Emo Court is one of Ireland treasures and it is a location I have visited more than once over the years. Its a great place to visit on a weekend with its great walks through the wooded grounds along with a tour into the house and finally a visit to the cafe afterwards for a cake and a cup of tea ….
Emo Court House is a neo-classical mansion in County Laois that attracts visitors from all over the country and beyond. Designed by noted architect James Gandon, it features magnificent gardens and is located just 2.5 km from Emo village and 7 km from Portarlington Railway Station.
Designed in 1790 for the Earls of Portarlington, Emo Court House is a magnificent example of the neo-classical style. After some periods of lying empty, it was acquired by the Jesuits in the middle of the 20th century. Functional renovations were made to the estate before it was sold to Major Cholmeley Harrison, a former London stockbroker, in the 1960s.
Cholmeley Harrison’s vision was to restore Emo Court House to its former glory and today the results of his efforts are obvious. Leading London architect Sir Albert Richardson was commissioned to take on the restoration of the house which remained a private residence, though the public were encouraged to enjoy the gardens for a small entrance fee.
In 1994 Cholmeley Harrison presented Emo Court House to the people of Ireland, continuing to live there in private apartments until his death in 2008. Staff of the Office of Public Works (OPW) now care for the estate and preserve its stately elegance for modern visitors.
Visit Emo Court House to enjoy the beautiful gardens and parklands which were first laid out in the 18th century, containing formal lawns and a lake. Walks through the woodland are a popular way to explore the beautiful grounds.
The Cupcake Café at Emo Court House offers lunch and is open every day from 1 February to 31 October. From 1 November to 31 January it’s open on Saturdays and Sundays. Groups are welcomed at Emo Court House, but booking is required.
Emo Court A Gallery
Bagenalstown, county Carlow
One of my most loved small towns located along the river Barrow as it flows through county Carlow is Bagenalstown, it is located of the side of the hills that surround the river barrow south of Carlow town. Otherwise known in its Gaelic version as Muine Bheag it is a pleasant stretch of the River Barrow and derives its name from Walter Bagenal, who, in founding the town, had visions of mirroring the city of Versailles, in northern France.
However, his efforts became frustrated due to the re-routing of the coach road away from the town. He left more than enough for visitors to enjoy with handsome stone public buildings including the impressive Courthouse, now a public library in Bagenalstown.
The arrival of the railway in 1846 rejuvenated the town, and its neo-classical railway station is one of the finest in Ireland. Attributed to William Deane Butler it is constructed of limestone and granite and is a seven bay, two-storey building in an Italianate villa style. Today Bagenalstown station still retains its charm in a largely unaltered state. This former mill town made full use of the river Barrow to transport grain, beet, coal, turf and Guinness by barge, evidence of which can be seen in its fine industrial architecture. Near the railway bridge on the R705 Borris road is an example of the Carlow fence which consists of a decorative fence made of granite pieces, laid horizontally over vertical posts and is found nowhere else in the world.
One of the finest views of Bagenalstown may be enjoyed on the approach road from Leighlinbridge and includes the spire of St. Andrew’s Catholic Church and the fine tower of St. Mary’s Church of Ireland Church. St. Andrew’s Catholic Church was built in 1820 on a site provided by the Newton family, successors to the Bagenals. The stained glass behind the altar is worthy of particular attention. Nowadays, riverside walks, picnic tables and a picturesque lock enhance this fine town which has been twinned with the French town of Pont Pean since 1999.
ATTRACTIONS: The ruins of the early 14th century Ballymoon Castle and 13th century Ballyloughan Castle are located near the town. Wells Church, situated closeby, is the preserved ruin of a church dating back to 1262. The church is surrounded by an enclosed and well-maintained graveyard which is still in use today.
ACTIVITIES: Outdoor swimming pool. The McGrath complex offers excellent sporting facilities including cricket, hurling, soccer and Gaelic football fields, tennis court and pitch and putt courses. The River Barrow in this area is renowned for coarse fishing with wheelchair friendly fishing stands located near the swimming pool. The Barrow Way long distance walking route passes through the town.
Film Friday, Irish landscape photography, Sally Gap, Wicklow Mountains, The drama of 35mm slide film
From all the possible 35mm films you could use for landscape photography, I feel that slide transparency film offered the most drama and colour depth to each shot you took. Clearly you still needed to me there at the time you found the best lighting and weather conditions but to myself there was no better film available that captured dramatic colours and tones.
This image was taken on a very moody evening, sometime back as I was walking alone the road of the Sally Gap….
Sally Gap, Wicklow Mountains
On the road to Sally Gap, there are spectacular views of the surrounding blanket bog and the Wicklow Mountains. Sally Gap is one of two east-to-west passes across the Wicklow Mountains. Sally Gaps is a cross-road that leads you North to Dublin, West to Blessington, South to Glendalough or East to Roundwood.
the Sally Gap got its road after the Irish rebellion of 1798. It was built by British Army forces looking to flush rebels from the hills, and to this day is known as the Military Road.
Whatever about giving the army a better view of the rebels, the Military Road certainly provides an enviable view of some of Ireland’s most filmed scenery.
Highlights of this winding, twisting feat of engineering include the Glencree valley, the dark waters of Lough Tay, Kippure Mountain and Glenmacnass Waterfall.
Two more unusual stops are Glencree’s Visitor Centre, originally built to house soldiers guarding the pass (and now a centre for Peace and Reconciliation), and the Glencree War Cemetery, a resting place for German soldiers who died in Ireland.
The Mountain Horse
Its cold at dawn in the Great Divide
And the Dew lies thick on the mountainside,
The bite of the cold air nearly makes you choke
And breath from your nostrils like dragon smoke.
The saddles are on and the cinch is tight,
Bridles are buckled and a bit to bight,
The horsemen are ready to break the camp,
The mist still rising and the bush is all damp.
The mobs been found in a clearing up ahead,
They’re all wild horses and they’re mountain bred.
Bushes flying by lashing legs and sides,
There’s danger here now for anyone who rides.
An overhanging limb so bend down low
Around rocks and wombat holes we go
There’s a mighty log we’ll have to jump
Look out, look out avoid the stump.
The big bay stallion leads his harem through the creek
There’s no place here for faint hearted or the meek,
Their hooves are like thunder and stock whips are cracking
Horses are snorting and their courage is not lacking.
Down along the valley where he knows every stride
Down along the valley where the wings are stretching wide,
But it’s too late, he knows it now, there’s nowhere left to run,
He turns and rears up high, his fight has just begun.
Something about these mountains makes you want to stay
And a mountain horse’s spirit you cannot take away.
My mind wanders back to a day not long ago,
When the horsemen came and found my mob and I put on the show.
Blackthorn is the 12th letter of the Gaelic tree alphabet, representing P, yet another controversial letter. There was no P in the Gaelic alphabet until recently, so some tree has had to stand in. As Blackthorn was in the original alphabet (for St, as its old Gaelic name is Straiph, but St is no longer considered a letter in its own right). As Blackthorn’s latin name is Prunus spinosa, it fits the bill. Its modern Gaelic name is Draighneag or Airne (sloe) or Sgitheach dubh (black hawthorn).
Snippets of Lore
Blackthorn is the 12th letter of the Gaelic tree alphabet representing P, controversially, as there was no P in the alphabet until recently
For my explanation of why Blackthorn stands for P see http://mandyhaggith.worldforests.org/index.asp?pageid=359149
Blackthorn’s latin name is Prunus spinosa. In modern Gaelic, draighneag (pierce), airne (sloe) or sgitheach dubh (black hawthorn).
Blackthorn’s fruit is called sloe. They are very high in Vitamin C.
To get a taste of the bitterness of sloes, nowhere better to start than Vicki Feaver. http://www.spl.org.uk/best-poems_2006/feaver.htm
Too much sloe gin may be too much of a good thing.
Sloe gin infused with pennyroyal and valerian was the original ‘Mother’s Ruin’.
Blackthorn is the ancestor of all plum trees.
Sloe stones have been found in Neolithic cairns and crannogs.
The Ice Man was carrying a sloe, presumably to eat.
Sloes are better flavored if frosted, or dried then rehydrated.
Sloe jelly is best made with apples.
Sloes are good for the bladder, kidneys, stomach and lung complaints.
Sloe juice and bark gives indelible ink.
Sloes gives a pinky purple dye, and blackthorn bark produces a red or orange dye.
Blackthorn bark can be used to reduce fever.
Use blackthorn leaves for tea. It’s good for tonsils and larynx.
Have another sloe gin (by Seamus Heaney) http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/IrelandGenWeb/2003-11/1069876152
Responding to Heaney, Tom Rawling’s Sloe Gin: http://www.xen19.dial.pipex.com/dec_2.htm
And another moody blackthorn poem, this one by Louis McKee, coming into blossom. http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-blackthorn/
Blackthorn produces beautiful snow white blossoms early and before the leaves come.
Blackthorn’s leafless stems, in flower, evoke a place between death and life.
Blackthorn blossom is unlucky indoors (maybe for the same reason as hawthorn?)
A tisane of blackthorn blossom ‘purges to the depths’.
Rough weather in March is called a Blackthorn Winter.
Blackthorn is the sister of Hawthorn: Blackthorn governs Nov-April, Hawthorn governs May-Oct.
Blackthorn wood is hard and good for walking sticks and weapons. Best walking sticks are blackthorn entwined by honeysuckle.
Irish sheleilaigh sticks are made with blackthorn wood.
Blackthorn trees give good shelter for birds to nest in. It makes excellent hedges.
Blackthorn is supposed to never exceed 13 feet.
Proverb: Better the bramble than the blackthorn, but better the blackthorn than the devil.
Blackthorn helps you see beyond negatives to opportunity.
A hero fleeing from giants needs a magical blackthorn twig which will sprout into a thicket!
Blackthorns were believed to spring from the blood of Norse invaders.
A blackthorn thorn tipped with poison is a subtle weapon known as ‘a pin of slumber’.
Blackthorn is associated with Sleeping Beauty – after pricking her finger, the castle was thorn-bound until love came.
Witches stick blackthorns into wax effigies of their enemies.
Blackthorn was used for pyres when burning witches.
Blackthorn was believed to have been used for Christ’s Crown of Thorns, hence unlucky.
For fertile fields, make, wear, then burn a blackthorn crown and spread its ash.
Blackthorn represents the inevitability of death, and of dark secrets.
Evil fairy-folk stole babies – and hid them in blackthorn bushes.
‘Many sloes, many cold toes’ – presage of bad winter ahead.