Belvedere House

A few photos from our visit to Belvedere House, located outside Mullingar in Westmeath, Ireland.

Belvedere House was a Georgian villa built in 1740 by Robert Rochfort, Lord Belfield from designs by renowned architect Richard Cassells.  It was originally designed to be a hunting lodge or holiday villa but later became the main residence of Robert Rochfort, after he accused his wife Mary Molesworth of having an alleged affair with his brother Arthur Rochfort. Robert was told of the affair by his younger brother George, who disliked Mary.  Mary was said to have confessed but only under force and Arthur fled the country, pursued by his brother who planned to shoot him on sight, he returned a few years later and was sued by Robert for the alleged affair and fined 20,000 pounds, Arthur couldn’t pay and ended up in a debtor’s marshalsea prison.

Belvedere House - Georgian villa
Terraces at Belvedere

 

Rochfort had his wife Mary, imprisoned in their family home at Gaulstown for the next 31 years, with no outside communication allowed with family or friends only some servants.  She once escaped and returned to her father’s house in Dublin but he sent her back.  Mary’s plight only came to an end, when Robert died and her son George had her released. Robert Rochfort became known as the Wicked Earl for his treatment of his wife.

Wicked Earl - Robert Rochfort
Lord Belvedere, the Wicked Earl

 

Belvedere House and gardens is today run by Westmeath county council and you can go inside the house and view some of the rooms and the downstairs kitchen, there is also a cafe, gift shop, Victorian walled garden, a fairy garden, play ground for kids and lakeside walks which run along Lough Ennell and includes three large garden follies or sham ruins that Robert Rochfort, later known as Lord Belvedere had built, one is called the Jealous Wall which resembles the ruins of an abbey, he had it built in the 18th century to obscure his view of his younger brother George’s new larger house called Tudenham Park.

For opening times and directions, check out the Belvedere House website.

 

 

Old Rail Trail

We cycled the new Westmeath Greenway along the old Mullingar-Athlone railway line.   This is the Westmeath section of the Dublin–Galway Greenway and extends from the existing Royal Canal Greenway in Mullingar to the town of Athlone.  It will be known as the Old Rail Trail Greenway and is for recreational cyclists and walkers.

Mullingar Greenway Train bridge
Train Bridge

The walking and cycling route is on a tarmacadam surface and is suitable for road bikes, the route runs alongside the railway tracks and is about 40 kilometres from Mullingar to Athlone.  As it runs on the old train line, the route is nice and flat and is an easy cycle for all levels of fitness and ages.  It is safe to cycle on, as no cars, motorbikes or horses are allowed on the route.  We passed by lots of families and kids cycling, roller-bladers and people out walking.

Mullingar greenway
Old Rail Trail Greenway
Road bikes
Mullingar Greenway is suitable for road bikes

We started the route opposite the Mullingar train station and cycled along the Royal Canal for about 2 kilometres before continuing on the Old Rail Trail section of the Greenway, we cycled about 11 kilometres from Mullingar and then back.

Mullingar Greenway train tracks

The route goes passed scenic Westmeath farming countryside and at stages you cycle on a height as the route runs along on the old train embarkments and we cycled under quaint old stone rail bridges.

As the new Greenway runs between Mullingar – Moate – Athlone, it is accessible from several locations, you could make a weekend of it and get the train to Mullingar, (the Connolly Dublin to Sligo train line) spend the day cycling to Athlone at a leisurely pace, stay over night in Athlone and either return to Mullingar or get a train from Athlone, (the Heuston Dublin to Galway train line).  We used our own bikes but there are several bike rental shops opened in Mullingar and Athlone, where you can rent a bike.

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Scarecrows in Multyfarnham

On a cycle earlier today, passing through Multyfarnham in Westmeath, I stopped to take a few photos of these scarecrows, its a scarecrow competition been held as part of the Multyfarnham Harvest Country Fair day.

Fair day in Multfarnham
Food and Art & Craft stalls at Multyfarnham Harvest Country Fair
Multyfarnham Country fair
Lady Scarecrow

 

Farmer and horse scarecrows

Farmer and Horse scarecrows

Billy Goat Scarecrow
Billy goat scarecrow
Farmer and Goat scarecrows
Farmer Scarecrow
Bull scarecrow and farmer
Bull scarecrow and farmer

Ireland’s first house with central heating

We visited Tullynally Castle (also known as Pakenham Hall Castle), during Heritage Week.  The castle is located 1.5 kilometres from the town of Castlepollard in County Westmeath, in the midlands of Ireland.

It recently featured on RTE’s TV cooking show ‘Lords and Ladles’.

After the English civil wars (1642 – 1651), Henry Pakenham, a Captain in Oliver Cromwell’s army, was granted land by the King and built a plantation style house on the estate. This is still part of the castle – over the years the house was extended, each Earl added to the castle architecture with towers, a clock tower and courtyards, which has resulted in the magnificent fine castle present today.

Pakenham Hall Castle
Tullynally Castle in Westmeath

With it being Heritage Week there was a special tour inside the castle (usually visitors only enjoy the tearooms and gardens).

Our tour guide Bartle D’arcy was very knowledgeable and enthusiastic which made for a very interesting and humorous tour of the castle.  Irish TV were filming at the castle during our visit and it will feature on the Westmeath Matters TV show.

Tullynally Plantation House
The original Tullynally Plantation House

We were shown the Great Hall – where concerts take place, organised by the Derravaragh Music Association, see their website for the next concert.  We were then brought into the dining room, which has large windows with beautiful views over the Westmeath countryside.  In the dining room, there are portraits of the Pakenham ancestors hanging along the wall, which is referred to as ‘dining with your ancestors’.

Tullynally Castle gate house
Tullynally Castle gate house

We also got to see the drawing room and library, which are off the dining room through secret wall panelling.   The castle, which has 100 rooms, was kitted out with the latest modern conveniences during Victorian times including a large kitchen and laundry rooms, which we got to view.

Richard Lovell Edgeworth Inventor Heating system
Richard Lovell Edgeworth Inventor

Interestingly, the castle was the first private house to install a central heating system which was designed by the inventor from nearby Edgeworthstown, Richard Lovell Edgeworth.  The Edgeworth family, including Richard’s daughter, the author Maria Edgeworth were frequent visitors to the castle, which she described in 1813 as been very warm.

 

Tullynally Castle Courtyard and old water pump
Tullynally Castle Courtyard and water pump

The castle is still lived in today by custodians Valerie and Thomas Pakenham, whose full title is the 8th Earl of Longford, which he prefers not to use.  Thomas Pakenham, is an Anglo-Irish historian and arborist, he is responsible for transforming and renovating the 18th century gardens on the estate.

Ornamental garden fountain
Ornamental garden fountain

After the tour we had a walk around the extensive estate gardens, which are open from Easter to October.  There are a few different trails you can do that are dotted around two ornamental lakes and plenty to see including the kitchen garden, a stone grotto, the Chinese garden and even a Llama paddock!!  The trails on the lower lake go over some farmland so best to wear old shoes.  We also got some Afternoon tea in the rustic cafe housed in the former stables in the courtyard.

Ornamental Lake at Tullynally Castle
Ornamental Lake at Tullynally Castle

Tullynally Castle and gardens are well worth the visit, a hidden gem in Westmeath.

Sacred centre of Ireland

We visited the Hill of Uisneach in Westmeath in the midlands of Ireland.  We got a guided tour at the Hill of Uisneach as it is Heritage week, we also got an archaeological lecture with Dr Roseanne Schot from University College Galway.

 

Dr Schot at Catstone
Dr Schot talking about the significance of the Catstone

 

We first heard of Uisneach, when we attended the Festivals of Fires a few years ago. Uisneach is the original seat of the High Kings of Ireland and there are many stone monuments on the large site, which is 4 kilometres in size.  There have been a few archaeology studies completed and a geophysical survey has taken place, which has identified evidence of different structures and stone monuments on the hill.  The lecture was very interesting, we learned so much about this site, from the mythological stories, ancient Irish history and archaeology.

Wood Sculpture
Wooden Sculpture on Hill of Uisneach

 

Uisneach was the home of the goddess Eriu, after whom Ireland is named. The views from the hill are beautiful and you can view mountains hundreds of miles away in other counties on a clear day, we could see the Slievebloom mountains in Offaly.

 

Catstone on Hill of Uisneach
Catstone on the Hill of Uisneach

 

There is a large stone boulder, which was left over from the Ice Age on the hill, which is called the Catstone, it has also been called  ‘Umbilicus Hiberniae’, ‘Axis Mundi’, and ‘the Naval of Ireland’

Notable visitors to the Hill of Uisneach, include Daniel O’Connell, Padraig Pearse and Eamon De Valera.

James Joyce also regularly visited the Hill of Uisneach while he was working in Mullingar in 1900 – 1901.

Hill of Uisneach Wooden Sculpture
There are several wooden carving sculptures dotted about on the Hill of Uisneach

 

The Hill of Uisneach is now including on Ireland’s Ancient East road map and there are plans to be build a small visitors centre. There are guided tours every week and you can also book a private tour, check out the Uisneach website for details.

All images: melcoo.com