29 May 2013, Wednesday
When I’d contacted Orla about spending a day together—I’d barely seen her last fall, as she’d been very involved in a wedding, and then I and my traveling companions had set off down the country for a couple weeks—I also mentioned that I wanted to see St. Anne’s Park. Gerry had taken us there on our last full day last fall and mentioned the beautiful rose garden. That was definitely something I wanted to see.
“Brilliant!” Orla wrote. “It’s one of my favourite places on earth! Mam’s been taking us there since we were little children.”
Interestingly, Gerry’s memories of the park were of riding his bike down there (a little over a mile) with his brothers and rooting around in the spooky backside of the park. So here I was visiting a Hampson family childhood fave on our penultimate day in Dublin … again. I like the symmetry of that. 🙂
Gwen had given Orla directions to get to the rose garden so we could park close to them (the park is huge; there’s a lot more than roses). It was a beautiful May day to be in a rose garden.
Alas, there were no roses to be seen. The dark red foliage you see in the photos above is what new growth on a rose bush looks like, sure enough. But spring had been very, very late arriving. It had been cold. So the roses were late.
There was still plenty to see. The wide vistas are a result of this having been a country estate at one time:
The brothers Arthur and Benjamin Lee Guinness built up an estate of nearly 123.75 hectares from 1835 onwards in the Clontarf/Raheny area and called the estate St. Anne’s after the Holy Well of the same name on the lands. Sir Arthur Edward Guinness (Lord Ardilaun) was the person most responsible for expanding and developing the estate and gardens and planted evergreen (Holm) oaks and pines along the main avenue and estate boundaries. Lord and Lady Ardilaun had no children and the estate passed to their nephew Bishop Plunkett in the 1920s. In 1937, he decided he could no longer maintain such a large estate and [it was sold to] the Corporation.
The main residence was abandoned, and ultimately burned to the ground in 1943, though the ruins weren’t demolished until 1968. I feel certain that young boys found an old burned mansion an irresistible draw to ride a bike a mile from home. 🙂
St. Anne’s is the second largest municipal park in Dublin (the first is Bull Island). It has a playground, parkland walks, a small golf course, tennis courts, thirty-five soccer fields, many species of trees (some historic), and all sorts of features that are almost—but not quite—botanical garden-ish.
There are also smaller gardens within the larger one. One of the oldest is the walled garden, with its lovely clock tower, dating from the eighteenth century.
We also saw a Victorian-era walled and sunken garden.
We enjoyed a very pleasant hour, strolling around St. Anne’s, chatting. The ladies said they’d come back and take some photos of the roses when they finally bloomed. And then it was time to go; Gerry and I had an early flight scheduled, and we still had to turn in our rental car and get checked in at the airport hotel.
Gerry was already in from work, scurrying around taking care of the sorts of things—mowing the lawn—that need to be done if you’re leaving for a month.
Gerry got showered and packed, then he and I went to turn in the car. First, though, we went to Bewley’s and dropped our luggage and got checked in.
Returning the car was completely painless. We didn’t get lost (as we had last September); the signage was excellent. That pretty much sealed the deal for Budget (as if our treatment by their staff wasn’t enough). We’ll go Hertz from now on. Took the shuttle, then, to the airport (the only place it goes), and from there caught the Bewley’s bus back to the hotel.
I hadn’t been too happy when our return flights were scheduled on my birthday. I can think of better things to do on such a day than spend fourteen hours in airports and squeezed into airplanes. However, Gerry took great care to make it special, starting this evening, when I found a sweet card and a present (a beautiful gold cross, to replace one that mysteriously disappeared from my bedroom a couple months ago) on the bedside table. And then we went to dinner.
After dinner, we got everything packed and weighed. We’d been carrying around books and honey in a Tesco bag, but now all this had to be packed. And it was! And no one went over the weight limit!
As a final note I must say this: we stayed in three hotels and one B&B on this trip, and of all those, Bewley’s has the best beds. However, between the two Dublin hotels, Camden Court’s breakfast food was better, and their staff is superior.
But wait—you didn’t think I’d close this out without some pictures of roses, did you? Heavens, no!