Saturday, 28 December 2013

A walk by the boathouses ...
and coffee in the Boathouse

The boathouses on the banks of the River Liffey late this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

Patrick Comerford

There was a lull in the storm in Dublin today, despite the winds that have blown across these islands at up to 150 kph, cutting power to many households, disrupting sea, air, rail and road traffic, and flooding many areas.

With blue skies and a crisp clean air that felt like fresh mountain water, two of us decided to go for a walk this afternoon [28 December 2013].

Bray had been physically and spiritually invigorating yesterday, and in these lazy days it would have taken only 20 minutes to get to the beach there. However, we decided instead to go for a walk along the River Liffey, by the boathouses at Islandbridge.

It’s a ‘Wind in the Willows’ thing ... a single sculler on the River Liffey late this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

Only two lone scullers from the Trinity Boathouse were out on the river in single sculls or shells, working their way between the boathouse and Chapelizod and back again. But the water was as calm as a millpond.

Single-sculling is the second slowest category of racing boat, although it is faster than the coxed pair. But the competitors are known to other rowers as among the toughest, both physically and mentally, so that single sculling is sometimes known as “King’s Class.”

Single sculling time trials and races can be used to measure each individual’s rowing ability for selection into larger boats. These two brave women are obviously determined and single-minded to get into the water in this hardy weather.

As these two women worked their way up and down the river, small family groups by the edge of the water were helping their children to feed the swans and ducks by the Trinity Boathouse.

In an idle moment, as I looked up at the Magazine Fort in the Phoenix Park overlooking the river, I wondered why the Trinity boathouse is on the south side of the River, why the UCD boathouse is on the north side of the river, and why the Phoenix Park, although it is on the northside, has a southside postal code (Dublin 8)? Is it because the President lives there?

Oh the silliness of Dublin southside snobberies!

This evening’s sunset behind Chapelizod and Palmerstown seen from a hill in the Phoenix Park (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

Although the sun was beginning to set, we decided to drive along the north bank of the river to the Chapelizod Gate and into the Phoenix Park. The grazing deer provided a Christmas-themed look to the landscape, and at the top of the hill, over in the south-west, the sun was setting in the trees behind Chapelizod and Palmerstown.

We continued on to Farmleigh, the 78 acre estate that includes the official residence of the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) and the official State Guest House. Although it was now dark, it is hard to imagine that could be such an open welcome to the public at Chequers.

Farmleigh was bought from the Guinness family by the Government in 1999 for over €29 million, and since then the house has been carefully refurbished.

The house was built in the late 18th century and was bought by Edward Cecil Guinness (1847-1927) in 1873 when he married his cousin, Adelaide Guinness. A great-grandson of Arthur Guinness, he became the first Earl of Iveagh in 1919.

The Conservatory was built at Farmleigh in 1901 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

We were too late to join the last tour of the house, and instead we stopped for coffee and panini at the Boathouse Café beside the main house.

The café, managed by RASC Catering, is set alongside the ornamental lake, with a skirt of decking overlooking the water and offering a quiet rural corner so close to the heart of the city.

This was my first visit to Farmleigh and to Boathouse. I ought to return before this holiday season comes to an end.

After-dark reflections in the ornamental lake seen from the skirt of decking at the Boathouse Café in Farmleigh (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

No comments: