A castle for everyone

This was one of those days when-to stay indoors here in Donegal-one should really need a doctor’s certificate.

When the weather turns up in this part of the north of Ireland you wouldn’t consider a foreign holiday.

Twenty minutes drive from Letterkenny and you are in Glenveagh national park.

It was once a country estate in the days when the British landlord class held sway.

Now the entire estate including the castle is owned by the nation.

Proper order.

Lough Beagh itself is a wonder.

For anyone who knows Loch Lomond-all 20 odd miles of it-think of a scale model-2.5 miles long.

The similarity is striking.

Apparently it was the same geological process that created them. Just the Donegal glacier was tiny in comparison to the one that carved out Loch Lomond.

For those of us in this Republic who think that we cant get anything right at all then they should visit Glenveagh National Park. The place is a credit to all those who work there.

The trail from the visitors centre to the castle was-for me- full if memories from the time when my brood were toddlers on the big adventure up to the magic castle.

Today I was accompanied by my 16-year-old son who, in the passing, mentioned the design of Galileo’s telescope and a 12-year-old daughter who stretched her father’s lexicon apropos matters avifauna.

The halfway point of our trek was Glenveagh castle, which these days is   fully equipped with a well-regarded tearoom.

The cakes and tarts are made on the premises and you really can taste that!

The castle was built by local hands for the benefit of one of the moist hated landlords in Irish history.

John George “Jack” Adair.

Adair behaved like a feudal overlord in his estate and ordered the forces of the crown to carry out the notorious evictions of Derryveagh in 1861. 


As you approach the castle you   can take the path through the ornamental gardens.


The gardens around the castle are a wonder. I have been walking through there for at least 15 years.

I have yet to spot anything out of place, anything untidy or requiring attention.

This paradise was once maintained for the pleasure of the lady of the castle Adair’s American wife Cornelia Wadsworth Ritchie, the widowed daughter of a wealthy family from upstate New York.

For the lady’s pleasure Rhododendrons were planted.

These vicious incomers set about strangling the life out of the local Birchwood trees that give the place its name.

For the last ten years the lads who work there have hacked, sawed and drilled.

Now all around Glenveagh is only native trees are to be seen

It was in the courtyard of Glenveagh castle where my other daughter Roisin first realised that she could run.

Each burst of running completed she laughed out loud!

Then another burst of running.

More laughing.

The joy she was experiencing was so infectious that a group of surly German tourists-all male-and clearly from central casting started to lighten up.

Several of them started laughing too.

Stuck in the house with the cold and a pile of homework we knew Miss Cool herself would be mortified at such a reminiscence.

However her dad and her brother enjoyed the memory and telling her little sister what big sister Roisin was like as a toddler.

When Glenveagh castle was built by local hands to accommodate Adair and his ilk my kids would have been of the age to skivvy and work around the place. 

My grandmother in County Mayo was reared in the age of the Big House.

When I was a teenager in the 1970s she was delighted    the extent to which the landed gentry at Westport House had fallen on relatively hard times.

She remembered when Lord Altamont and his lot were-truly-the lords of the manor.

Glenveagh is for everyone and all who visit there are welcomed equally. The landlord class and their empire are gone.

The mere Irish own Adair’s castle and it is there for everyone on a gorgeous day like today.

The people who work hard everyday do so for a good wage under good conditions. No forelocks have to be tugged anymore.

These are the good old days.











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