From our last stop, the Bus Stop, Killarney Road makes for the M11 to the southwest. The road to the left is officially known as Oldcourt Park, but known locally as the Soldiers Road. It runs alongside the ravine carved by the Swan River. Lost amongst the trees, the ancient tower house of Oldcourt Castle looms above, forever beyond reach. The river slithers through Wheatfield, past Swiss Cottage, across the Boghall, up to Southern Cross and on to Killruddery where the brook drains off Giltspur, or the Little Sugarloaf.
These lands south of Bray were granted to Walter de Riddlesford, one of Strongbow’s loyal adventurers in the invasion of 1169. The large demesne is centred on Killruddery, the Church of the Knight. The Brabazon family came into ownership of the estate in the early 16th century through William Brabazon, Lord Justice of Ireland. The title Earl of Meath was granted to his great-grandson William in 1623. Killruddery House had to be rebuilt following destruction in the Cromwellian wars of the mid century. The current building is largely an 1820s reconstruction in the Tudor revival style. The original gardens remain. Designed by the French gardener Bonet, they are a unique example in Ireland of seventeenth century design, haunted with an exquisite Gothic gloom. Classically inspired additions blossomed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
The house and gardens are a popular attraction, with coffee shop, farmers market, garden centre and regular music and art events. There’s an adventure playground and Ireland’s largest obstacle course. Best of all are the walks through the estate, beyond the walls where nature wrestles amiably with farmland and forest. I have variously met friends and strangers, no one at all, amiable vikings and post apocalyptic hippies (these later visions being on film set).
I recently took a path less travelled on the borderline between Killruddery and Belmont. In natural woodland on a sunny day there’s a tangible frisson in the air as light and dark dance with uninhibited abandon, together all alone, but for me. This acrylic is unusual for me in the choice of palette, which is very, very green.
But most of all I miss a girl in Tipperary town
and most of all I miss her lips as soft as eiderdown
again I want to see and do the things we’ve done and seen
where the breeze is sweet as shalimar and there’s Forty Shades of Green
This song became such an iconic evocation of the Emerald Isle that it is presumed to have originated here. In a way it did. Johnny Cash wrote the song when touring Ireland in the late fifties. Once, after performing the song, a fan thanked him for his respect in singing a grand old Irish traditional air.