17 February 2012

Seas and coast spread out below Killiney Hill

The view south from Victoria Hill in Killiney, across Killiney Beach, Bray and towards Bray Head (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

Patrick Comerford

After Morning Prayer in the chapel, a few hours at my desk, and a family visit to Mount Jerome Cemetery in Harold’s Cross, two of us headed across to Cabinteely late in the morning to have a look at Cabinteely House, one of the hidden gems of the south-east suburbs of Dublin.

Cabinteely House is set in expansive, open suburban parks, and inside it is said to have an impressive 18th century staircase, decorative plasterwork and a vaulted gallery. I was told there are tours of the house in the summer, but extensive work was being carried out today, and there was a large skip outside.

Behind the house, I visited the new Japanese gardens laid out by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown Parks Department. Nearby, the newly refurbished stables house new tearooms, while the courtyards and grain-store have been converted into a museum and arts centre.

Cabinteely House ... owned in the past by the Nugent, O’Byrne and McGrath families (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

Cabinteely House was built around 1769 by Robert Nugent (1702-1788), Lord Clare and later Earl Nugent. In the 1740s, it is said, Nugent, an Irish socialite from Co Westmeath, lent large sums of money to the Prince of Wales, but he was never repaid. The political appointments and peerage titles he received later in life seem to have been a public acknowledgement by King George III, son of the Prince of Wales, of this indebtedness. In 1767, Nugent became Baron Nugent and Viscount Clare, and in 1776 he was made Earl Nugent.

The house later passed to the O’Byrne family, including William Richard O’Byrne (1823–1896), MP for Co Wicklow (1874-1880) and author of the Naval Biographical Dictionary. In 1933, Joe McGrath of the Irish Hospital Sweepstakes bought the house. Cabinteely House finally passed to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council in 1984.

From Cabinteely, we drove on to Killiney. Initially, we were planning a walk on the beach, but instead we parked in the car park at Victoria Hill Park, behind Holy Trinity Parish Church and the Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel and climbed Victoria Hill to obelisk at the top of Killiney Hill.

From the top of the hill, some people say, it is possible on clear days to see as far as the Mourne Mountains in Co Down and the north coast of Wales. It was not as clear as that today, but we had a magnificent view that stretched across Dublin Bay, Killiney Bay, Bray Head and the Great Sugar Loaf mountain – views that stretched from the Wicklow Mountains to Howth Head.

The coastal area of Killiney is often compared to the Bay of Naples – a comparison reflected in the names of surrounding roads, such as Vico, Sorrento, Monte Alverno, San Elmo, and Capri. Since early 2010, a pod of bottlenose dolphins has been seen regularly in Killiney Bay, but we did not see them today.

Killiney Hill Park or Victoria Hill Park was once part of the estate of Killiney Castle, now an hotel, and the park was opened in 1887 to mark the golden jubilee of Queen Victoria’s coronation.

The obelisk at the top of Killiney Hill (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

A short walk brought us to the top of Killiney Hill. The obelisk at the top and many of the walls on the hill date from a famine in 1742 and relief works on behalf of poverty-stricken local people. The obelisk is a prominent landmark and carries the inscription: “Last year being hard with the poor walks about these hills and this were erected by John Mapas, June 1742.”

Nearby, the “Wishing Stone,” dated 1852, is of uncertain origin. Another smaller obelisk a little further on is known as Boucher’s obelisk and is inscribed: “Mount Mapas.”

Killiney Castle was built as Mount Mapas at the bottom of the hill in 1741 by Colonel John Mapas. By 1755, Mount Mapas had been acquired by a Captain Maunsell. Killiney Beach was becoming a popular seaside destination by then, and in 1757 John Rocque’s map shows bathhouses near White Rock, on Killiney Beach.

By 1755, Mount Mapas was known as Roxborough, and it was the home of Captain Edward Maunsell, who was High Sheriff of Co Dublin that year. Before he died in 1765, he sold his interests in Killiney to the then Colonel the Hon Henry Loftus, MP for Bannow, Co Wexford. He called the place Loftus Hill and converted the barren stony soil to meadow and pasture and cut a road around Killliney Hill. But, when Henry Loftus become Viscount Loftus of Ely, he inherited other estates, including Loftus Hall in Co Wexford and Rathfarnnham Castle, and in 1772 he sold his Killiney estate and 150 acres on the slopes of Killiney Hill.

In 1778, this was the residence of a Mr Medlicott, before it passed to a Mr Minchin. In 1790, the hill was leased by John Scott (1739-1798), 1st Earl of Clonmell, who was known as ‘Copper-faced Jack.’ He set out a deer park in Killiney and spent £3,000 on improving the estate.

Trees with a story to tell on the slopes of Killiney Hill (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

The Military Road and the Martello Tower in Killiney were completed in 1805. In 1815, the Duke of Dorset died in a hunting accident on Killiney Hill.

By the mid-19th century, the hill and much of Killiney were owned by Robert Warren. In 1840, he enlarged the house, adding the fanciful Victorian façade, embellished with turrets, towers and battlement, and renaming it Killiney Castle. He developed many of the Victorian residential areas and sold land for building a new railway line along the coast to Bray, running beneath Killiney Hill.

With the extension of the railway line, the coastline became even more popular, and Killiney began to expand as a suburban village. The Church of Ireland parish church, Holy Trinity Church, was built in 1859 beside Killiney Castle.

The opening of Victoria Park by the Prince of Wales in 1887 to mark Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee and the opening of Vico Road two years later in 1889 enhanced the popularity of Killiney.

Warren also built a second castle in Killiney in 1840, naming it Victoria Castle in honour of Queen Victoria’s coronation three years earlier. After a fire destroyed its interior in 1928, Victoria Castle was magnificently restored by Sir Thomas Power of the distillery family, and he renamed it Ayesha Castle, after the character in Ryder Haggard’s novel She. The Donegal musician and signer Enya bought the place in 1997, and renamed it Manderley Castle, after the house in Daphne du Maurier’s novel Rebecca.

All these castle, the railway line, the islands of Dalkey, Killiney Strand, the beaches of Bray, the Wicklow Mountains, Howth Head, Dublin Bay and the Irish Sea spread beneath us as we looked down from Killiney Hill in the early afternoon. After our descent, we drove into Dalkey and had a late lunch in Idle Wilde Café in Saint Patrick’s Road in the heart of Dalkey Village before returning to the institute.

Sorrento and the islands of Dalkey seen from Killiney Hill this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

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