Friday morning, our Air B&B host John, provided us with a nice light breakfast of bran cereal, tea, and milk. It was perfect, especially when we were going to spend the day exploring.
Our first stop was the train station to make sure train service was restored. It was, so no need for a last minute change in plans. As a backup John had already volunteered to drive us the 30 minutes to Rosslare, if needed. Sunday afternoon, we travel to Rosslare which It is our "jumping off" spot to Wales.
Bus service was still a bit sketchy so we hopped in a cab for a €12 ride to visit Johnstown Castle & Gardens. The present day Castle has been in place since the 19th century, relatively new by Irish standards. However a Castle has been located at this site since Norman times, the 12th century.
The last member of the estate's family, the Edmonds family, died in 1942. The estate was gifted to the nation. Passing through bureaucratic hands, the responsibility for its care finally settled with Teagasc, the Agriculture & Food Development Authority. The Castle was used as offices until three years ago, today it stands locked & empty.
The real highlight is the estate grounds. The total estate consists of 400 hectares (OK-we had to Google it too) one hectare contains about 2.47 acres. Forty of those are a park, Which included three large lakes. The remaining acreage is used for agricultural research.
The park is home to a variety of plants & animals. Although we didn't see any, Red Squirrels are one of the residents. Some we did see are ducks & swans, chickens, and peacocks.
We also watched this small wren work at building it's nest on a high spot in one of the lakes. Good thing there were no alligator.
Flowering trees and shrubs are beginning to bust into color like these Himalayan Rhododendrons.
There are large trees all over the park including Redwoods. There is also a Monterey Cypress, a Champion Tree of Ireland. The seeds were claimed to be smuggled in from America in a man's hat.
Structures other than the Castle still stand like the "Meat House" with it's secret passage to the castle's kitchen so visiting guests wouldn't see the staff working. There is also, Rathlannon Castle. It's nothing more than a rectangular tower house but it dates between the 15th & 16th century.
Our final stop was the Agriculture Museum. Housed appropriately in the Farmyard Building, it displayed a variety of farm life items such as; horse drawn carts, tractors, furniture, and more.
An eye opening "special feature" was the famine museum. It traced the history of life of pre-famine, small (1-10 acres of land) farm families before, during, and after the potato famine. During this time farmers leased land in hopes of not just making a living, but surviving. Many lost everything!
Potatoes, introduced in the 1500's, were a cheap source of food that could grow almost anywhere.
When the blight destroyed 20-30% of the potato crop people starved. Weather through complacency or by design, little was done by the British government to help. This all while massive amounts of food was still being exported from Ireland to England.
During this time Ireland lost a third of its population either to starvation or emigration. It was said at the time that the people moved on," either to the New World or the Next World".
Tonight we are staying in Rosslare on the south-eastern tip of Ireland. We are staying with David and Eileen, who are new but terrific Air B&B hosts. Their son came in from Dublin to visit for Irish Mothers Day. We all sat around with some late afternoon tea discussing our travels & theirs, places to see and of course some politics. Tomorrow morning at 0845 we board our three hour ferry to Wales. Fair well Ireland, for now!
Fair Winds and Quiet Anchorages,
Jeff & Wendy