Perfectly timed to beat the January blues, the doors of Cabinteely House, Marlay House and the Oratory in Dún Laoghaire will open for the inaugural Winter of Heritage programme from January 24 to February 17, 2018.
The Friends of Joyce Tower will also host two free tours of the world-famous Joyce Tower and Museum every day, and a series of Winter Heritage lectures will run in Marlay House.
For well over a decade, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council’s Summer of Heritage series has become an annual fixture. The initiative has mushroomed in popularity, so new walks and sites are constantly added to the schedule, and a sister programme called Spring Into Heritage started three years ago.
To whet your appetite for Winter of Heritage, I’ll briefly profile each attraction, starting with Dún Laoghaire’s hidden gem.
The Oratory, Library Road, Dún Laoghaire
“Where is the Oratory?” is a question I am guaranteed to be asked on every DLR Heritage tour. Built in 1919 to honour the young men of Dún Laoghaire who went off to fight in the First World War and never came home, its walls were painstakingly decorated by a bona fide genius of Irish Celtic revival art named Sister Concepta Lynch between 1920 and 1936.
It is impossible to describe the Oratory and do it justice. It is tiny, but crammed with detail. Some liken it to something like the Book of Kells painted onto its walls, and others have called it Ireland’s Sistine Chapel. While both comparisons are useful, you really have to see the Oratory and Sister Concepta’s vibrant art for yourself.
Numbers are limited to 15 per tour, which takes about an hour, and includes a documentary about the Oratory’s history narrated by Kathleen Watkins.
Visiting Hours: Wednesday and Saturdays (Jan 22 – Feb 18) – free tours at 11am, 12pm, 1pm and 2pm.
Cabinteely House, Cabinteely Park, Old Bray Road, Cabinteely, Dublin 18
Cabinteely House was built in 1769 for an Irish politician and poet called Robert Nugent, who was described as “a jovial and voluptuous Irishman who had left popery for the Protestant religion, money and widows.”
Indeed, Robert Nugent was so noted for marrying rich widows that his name became a verb, and the practice of “doing a Nugent” or to “Nugentize” became part of 18th century parlance.
Today, Cabinteely House is best known as one of the country’s best film locations, hosting productions such as RTÉ’s Rebellion, and major international pictures such as the Oscar nominated Alfred Nobbs starring Glen Close. The art robbery scenes from John Boorman’s 1998 adaption of The General, starring Brendan Gleeson as the notorious Dublin crime boss Martin Cahill, were also shot at Cabinteely House.
Free tours will take place on Tuesdays and Saturdays (Jan 22 – Feb 18) at 11am, 12pm, 1pm and 2pm
Marlay House, Marlay Park, Rathfarnham, Dublin 16
We are actually very lucky to have Cabinteely and Marlay House left. So much of Dublin’s heritage was razed to the ground by reckless developers and clueless county councils. The destruction of Wood Quay in the 80s to make way for the Dublin City Council offices was a unforgivable act of cultural vandalism. Frascati House in Blackrock was allowed to go to wreck and ruin rather than being preserved for future generations.
The original Marlay House was built by Thomas Taylor. David La Touche, the first Governor of the Bank of Ireland, extended the house in 1764, and renamed it for his wife Elizabeth Marlay.
Free tours on Thursday and Sundays (Jan 22 – Feb 18) at 11am, 12pm, 1pm and 2pm.
Joyce Tower & Museum, Sandycove Point, Sandycove, Co. Dublin
The James Joyce Tower and Museum in Sandycove is the most popular tourist attraction in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, attracting over 40,000 visitors a year from all over the world.
Built in 1804 when the British feared a French invasion, it is the most famous Martello tower in the world as Ulysses, a masterpiece of modernist literature and James Joyce’s most iconic work, begins on the roof of the tower with the line: “Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.”
A few years ago, the Joyce Tower was threatened with permanent closure but was saved by the Trojan efforts of a volunteer group called Friends of Joyce Tower, which was founded by broadcaster and journalist Vincent Browne, local publican Tom Fitzgerald, and others.
Free tours of the Joyce Tower & Museum will take place daily (Jan 22 – Feb 18) at 10.30am and 2.30pm
Finally, here are the details of the Winter of Heritage lecture series in Marlay House.
Happy New Year and all the best for 2018. Discovering your local heritage and history is one of the best new year’s resolutions anyone can make.