Thursday 10th August 2017. Hot.
As the “Route 44 Enniskerry” bus passed southwards along O’Connell Street, I decided that this was my trip for the day. The bus passed by Pearse Street, Merrion and thru Ranelagh, Clonskeagh, Milltown and Dundrum, all in Greater Dublin but beyond Dundrum, it was a climb into the mountains thru the village of Stepaside and then into Enniskerry.
Enniskerry (population 2,000) is about 25 kilometres (15 miles) from Dublin. It is about 5 kilometres (3 miles) from Powerscourt House and Gardens, one of the top tourist destinations.
I first and last visited Powerscourt in the early 1970s. A few days after my visit, it was badly damaged in a fire (I didn’t start it…I have an alibi!). I had (still have?) little interest in “ascendency houses” …the big ruling Anglo-owned houses from the mid 18th century. It is not a history that I like but maybe I am mellowing and I cant choose the narratives that I like. At some point, when I am further along the way to Mellowness, I will re-visit Powerscourt.
For the record, it was built by Viscount Powerscourt in the middle part of the 18th century but built on a site of a castle built centuries before. The house has been owned by the Slazenger (sports goods company) and in fairness, it has been restored magnificently and it actually features as a location in several movies.
Enniskerry has been in its shadow for centuries. Attached to every big “ascendency” house is a quasi-feudal system of Anglican (Church of Ireland) vicars, tenant farmers, merchants and peasants.
Enniskerry retains some of that historical baggage. It would be grossly unfair of me to dismiss it as a “West Briton” oasis which backed the wrong side in the War of Independence. Having been defeated, they would have seen their future with the more moderate “pro-Treaty” Fine Gael and North Wicklow remains conservative and Fine Gael in 2017.
To make a grossly unfair comparison, there are people in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina who are not overly enthused about the United States of America but are making the best of it.
This comparison says more about me that it does about anyone in Enniskerry.
The challenge of my travels around Ireland has been confronting my self. Yes, some things about Ireland have stayed the same. Some things about Ireland have changed. But the real shock to the system has been how much I have changed/stayed the same.
A better and more accurate way to think of Enniskerry is “reconciliation”. The coming together of two communities, Church of Ireland and Catholic is under-scored by a local centre for Reconciliation. In a way, it is the perfect place because the Protestant population is large enough to be an important demographic in the immediate area. And there is a history of reconciliation…German refugee orphans were settled thru here after the Second World War.
And close by is a German War Cemetery…many of them sailors and airmen who were washed up or crash-landed into Ireland in two wars.
As you can see from the first postcard, there is not a lot a room in the “square”. This is where the bus from Dublin left me. There were two or three taxis to take taxis to Powerscourt but mostly the tourists I saw were coach parties.
Interestingly the Irish National Ski and Snowboard Association is based at a very large and very artificial slope on the Dublin side of Enniskerry. I had never really thought that some of my winter travel could be on cold and snowy days. is usually confined to high ground and is comparatively rare.
As I was waiting for a return bus to Dublin, an elderly German couple approached and asked me about a bus to Bray, the seaside town I visited earlier in the summer. They had been to Powerscourt and the German war graves. At that point I decided that I should also go a different route so I got on board the bus to Bray.
I assumed the Enniskerry-Bray journey would be more than 15 kilometres (9 miles) but in fact it is only about 6 kilometres (3 miles). A surprise to find that this quiet spot is so close to a busy commuter and holiday town.
I think I was surprised that I liked Enniskerry as much as I did.
This summer, I have already been in some of the districts and suburbs (Ranelagh and Dundrum) but at some point, I need to take a closer look at the village of Stepaside.
In Bray, I connected to the DART train to go back to Dublin.