Hello and welcome to my new year’s day virtual walk.
Today I’m going to bring you to the county of Laois deep in Ireland’s heartland and visit Emo court. I have to confess that I made this visit a few months ago – it’s certainly not shirt sleeves weather these days , but hey , come along with me anyway!!
Long ago this county was known as “Queens County” but was renamed Laois ( pronounced ” leash ” ) in 1922 upon the founding of the Irish free state.
Famed for its fine pastures and flat countryside, there are many old estates to be found in the County and luckily the estate at Emo Court is owned by the nation and open for us to enjoy so let’s head out there for a stroll.
Turning off the road in the Village of Emo, we enter the estate and woodlands. Lets drive towards the carpark and get out to have a look at the magnificent mansion that is the jewel in the crown .
Once again, we are lucky with the weather, and there are well laid out paths, so let’s take a look around.
The estate itself once composed of some 11,000 acres and this parkland became home to the Earl Of Portarlington , John Dawson, who’s dream it was to build this house.
In 1790 he commissioned the famous architect James Gandon to design Emo Court. Gandon was one of the most influential architects in Irish history – his landmark Customs House in Dublin being one of the finest examples of his work.
Building began soon afterwards but it was a stop and start project, only getting completed in 1860 some eighty years later.
Let’s have a look at the splendid formal driveway that leads to the house. Named Wellingtonia Avenue , this was once over a mile long – the longest in Ireland ! It’s flanked by Giant redwood trees, the first to be planted in Ireland after they were introduced from the USA in 1853 . Can you imagine how it must have felt arriving by horse drawn carriage – sweeping up the driveway to attend a gala at the house !! It is easy to see where we took the inspiration for our Roaring Twenties Necklace.
We can see that nowadays the exterior of the house is a bit shabby and in need of renovation. I’m told that there are plans afoot to refurbish the exterior, luckily the ornate plasterwork still remains intact.
Like so many places we have visited, the interior is off limits – what a pity as the rooms are richly decorated with fine carvings and ornate marbles, including four Connemara Marble columns in the Drawing Room that came from our quarry sometime around the 1840’s . I got my hands on a guide book and share some photos of the interior with you .
Let’s take a look around the formal gardens, these are a really lovely setting. It’s laid out on a naturalistic landscaped style with stands of trees designed to conceal boundaries and to create vistas. Take a look at some of the lovely statues – they symbolise Spring, Summer, Winter and Autumn. We will stop and admire some of the rare trees including Lebanese cedar and the fabulous Monterey Cypress that was imported from California !!
Far away there is an ornamental lake. It’s a bit too far in the distance for us to walk today, but we can admire it from afar.
I will bet that you are ready for a reviving cup of tea, there is a super little tea room just beside the house so let’s stop for a cuppa and a scone before we head from home.
I do hope that you enjoyed seeing the splendours of Emo Court today, and I hope you had a nice afternoon with me.
Stay well and all the best, Stephen