Another day that might have appeared unplanned to Linda but where I had actually thought it through. This may be the best compromise between her go with the wind style and my need for a direction, especially when driving. I know where I’m going, she is going with the flow.
We were aiming for Lakeside Hostel, in the Irish midlands, but with a stop at a house that sounded interesting-the phrase ‘spiteful history’ had drawn me in. We pulled up at Belvedere House and I, to the amusement of the ticket clerk, insisted on paying “seeing as you had no idea we were coming here”. The map showed several routes round the grounds but it was pretty obvious we would do the longest one.
Immediately outside the visitor centre you spot the folly wall, erected by the owner back in the day supposedly so that his brother, with whom he had fallen out, couldn’t look over his grounds and house. It’s a bit like the walls you’d get with toy soldiers-meant to show part of a destroyed house, but in itself moulded to be exactly the size and shape it is. Just down from there is the lake, which is stunning, gently lapping the shore, a grassy bank rising away from it towards the house itself. Plus a rocking seat to sit on and contemplate, though that didn’t last us long seeing as we’d only just got there.
The grounds have a great ‘long walk’ of about 3k, taking in plenty of shore front if you’re willing to take the paths less trodden-it seems the litter pickers are not-and plenty of trees, along with some slightly odd Lion, Witch and Wardrobe themed sights. The signs are particularly gaudy. Round the far end is another folly, a grand arch, and as we sat looking at the beautifully landscaped gardens (Capability Brown, of course)-the path bends and drops away from you, the view narrows and then expands-we spotted a thing. Yes, that tree off in the distance is definitely shaped as a huge cock. It made me giggle to start with, but we decided it wasn’t accidental. Heading round the house later we read the history of the various owners and saw that the unmarried penultimate owner had passed it on to his male friend and companion. Ah, got it.
It’s a lovely house, small but perfectly formed (smallish, at any rate, it still has rooms downstairs for the servants, and the tour is limited by the upstairs rooms being out of bounds) but the grounds are absolutely stunning. They come with a lovely sense of mischief.