Green. Potatoes. Pubs. U2. Colin Farrel. Gerard Butler*
Before going to Ireland, this (with very little else) is what I knew about the country. Despite not knowing a whole lot about the country its been high on my list of places to visit because (1) I love potatoes and (2) I wanted to see firsthand for myself how green it really was.
I’ll preface this post, and my Ireland recap in general, by letting you know the why. Why Ireland and why now? Last Summer, while still in India, my sisters best friend of about 23 years asked me to photograph her wedding. She and her fiancé, both Canadian and both attending med school there (he graduated the day before the wedding!), wanted to have a small wedding in Ireland – the place they’d called home for the past 3 years. Of course, I said yes. So the first week of my two week Irish adventure was spent in work and semi-work mode. I photographed not only the wedding day but the tea party two days earlier.
During this week I stayed with my sister, her boyfriend, their daughter (my niece) at Mount Juliet, the estate the wedding reception would be held on in the lovely stand alone home on the property, The Chauffeurs Lodge.
The drive from Dublin airport to Kilkenny gave me a taste of what was to come over the next two weeks. Green rolling hills as far as I could see covered with sheep and the narrowest roads I’ve ever been on. Upon arriving at Mount Juliet, the place we’d call home for the next week, I think we were all a bit a speechless. It was if we had walked onto the most beautiful movie set. And driving up to the Chauffeurs Lodge with it’s charming red front door, my first thought was that I’d stepped into the movie The Holiday; I knew the week was going to be nothing short of spectacular – and it was.
Mount Juliet opened its doors to guests in 1989 but its history far dates that. Originally two separate estates, Walton’s Grove and Ballylinch, each has its own separate history going back to 1719. It’s quite an interesting history but I’ll make a long story short and share that the two estates were amalgamated in 1757 when the Earl of Carrick built his mansion on the bank of the river that runs through the estate, the River Nore, and called it Mount Juliet in honour of his wife, Lady Juliana (who was known as Juliet). They moved from the castle on one side of the river (currently a thriving stud farm on the property with bits and pieces of the original structure still remaining) into Mount Juliet and the family remained there until 1914 when the estate was sold to the McCalmont family – the last family to live there.
Mount Juliet sits on 1,500 acres of the most beautiful property I’ve ever seen. Rolling hills? Check. Horses? Check. Cows? Check. Walking and riding trails? Check. A golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus? Check. Top notch spa? Check. Horse back riding? Check. Tennis? Check. Helicopter landing pad? Check. River? Check. Clay pigeon shooting? Check. Archery? Check. The list goes on and on….The week was filled with top notch service, outstanding food, and interaction with the friendliest people I’ve ever met. My sister was happy to spend most of the day sleeping so her boyfriend and I went on leisurely bike rides around the estate, hung out with the horses in the equestrian lodge and played made up games of golf. I took many walks just taking it all in and admiring the scenery and on one day took a historic tour of the estate with Des, the estate guide who’s quite knowledgeable about all things Mount Juliet. Seriously, I wanted to put Des in my suitcase and bring him home so he could be my grandpa; he was that adorable.
At the end of the week once the wedding had been photographed and we’d had an extra day to unwind, as my family packed up to head home, the groom to Chicago to his new job, the bride to Africa for a month to volunteer in a small village, I packed up to head off and explore some more of Ireland for the next week.
Next up: Cork.
*For some reason I was certain Butler was Irish. Must have been because of P.S. I Love You.
**For what it’s worth if any of you are thinking of visiting Ireland and want to treat yourself I would strongly recommend Mount Juliet. And I wasn’t paid to say that! Though if they wanted to invite me back for a sponsored trip I would totally go. I signed up to go fishing on the property while there but the weather didn’t cooperate…..