Round The World and other travels

A frequent flyer's collection of trip diaries

This is: Round Ireland (2016-18)

The Road Trip begins: Dublin - Enniskerry

Today was forecast to have the only decent weather this week, and it certainly started on a bright and cheery note. Breakfast at the Airport Hilton's in-house restaurant was actually better presented than had been the case at the Conrad, 24hrs previously. Determined to make the most of such a fine day, I made sure that I was on board the 0915 shuttle bus to the airport, where I picked up my rental car, an Opel Astra 1.4, from Avis. It was the first time that I had seen a brown car in years and its appearance, though not unattractive, seemed like a throwback to the 1970s.

Castletown House

The road trip got underway with an easy 30-minute drive to Castletown House near Celbridge, directly west of Dublin city centre in County Kildare. Castletown is the oldest and largest Palladian-style house in Ireland, having been built in the early 18th century for the Speaker of the Irish House of Commons. It remained in his family until 1965. In 1994, following several changes of ownership, the house passed into the care of the state, which allowed a major programme of restoration and conservation to go ahead.

I arrived at 1040 and bought a ticket for the 11am tour. It turned out that I was the only visitor at this time, so I had the luxury of a private tour. I was shown round the various rooms on both the ground floor and the first floor. It was all very interesting, but amounted to quite a lot of information to take in. The main impressions made on me, however, were the pleasing external appearance of the house, the excellence of the internal restoration work and the combination of natural and man-made beauty evident in the grounds.

Dún Laoghaire

Leaving Castletown behind, I initially headed eastwards towards Dublin, but then veered off southeastwards towards the suburban seaside town of Dún Laoghaire. (The name looks a bit scary until you realise that it's pronounced 'Dunleary'.) The town was known as Kingstown in Victorian times, and I was intrigued to learn that the sweeping bay to the south of the harbour rejoices in the name of Scotsman's Bay.

I had a quick lunch in Costa Coffee and managed to have a fairly swift look around before and after attending to needs of my stomach. I had a short conversation with a local man who had made a passing comment about the fine weather, which I took as a green light to confirm details of my proposed route out of town. After spending a couple of minutes explaining how to go about finding my desired road, he paused and said: "And which part of that wonderful Celtic country do you come from, may I ask?" It seemed to me that the ability of the Irish to make friendly conversation was very much alive and well.

I continued my journey on the scenic coastal road to Dalkey and then Killiney; sadly too many other people had been inspired by the same idea and there wasn't a single parking space to be found in either town. Instead, I pressed on towards Bray and Enniskerry, then watched out for signs to the Powerscourt Estate. This was actually the location of my accommodation for the night, but as my first priority on arrival was to see the house and gardens, I drove past the hotel.

Powerscourt Estate

Powerscourt House was once the seat of the Viscounts Powerscourt, but it passed to the Slazenger family (founders of the well known sporting-goods brand) in the 1960s. The house and adjoining formal gardens (Italian and Japanese) had wonderful views of the Wicklow Mountains, and in particular the distinctive shape of the Great Sugar Loaf Mountain. The head gardener at Powerscourt is a member of the Slazenger family, and the gardens were recently placed third in a list of the world's best, compiled by the prestigious National Geographic magazine. Although I had arrived a little later than intended, there was still plenty of time to view the formal gardens and walk around the site, largely in bright sunshine.

ABOVE: The house and gardens at Powerscourt Estate
Settling into my fabulous suite at the Powerscourt Hotel

I then drove the very short distance to the Powerscourt Hotel, marketed by Marriott as part of its Autograph Collection. This was, of course, my next night stop and it was always going to be one of the accommodation highlights of the trip. Somehow or other, I managed to score an amazing upgrade to a King Corner Suite, which turned out to be spacious, tastefully decorated and absolutely wonderful! I had dinner in McGill's Bar, which struck me as a more casual and relaxing setting than the formal dining room.

Tue 05 Apr 2016

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