Tuesday, 14 August 2018

A few days by the lakes and
in the ‘Village of the Roses’

Sunset on Lough Ree seen from the Wineport Lodge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

Thanks to a gift I received last year when I retired from the academic staff of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, I am staying at Wineport Lodge, a 4-star hotel in Co Westmeath in the heart of Irish Midlands, 5 km north of Athlone and on the shores of the inner lakes of Lough Ree on the River Shannon.

The hotel is in a beautiful, peaceful location, with stunning lake views over Lough Ree and on the edge of the peaceful Inland Waterways, with small islands that have names such as Friar’s Island and Temple Island, and surrounded by native woodland.

Each of the 29 rooms and suites has been designed with individual flourishes and is named after a wine. I am in the St Julien Room, and like all the other rooms here it is a spacious, light-filled room with views over the water and a west-facing balcony that offers opportunities to sit and enjoy the sunset. Each of the 29 rooms.

There is a wealth of attractions and activities locally. Athlone is a vibrant, bustling town but also with an old town in the shadow of the castle, with an enchanting mix of quaint streets, old-style pubs, antique shops, and some award-winning local restaurants.

In the afternoon, I walked to the village of Glassan, just a 1.5 km stroll from the hotel along a narrow country road. This is a small village of 166 people, and the River Tullaghan flows through the north end of the village and then flows south to Killinure Lough, a part of Lough Ree.

The village is overlooked by Caraun Hill and the core of the village consists of a late 18th and early 19th century terrace of two-storey houses, many of them covered with roses. There are two pubs, Grogan’s and the Villager, both with restaurants.

Glassan calls itself the ‘Village of the Roses’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Glassan or Glasson, which calls itself the ‘Village of the Roses,’ village was planned and laid out to serve Waterstown House, the home of the Harris-Temple family.

Waterstown House was built in the 1740s and stood on a hill south-east of the village. But all that remains of the house is a corner of two of the original façades, part of the basement, the farmyard, the walled garden, the pigeon loft and some minor structures. The rest of the house has been lost, with its decorative terraced gardens, the castle on an island on the lake, the canals, woods and shipyards.

Glassan is laid out as a straight street without a central square or common. At the south end, the school was built to educate the children of estate workers. Isabella Harris believed that education could prevent the repetition of the distress experienced during the famine in the 1840s.

Wineport Lodge is in an area that was originally the deer park of the Waterstown demesne. The surrounding townland was named Wineport because wine was brought from France and Spain by boat and landed here and brought to the cellars under the house by cart.

But more about that wine and Wineport later in the day.

The jetty at Wineport Lodge on the shores of Lough Ree (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

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