned that there was a new garden which had opened, out near Clonsilla (to the west of Dublin) which might be worth a visit.   It was called the Shackleton garden and I thought I would do a bit of research to see whether it might be possible to combine a short walk with a visit.

It turns out that the garden is indeed very new – it was only opened officially on 17 September 2021 by the Mayor of Fingal, Cllr Seána Ó Rodaigh, accompanied by the Tánaiste [Deputy Taoiseach {PM} of Ireland], Leo Varadkar.   It’s a small walled garden and was formerly part of the much larger Beech Park Gardens – which were themselves the demesne of Beech Park House.

The land in this area had belonged to the Luttrell family since the 13th century but during the 19th and early 20th centuries it changed ownership a number of times and ended up in the hands of the Shackletons, a family who originally came from Yorkshire (like the Loftus family at Rathfarnham).   They owned a number of successful flour mills around Lucan, in the Liffey valley.   (By the way, I don’t think this branch of the Shackleton family was directly related to the illustrious Antarctic branch.  Although Ernest Shackleton, of Endurance fame, was indeed born in Co Kildare, not that far from where the milling Shackletons came from, I haven’t been able to establish any family link between them).

The last owner of Beech Park – David Shackleton – was a keen gardener and turned the walled garden into something of a national centre of excellence for herbaceous perennial plants.   After his death in 1988, the land was eventually sold off to Fingal County Council who (I think) turned most of the Beech Park Gardens into a public park (I don’t know what has become of the house) though the small walled garden started to fall into disrepair.

For the last five or ten years, Fingal Council, along with the Department of Horticulture in the Institute of Technology Blanchardstown have been restoring the walled garden, a process which was finally completed last year.

All this sounded very interesting, but what made it a particularly good destination for today was that it’s close by the Royal Canal, so although you can get practically right up to the gates of the garden from the train station at Clonsilla, you can also approach it from further down the line, by getting off the train closer to Dublin and walking along the towpath.   So, as Val was out at work today, and as the weather was looking good, I thought I’d give it a try.

I made my way into Dublin and then out on the Maynooth line, getting off at Ashford station and joining the canal just by the level crossing.   The canal was looking perfect today.   Greens and blues, and tranquil water with shoals of fish darting in the crystal clear canal.   I really enjoyed the walk – especially once I’d got past Castleknock where the towpath narrows, and becomes un-paved making it much pleasanter to walk on, as well as much quieter.   I suspect there are plans afoot to tarmac the whole section, which will open accessibility to bikes and mobility scooters, but while it lasts the leafy narrow gravel towpath is a delight.

I soon made it to Clonsilla, where you turn off the canal, cross the railway line, and head down an anonymous-looking track to the garden.   It’s not far to Clonsilla from Ashtown – 7 or 8 km / 4 or 5 mi at most – but I didn’t rush the walk as it was so enjoyable.   But the approach to the garden really doesn’t prepare you for what to expect when you get there.  First, though – if you are lucky, as I was today – you pass the Beechpark Ecofarm shop.   It’s only open 10-2 on Saturdays and Sundays so you have to get your timing right.   But if you do there are all sorts of unusual and tasty looking organic vegetables for sale – a bit different to what you normally get in the supermarket.

But what of the garden itself?   Well, you approach it through a tangle of allotments and building works then reach a solid wall with a small gateway in it.   Then you go through the gateway and find yourself, it seems, in another world.   To be honest, I’m not sure exactly what I expected to find in there, but what I did find really took my breath away.   “Hidden gem” is the descriptor which most readily springs to mind.   It’s quite small, but simply beautiful.   Maybe I was just lucky and caught it on a day when the weather really couldn’t have been better, but I was quite blown away.

The garden is an oasis of tranquillity, and because it’s slightly off the beaten track, it’s very quiet.  Maybe only half a dozen people there apart from me.   The wall which surrounds it seems to do a good job of excluding the hubbub of the city.   I lingered over my lunch for a while, then somewhat reluctantly left and made my way back to Clonsilla station for the train home.   Take a look at the photos below to see what you make of it.   They say a picture paints a thousand words!

It was a straightforward journey back to Malahide and gave me plenty of time to reflect on a perfect day out.   I think a walk to the garden from Ashtown along the canal ould make an excellent addition to the Walking Club programme and you never know I might even volunteer to lead it.   Let’s see how the Autumn shapes up.


Today’s photos (click to enlarge)

Setting out along the Royal Canal Way from Ashtown station.   The Way runs from the point the canal joins the Liffey as far as Cloondara in the west, near the end of the canal.   In parts it’s paved and used by bikes – so you need to have eyes in the back of your head to avoid wandering into their path There are a few boats moored along the canal – particularly when you get upstream from the 12th lock.   But I didn’t see any moving about and the canal looked pretty silted up and full of reeds.   So I’m not even sure if it is really fully navigable any more, despite only having been reopened to navigation as recently as 2010
The section between Castleknock and Clonsilla hasn’t been paved and is much narrower so there aren’t as many bikes and it’s much more pleasant on your feet Just after you leave the canal, between Clonsilla Station and Shackleton Garden, there is an organic farmers market.   It closed one minute after I arrived (it’s only open on Saturdays and Sundays, and then, only from 10-2).   So I dashed in and was talked into buying this squash.   I am not sure what you are supposed to do with these vegetables, though I am assured they are edible.   At least it looks decorative.
The Shackleton Garden itself is tucked away in the middle of some fields at the end of a totally anonymous looking road, and is surrounded by allotment plots.   When you go through the archway and enter the garden it’s a total surprise.   A bit like going into a lost world.  It really is beautiful inside.   The grounds were formerly the walled garden of Beech Park House, owned by David Shackleton.   Today, it’s owned and managed by Fingal County Council and used as a training site by the Department of Horticulture in the Institute of Technology Blanchardstown
There are a couple of newly-restored greenhouses and they are clean, attractive, and interestingly stocked.   This one contained a good collection of banana, citrus and avocado plants
Interactive map

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

Total distance: 8818 m
Max elevation: 66 m
Min elevation: 42 m
Total climbing: 121 m
Total descent: -101 m
Total time: 02:34:52
Download file: Ashton to Shackleton compressed corrected.gpx

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