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Huntington Castle

Tucked away in the south east corner of our tiny county is the historic village of Clonegal and its incredible Huntington Castle. A gem.

Huntington Castle is the ancient seat of the Esmonde family. The Esmonde’s moved over to Ireland in 1192 and were involved in other castles such as Duncannon Fort in Waterford and Johnstown Castle in Wexford (both also feature on my cycle routes in Cycling South Leinster) before building Huntington and settling down in Clonegal. The family name has changed twice due to inheritance down the female line and the present family name is Durdin Robertson, who are direct descendants of the Esmondes.

I was surprised to learn that one of their notable ancestors was Lady Esmonde (Alish O’Flaherty) – the grandaughter of Grace O’Malley the famous Pirate Queen of Connaught.

Barbera St. Ledger (Not Bríd), Edward King, Herbert Robertson MP, Nora Parsons, Manning Robertson, and latterly Olivia Robertson are others to name but a few. A Tour of the Castle introduces the visitor to their back stories and to ghosts, witches and Egyptian Goddesses!

The Castle is presently lived in by three generations of the Durdin Robertson family, and the current owners Alexander and Clare Durdin Robertson are very much hands on with the business and can frequently be found giving tours, working in the gardens or making tea in the tearooms.

Rose Shiels, wife of Stephen – a great servant of Kildavin and Carlow football in his day, introduced me to Alexander and I spent a fascinating afternoon plodding round the gardens.

The Gardens were mainly laid out in the 1680’s by the Esmondes. They feature impressive formal plantings and layouts including the Italian style ‘Parterre’ or formal gardens, as well the French lime Avenue (planted in 1680) The world famous yew walk is a significant feature which is thought to date to over 500 years old and should not be missed.

Later plantings resulted in Huntington gaining a number of Champion trees including more than ten National Champions.

The gardens also feature early water features such as stew ponds and an ornamental lake as well as plenty to see in the greenhouse and lots of unusual and exotic plants and shrubs.

The Lake at Huntington Castle

The Lake at Huntington Castle

Vintage Tractor Run at Huntington Castle

Huntington Castle

The Lake at Huntington Castle

Huntington Castle

Huntington Castle

Huntington Castle

17th Century Parterre Gardens at Huntington Castle

Huntington Castle

Bealtaine 2019

Bealtaine is Ireland’s national festival which uniquely celebrates the arts and creativity as we age. The festival is run by Age & Opportunity, the national organisation that promotes active and engaged living as people  get older.

 

Age & Opportunity’s mission is to inspire and empower older people to live healthy and fulfilling lives and to influence policy to ensure the active participation of older people in ways that benefit our communities and wider society. Their arts and culture programme aim to ensure meaningful engagement for all older people in socio-cultural life in Ireland, and to influence policy and practice at local and international levels.  They do this through a range of initiatives which include: Cultural Companions, Azure, and Creative Exchanges, and the Bealtaine festival.

The Bealtaine festival of the arts and creativity for older people is at the centre of Age & Opportunity’s arts and culture programme.

Delighted to see Aspiro perform as the National Flagship Choir performing at dawn on the banks of our own lovely Barrow this morning.

Battle of the Saints!

For the day that’s in it!

I don’t know if their paths ever crossed, but two of our local Saints, Columbanus and Laserian, (Naomh Eoin and Old Leighlin!) were central figures in the debate over the date of Easter back in the 6th and 7th centuries!

 

St Laserian’s Cathedral, Old Leighlin

St Columbanus, reputedly born on the slopes of the Blackstairs, became one of the great Irish Missionaries in Europe founding many monasteries along with his followers in France, Switzerland and Italy. While located in the area under the auspices of the Frankish Bishops he became embroiled in a major controversy because he and his followers celebrated Easter according to the Celtic Calendar. The Bishops tried to censure him but he refused to cooperate and wrote to Pope Gregory .

There is no record of the Pope replying and Columbanus moved on to eventually settle in Bobbio, Italy.

 

Bobbio, where Columbanus founded his last monastery. Thrilled to have cycled to here in 2010 and on to Rome along the Via Degli Abati.

 

St Laserian spent 14 years in Rome where he was educated under Gregory. When he returned to Ireland he took over the monastery at Old Leighlin and became a strong advocate for the Roman method of calculating Easter. A synod was held at Old Leighlin and it agreed to send a delegation to Rome. It still took some time for the change to Roman calendar to be fully adopted.

Isn’t it remarkable how these monks travelled and communicated with far distant lands in the 6th and 7th centuries?

Molaise’s Well and Cross

 

Front cover of Cardinal O Fiaich’s book

The assertion he may be from Carlow..

Columbanus is known as the first European, as he advocated for a system of federalism and was the first Irishman to have a book written about him some years after his death, by one of his monks, Jonas.

The Barrow Blueway turned down by An Bord Pleanála

One of the reasons cited by An Bord Pleanála for refusing WWI permission for the Barrow Blueway was on grounds of safety.
A lot of people supported the project for very good reasons – improving tourist numbers in the county and boosting the local economy.

However the concept of a cycle path along the banks of the River Barrow had a number of flaws, safety being one.
What many people did not understand was how narrow the Track is over extended distances.
An increase in cycling numbers, of the magnitude attracted to the Waterford Greenway, would have presented a serious safety risk to other users. (WWI mentioned 100,000…)

I was videoing my cycle down the River one glorious summers day in 2018 when I chanced upon a large group of hikers.
As you can see it was impossible to pass the group and that is one of the beautiful things about the Track as it currently is configure. Cyclists have to go slow. It is a slow way.
Lots of people had the vision of opening up the route to cyclists, families with push buggies and wheel chair users. It would have been irresponsible and dangerous.

I hope this video helps people understand one of the many grounds for refusing permission for the Blueway.

It needs to be rethought now so that the Rover can indeed become a major attraction.
What about investing heavily in the river frontage in all the villages, similar to the beautiful linear park in Carlow Town, creating hubs to explore the region and the Barrow Way?
There are so many attractions along the river and close by that good tourist infrastructure and attractive villages could open up to a wider appeal.
We don’t need the crowds of the Wild Atlantic Way, a more authentic Ireland has its own unique attraction!

 

The Barrow Way

An Bord Pleanála have refused permission for the controversial Barrow Blueway. Waterways Ireland have been unsuccessful in their attempt to overturn the decision of Carlow County Council.

The Barrow Track is a narrow green corridor that stretches from Athy to St Mullins., much of it is an area of special conservation. You could say it our National Park.

The proposal was very controversial and was debated passionately on both sides of the argument.

In an era where the checks and balances of democracies are under threat this was a great example of democracy at work. Those checks and balances functioned and I think the proposal received a fair hearing before a decision was arrived at.

There was never any need for the vitriol that polluted so much of social media commentary around the issue; the argument had to stand or fall on its merits and it did.

I don’t believe any of the opponents of the Blueway were anti-development rather they were pro the right development. We all want to promote our County, grow tourism, create jobs and livelihoods and the development of the river should not now be ignored. Let a new inclusive process begin and create an acceptable solution.

The Western Greenway and the Waterford Greenway are the two most successful in the country, there are others that have not achieved the same traction. Both these Greenways took many years to plan and become ‘an overnight success’.

Both are along the route of old disused railway lines. Guess what? We have a disused railway line running almost parallel to the River Barrow. If they can be brought into use elsewhere surely the same can happen here….

Here are some of my favourite photos taken on my many spins along the Barrow Way over the past few years.

Barrow CycleBarrow TrackOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Barrow evening

Near Ballytiglea

2012-09-03 at 14-11-34Evening on the Slaney

Mary at Ballytiglea Lock

Mary at Ballytiglea Lock

Rowing Club

Evening time on the Barrow

Barrow in Flood 2015-12-29 (3)

Swans at Carlow

Barrow in Flood 2015-12-29 (9)Carlow in Flood 2015-12-30 (1)

ballyellin

Peace

bend-in-the-barrow

Perfect for cycling as it is!!

Barrow Cyclists

Barrow Cyclists

Heron Landing

Heron Landing

Grassy weir

Grassy Knoll!

Heron Graiguenamanagh

Heron Watch

Wild FlowersTropical Barrow

One man and his dog3

Not the Rockies, south Carlow

Milestone

2 Ballingrane Lock

Beautiful stone cottage at Carriglead

2 Tinnahinch Lower

Ballykeenan Lock

Cormorants take flight

Comorants take flight

Ballykeenan Lock

Under the Beech Tree

Under the Beech Tree

Barrow and the Blackstairs

Barrow and the Blackstairs

Clashganny Hut

Shelter from the rain at Clashganney

Ballytiglea Lock Gates and the River Barrow

Ballytiglea Lock Gates and the River Barrow

Lower Ballyellin

Lower Ballyellin

Ballytiglea

Ballytiglea

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