Wednesday, day 3 and my personal tour guides arrived to take me to Fota House & Gardens! Yes, Ted & Gary Murphy were taking me to Fota. It had been years since my last visit so I was completely surprised when they drove to Monkstown, boarded a ferry and were there in no time at all. Progress !
To be absolutely truthful, at first I simply thought we were in a traffic jam as opposed to a queue for the ferry !
Fota Island used to be a regular venue for school trips and family days out for me, but returning with the advantage of age sheds a completely different light on this magnificent place. As soon as we parked our car, I noticed throngs of kids in school buses had descended also. Had it really been that long ago since I too was a school kid. I remember wanting to get off the bus so that I could find somewhere to run wild not cherishing the idea of touring another historical home ! This time was different.
The history of Fota is intertwined with the story of the Smith Barry family whose members developed the house and estate. They first came to the area in the late 12th century as part of the Anglo-Norman invasion. We walked through the back halls and backstairs of this historical house. Meandering through this house we eventually arrived in the old kitchen, again one of my favorite places to be. There was a carousel in the middle for hanging the game brought in from the estate. In large country houses ,as much food as possible was produced at home. It had a home farm with hot houses,orchards and vegetable gardens. Huge lead-lined boxes were used for salting hams, beef and bacon. This was quite rare and is one of the signs of the outstanding quality of Fota House.
An arboretum was developed at Fota in the 1840's. It coincided with the great plant hunting expeditions that went on around the world bringing back specimens from the Orient, North West America and South America. Fota Island is very well sheltered, has a mean annual rainfall of 41 inches and has an ideal temperature range with frost being rare. A walk through these magnificent gardens is a must.
Three hours had flown by and it was time to move on. We were headed for the city. We had worked up quite an appetite and where better to eat than the 'English Market'.................