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When you can’t travel far, travel where you are.

(by Declan Mescall)

Because you are interested in Castleknock Tidy Towns, you're likely to be a local so please forgive me if what I am about to tell you is old news to you as some of it wasn’t to me.

The pandemic travel restrictions encouraged me to explore places nearer to home. Within 5 km of home to be precise. To my delight, I discovered a real gem on my doorstep, so to speak.

I live in Castleknock and am a daily visitor to the nearby Phoenix Park as a walker, jogger, cyclist and motorist, which to be honest has been a lifesaver during these most difficult times. As a Northsider, I have lived all my life close to the Park and reckon I am familiar with most of its nooks and crannies. But strangely, I had never really explored the Farmleigh House & Estate even though it’s a very pleasant 1.5km walk from home. About 6 months ago, I wanted to find a new route so as to shake up my daily outdoor fresh air routine and decided to take a stroll around the beautiful grounds covering 78 acres.

You may know that Farmleigh House & Estate was owned by the Guinness family from 1873 - yes, that Guinness family. It was bought by the Irish Government in 1999 for €29.2m and is regularly used as a guest house for visiting overseas dignitaries as well as for high level Government meetings. But here is the bonus, when not being used for such occasions it is open to the public 7 days a week and entry is free.

To my surprise I learned the estate has a working farm on its extensive grounds with a herd of cows as well as horses and donkeys while also boasting scenic lakeside walks, a walled garden, sunken garden, scores of interesting mature trees lots of seasonal flowers and open air public art pieces are on display on the lawns.

During normal times there is a Farmers Market at weekends selling a wide variety of food products including cheese, meats, fish, organic vegetables and handcrafts together with lots of other tasty treats.

It’s an ideal place for families and numerous picnic tables are dotted around. The Boathouse coffee shop sells delicious pastries and confectionery as well as speciality coffees and refreshments.

During non pandemic times it is possible to take guided tours of the historic house to view its many ornate rooms and visit the Farmleigh Gallery where different exhibitions are held. In summertime numerous outdoor and educational events take place.

Vehicle and pedestrian access to Farmleigh is from within the Phoenix Park adjacent to White's Gate and free car parking is available.

If, like me, you knew it was there but never took the time to visit it now seems like a good time to check out Farmleigh before we get the all clear to travel further afield and take to the skies and seas again. In the meantime I might bump into you in Farmleigh although that’s unlikely as we will be keeping our social distance.

photos Declan Mescall

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