South Dublin’s Rocky Shore – 2

Killiney to Dalkey.

Beyond Killiney Dart station, a tunnel under the track leads from the beach to Strathmore Road, which climbs steeply to join with Vico Road. Alternatively, and depending on the vagaries of the tide, you can follow the strand farther north to the high cliffs of the headland. This fine day, I took the latter option as far as the footbridge across the Dartline, and wound my way up through an overgrown laneway of honeysuckle, honeyed bricks and honey bees.

I emerge onto tarmac that swirls through the high walls and higher trees marking the properties of the topmost echelon of Irish society, and indeed Irish Rock royalty. Van Morrison and Bono Vox have their mansions here, though the prize for princess in her palace must go to Enya, whose residence, Manderley Castle, peeps its high gothic turrets above the walls farther up the hill towards the village of Killiney. The fanciful nineteenth century residence was originally dedicated to Queen Victoria, but Enya, keen fan of Daphne Du Maurier, took Manderley from Rebecca’s memorable opening line.

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…

Eithne Ni Bhraonnain, Anglicised as Enya Brennan, is one of the Brennan family Rock group, Clannad, from Gweedore in County Donegal. Enya embarked on her solo career in the mid eighties, teaming up with producer Nicky Ryan and his wife, lyricist Roma Ryan. Her first, eponymous, album made some waves, but it was her second, Watermark, which made the international commercial breakthrough. Orinoco Flow from the album established Enya’s reputation and her multi layered, ambient New Age sound. 

From the North to the South Ebudae unto Khartoum

From the deep Sea of Clouds to the Islands of the Moon

Carry me on the waves to the land I’ve never been

Carry me on the waves to the lands I’ve never seen

Orinoco Flow/Enya

This is more a sound painting than a poetic lyric, but there’s something in its vision that elevates the soul, and chimes with the landscape hereabouts. Subsequent albums sold by the million. Enya’s best-of collection was titled Paint the Sky with Stars. There are plenty of them around here.

Killiney village developed around an 11th century chapel, marking the footprint for its more modern successor. At the crossroads topping the rise, the village pub, the Druid’s Chair, has a suitably new age moniker for the locale. It is a long established family hostelry which takes its name from an ancient stone oddity in the woods nearby. The artefact is a mystery in itself, variously described as a Mass Rock, an Iron Age altar or a Victorian folly. Make for the bar and mine’s a Carlsberg. Probably.

Besides the lush enclaves and sprawling mansions, much of Killiney Hill consists of parkland. This park was opened in honour of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887. The Obelisk on the summit dates back much further to1741 and was a famine relief work. The eighteenth century famine being just as severe, proportionately, as its more famous nineteenth century successor. You could spend a day poking about Killiney Park. The views over the coastline are magnificent. Drape yourself on its lawns or obliging monuments, and let the day go by.

On the way back home we sang a song

But our throats were getting dry

Then we saw the man from across the road

With the sunshine in his eyes

Trace your way back by granite walls under shading trees to Vico Road. Bask, briefly, in the dappled luxury of the rich and famous. Bono’s house is nearby. The U2 frontman previously lived in a Martello Tower in Bray, to the South across the bay. His current abode is less obvious. Guitar man, The Edge, is a neighbour. Tetchy ex-Them frontman, Van Morrison is also a person in the neighbourhood. Back in sixties Belfast, Them fashioned the formative artefacts of Irish Rock. Baby Please Don’t Go, Here Comes the Night and Gloria are classics. Since leaving Them, he has ploughed an individual furrow in the music world. Morrison might quibble at his inclusion in the Rock world, preferring R and B as a label, but elements of jazz and soul, funk and folk weave through his repertoire and it’s futile to try and bracket him. 

Morrison, elder bitter lemon in his dealings, is all sweetness and light in his music. And it Stoned Me, from his third solo album, Moondance, embodies the joys of halcyon youth, particularly a young boy’s pursuit of the important things in life: fishin’, swimmin’ and simply playin’ 

Later, as I find myself suspended above the turquoise bathing pools far below on the rocky shore, I realise that its joyful narrative of life in the moment has invaded my own personal narrative, that it has become a tangible memory of something that wasn’t, but, somehow, eternally is.

Oh the water, let it run all over me

And it stoned me to my soul

Stoned me just like going home

And it stoned me

Van Morrison

On the high Vico Road we can shake the stardust off our feat and gaze down at heaven. The day is positively Mediterranean. Villas sprout crystalline from the rock. Cars string like pearls along the kerb and sightseers sit with such photo savvy conceit, they must be auditioning for some Hollywood pastiche, or maybe a retro poster of John Hinde’s graphic delights. The walk is easy, it’s tearing yourself away from the view that’s difficult.

A last lingering look at the bay, and the road descends to the junction of Sorrento and Colliemore. Both roads lead to Dalkey, Colliemore along the coast; but today I’m continuing North, by way of Sorrento Road running parallel to the railway track which eats through the granite twenty feet below. We are bound for Dun Laoghaire via the Metals.

5 thoughts on “South Dublin’s Rocky Shore – 2

  1. Shane, on our last trip to Dublin we spent a weekend in Dún Laoghaire, and zipped down the coast to Dalkey for the day. Your post brings back good memories of the Dalkey trip. We had a beer at Bono’s local (don’t remember the name), and walked up the coast road to see the “homes of the stars.” The weekend was a great break from the wackiness of Dublin. ~James

    • Glad you like it, James. My path will take us through Dun Laoghaire before returning to Dalkey. Maybe jostle a few more memories. Maybe the Druid is Bono’s local, it’s nearest his gaff, though I’d see him more a McDonagh’s man.

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