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Summer of Heritage 2014: Tours Of Dún Laoghaire Rathdown

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I am firmly into cultural brochure and leaflet mode to ensure that I don’t miss anything in my local area before September. I struck lucky with DLR County Council’s Summer of Heritage brochure. It lists no less than twenty tours you can take during the summer in the Dún Laoghaire Rathdown area. Plenty to keep you occupied during July and August with the bonus that all of the tours are free and all are suitable for children (with extra care needed in some properties). It’s also worth noting that you can take a tour of the Dalkey Castle and Heritage centre for free as part of this Summer Heritage series. These special tours are at 10.45 on Mondays and Thursdays until 4 September. You can browse the site after the tours and if you’ve never been to Dalkey Castle I would recommend this as a great opportunity to see this showpiece of Dalkey’s history. Perhaps unusually, the Castle and Heritage Centre have a Writer’s Gallery celebrating the diversity of the area’s talented writers, as well as the expected mediaeval artefacts and weaponry.

I’ve long meant to get around to visiting Cabinteely House and this summer I have finally managed it as part of the DLR Summer of Heritage. Guides run 60-minute tours every Wednesday and Saturday until 7 September. On tour days, there are four events beginning at 2pm, no booking required. We went along in good time to catch the first tour as it gave us the chance to have a look around the park first. Cabinteely Park was once part of the estate that belonged to the house’s successive owners. We have the former Dublin County Council’s determination to control planning to thank for having the ninety odd acres of beautiful parkland. The descendants of the last owner of Cabinteely house, Joseph McGrath were rather keen on building all over it, having previously sold off the contents of the house. Next to the main house, the old stables and a granary building have survived and now house an arts centre and a cafe. The cafe has outside seating that looks onto a Japanese garden established in the courtyard; it’s a lovely place to while away an hour or so.

The history of Cabinteely House dates back to around 1769 when Robert Nugent, Earl Clare decided to build a house to befit his wealth and position. Nugent had plenty of money to spend as he had a knack for marrying rich widows (but not all at the same time, I hasten to add) which increased his fortune. His financially successful marital exploits even gave rise to the expression to ‘Nugentise’, coined by politician and writer Horace Walpole. I’m not sure if that counts as a claim to fame, but it certainly adds colour to the history tour of Cabinteely. I didn’t realise that the house was originally known as Clare Hall, until Nugent’s nephew Robert Byrne inherited it and he transferred the name Cabinteely from his previous home.

Most of the house interior is presented in Victorian style, as later owners the Pim family (1883-1921) altered the Georgian fittings in the public parts of the house. Fortunately, you can still see the fabulous Georgian plasterwork and gilded paintwork upstairs. As I said, the furniture was sold off in 1984 when Dublin County Council acquired the house and park. What you see now was collected when the house underwent extensive council funded renovation. Additionally, some of the period furnishings stem from Cabinteely’s use as a setting for films and television programmes. Cabinteely seems to have had a chequered history and has not been the much loved home of generations of the same family as I had romantically expected. However, as the centrepiece of a beautiful park and safe in public ownership since the 1980s, the house will probably enjoy more continuity than it has ever had before.

There’s plenty more to visit in this area, both inland and on the coast. For instance, great feature on the coastline are the Martello Towers and the Heritage tours give you an opportunity to explore Killiney and Seapoint Towers with a knowledgeable guide. This programme is full of opportunities to explore the area if you are local or for tourists to discover the county heritage. Bearing that in mind, I would like to see the tours co-ordinated much better than they are at present. As an example, various interesting Dún Laoghaire tours spread over different days. Similarly, you could see Killiney Obelisk on a Thursday but you can only see both it and the Martello Tower on a Tuesday. It would be much better if all the tour guides grouped to facilitate visitors spending a day within easy reach of several locations. I would also like to see more information in the council brochure about how to reach the sites on public transport. This would be a great help in attracting tourists as well as non-drivers like me to the area.

A map would be nice too, please….

For further information: summerofheritage@dlrcoco.ie

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    • Chris Mills
    • July 24th, 2014

    Reblogged this on Tales From the Landing Book Shelves and commented:
    I wrote this piece for the Irish News Review this week after having a tour round Cabinteely House, so I thought I’d re-post this here in case anyone in the Dublin or Dún Laoghaire Rathdown part of Ireland is looking for ideas for day trips. Follow the links to have a browse through the tour list. Enjoy the rest of the summer holiday!

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