My father was brought up in Dún Laoghaire (pronounced Dunleary), a seaside town a few miles south of Dublin. Dún Laoghaire means ‘the fort of Laoghaire’ who was the 5th King of Ireland. Once a busy port, nowadays the town is home to several sailing clubs including the Irish National Sailing Club & School, and various other other water-based activities. The marina is the largest in Ireland.
I love this place and visit when I can. Dad was the eldest of five and sadly only his youngest sister M survives. Rather wonderfully she is only a little older than me and in the absence of a sister, she is the nearest I have, and we two are very close.
It’s a difficult thing to explain but I love the sense of belonging that I experience when M and I walk the length of Dún Laoghaire pier.
Then we stroll slowly along the seafront out to Sandycove, where the James Joyce museum is housed in one of the few remaining Martello towers (a small defence fort built across Britain and Ireland in the 19th century. The opening scene in Joyce’s famous novel, Ulysses is set in the tower.
Also mentioned by Joyce is the Forty Foot which is probably Ireland’s most famous swimming place, and for generations it has been the place for Dun Laoghaire’s male swimmers, though for the past twenty years its clear, clean waters have become popular with women and children too. Even at low tide the sea here remains deep and at any time of the year (including Christmas day when hundreds congregate), no matter the temperature, you can watch people diving from the rocks.
The Forty Foot
Close by is this amazing Avant-Garde house (below) designed by, and lived in, by Michael Scott (not to be confused with the Irish writer of the same name), a high profile Irish architect and winner of the Ireland Triennial Gold Medal for Architecture.
Here too in Sandycove is the house that was the family home and when I visited as a child I marvelled at the sheer luck of of my father as a boy living so close to the seaside! At Sandycove we leave the seafront and continue our circuitous route through Glasthule. Full of pretty gift shops, classy cafe bars and almost every kind of service you would expect in a sizeable town, this delightful village is a thriving little jewell. In common with most places houses vary in style and size and if you have €1.5 million to spend, you’ll have no problem doing so here.
The road from Glashule leads straight into Dunlaoghaire town but just before we reach the main thoroughfare we usually stop for the obligatory coffee (and quite possibly lunch) at Poppies. I love Poppies! Entering this delightful little coffee shop is rather like going into someone’s cottage home. Here is what we DIDN’T have today.
Sadly, at the moment, M is not very well and not up to the lengthy walk, so after a shorter walk this morning, I went off by myself this afternoon whilst she rested. Our intention was to go out for something to eat later (there is an abundance of restaurants within a short walking distance of the house) but by the time we’d have gone the the sunny, crisp autumn day had changed to a wet, windy squall. We looked at each other, looked out of the window and both shook out heads. Crackers, cheeses, cooked chicken, hummus, grapes and apple made for a satisfactory substitute. The weather’s not looking too good tomorrow either but M’s daughter is coming to pick us up for lunch in Monkstown.