A Spontaneous Trip to Malahide
I was strolling around the city centre last Saturday, enjoying the city sights, when I passed by the Tara St DART station. After continuing down the block for about five seconds, I stopped and did a little moonwalk back to the station entrance. Yep, you know where this is heading – out of the city!
I thought, why not? It was barely past noon and I had the whole afternoon ahead of me. Where to? Howth? Possibly. Dun Laoghaire? Maybe. Malahide? Another good choice. Okay stop, I really didn’t need any more choices. Where shall I go? Indecision. If this goes on, the afternoon will just slip on by, the day wasted. In the end, I did a quick eeny-meeny-miney-moe.
Problem. Solved. And off I went to Malahide!
The day started out a bit grey but by the time I was zipping through Clontarf, the sun had moseyed its way out from behind the clouds. After getting off the train, I couldn’t help smiling. I must do this more often, I thought.
Look up cute town in a dictionary and I’m sure you’ll find a picture of Malahide underneath the entry. Called the diamond (on the local map), the town centre was an intersection with shops, restaurants, pubs, and cafes on each of the four streets. As the marina and beach was on the other side of town, opposite the castle, I decided to take advantage of the weather – which is completely bipolar in Ireland – and head to the marina first.
So that smile I had when I got off the train, it was still on my face when I arrived at the little park that led to the marina. When I reached the walkway along the marina, I just stood there and took in the sight of the boats swaying back and forth under the dual influence of the waves and the wind. The sun was in full view and what clouds there were served to improve photos instead of drenching shirts. The wind made whistles of nooks and crevices. The boats’ adornments clinked and clanked, filling the air with the sound of a hundred wind chimes.
Afterward, I strolled down to the beach. The shore was sandy, obviously, but unlike most beaches, this one was sprinkled with stones, large and small, anchoring the sand in place. Now imagine this: you’re standing in the middle of this patch and suddenly the wind starts to pick up. A mist starts to hover over the sand and float across the surface of the shore. As the wind intensifies, the mist gets whisked away towards the ocean. They form multiple currents, streaming and twisting, like tiny vertical cyclones, across the shore, disappearing into the ocean. That was the scene as I stood in the middle of that beach. I just took a moment to enjoy witnessing this natural phenomenon. I stood still, trying not to disturb its motions. When I finally started back to town, I was greeted with a shoeful of sand on my first step. Beaches…
At that point my hands were getting a bit frosty – it was a lovely day, albeit a bit brisk. I decided to head towards the diamond for a steaming cup of something hot.
In the interest of maintaining my spontaneity and forgoing technology, I stopped myself from Googling “best coffee in Malahide.” Instead, I found myself walking into a cozy shop called Coastal Cafe. After refueling with a coffee and Danish, I was ready to make the trek on over to the castle for the final castle tour of the day at 3:30pm (ok, so I resorted to 3G for that information).
Malahide Castle, home of the Talbot family for almost 800 years until 1975, is surrounded by hundreds of acres of parkland and gardens. A ticket includes a guided tour of the castle as well as access to the Talbot Botanic Gardens, which includes the “West Lawn” and the Walled Garden.
I made it to the castle just in time for the tour.
Now I’ve been to quite a few castles so far this year. On my trip to Edinburgh, I visited Edinburgh castle. On my trip to Kilkenny, I went on the castle tour there. And, of course, there’s Dublin castle as well. All those castles were grand but Malahide Castle might have induced the greatest feeling of awe in me.
The first word that came to mind when the castle came into view was: fairytale-like. I could easily imagine Rapunzel looking out the tower window, hair cascading down its sides, a bright complement next to the ivy, green vines.
The interior of the castle is a mishmash of eras, a result of multiple renovations and additions to the castle. The oldest parts of the castle date back to the 12th century and the various eras are exhibited throughout the tour from the dark and moody oak room, to the mid Georgian style Small and Great Drawing Rooms. The windows provide wonderful vistas of the park and gardens – from one of the turret rooms, you can even spot a tree that’s over 500 years old!
All in all, the tour was wonderful and well worth a visit. But, that’s not all! Remember, the ticket also includes access to the gardens. The Talbot Botanic Garden was created by Lord Milo Talbot in 1948, a project showcasing an interest in plants from the Southern Hemisphere. The garden is split into two parts: “West Lawn” and the Walled Garden.
Attracted to mystery, I set off to explore the Walled Garden first. It was wonderfully serene; I felt so far away from civilization, especially as there was not a soul in sight. I swaggered through the paths, dancing among the flowers and plants like I was in Pharrell’s “Happy” music video. It was beautiful – in mid-February, nonetheless.
A prominent feature of the Walled Garden is the Victoria House. It’s a majestic greenhouse, a bright centerpiece in a walled oasis. There are several greenhouses scattered throughout the garden, all accessible.
To round out my visit, I strolled through the extensive trails of West Lawn. There, I got to stand next to the giant of a 500-something year old tree and observe the castle from another angle, illuminated by the setting sun.
Before hopping back on the train to the city centre, I walked over to the marina to take in the sights one last time at dusk. As the day came to a close, I found myself walking back to the train station with that same awestruck smile that I had when I first arrived earlier that afternoon.