At the very top of my list of things I wanted to find when I was in Ireland was Leixlip Castle. It is not open to the public. The book The Follies and Garden Buildings of Ireland by James Howley describes the “fine gazebo which still stands in the grounds of Leixlip Castle, at the meeting of the Rye Water and the River Liffey.” So, I found where the Rye Water and the River Liffey meet and looked for the gazebo.
Leixlip was an outpost of The Pale, on the border between the ancient kingdoms of Leinster and Brega.
Beyond the Pale
The Pale was the part of Ireland controlled by England. The word pale really means a fence. It comes from the Latin word pālus or stake. The Pale around Dublin was more of a ditch, then a raised bank, some ten or twelve feet up with a hedge of thorn bushes. The English lived within the Pale. The Irish lived beyond. The boundary changed over the centuries.
Leixlip comes from the Norse word for Salmon Leap. Salmon are born in rivers and streams. Then they migrate to the ocean. When they mature, they return to whatever stream they were born in. A salmon leap is a natural waterfall that salmon leap up in their return to the stream of their birth.
The Salmon Leap is no longer there. A dam has changed the river.
Leixlip dates back to when Vikings lived in Dublin. This was the furthest point longships could be rowed up the Liffey. It was the site of the famous Battle of Confey around 917, when Viking King Sigtrygg Caech defeated the Irish King of Leinster.
Arthur Guinness’s first brewery, 1755 was here.
The village of Leixlip is steeped in Guinness history. Archbishop Price, who died in 1752 and is buried beneath the aisle of the church, left “100 pounds to his servant, Richard Guinness and a like sum to Richard’s son Arthur. Tradition has it that he also left a secret recipe for brewing a very dark beer. In 1752, Richard Guinness set up his brewery on the main street of Leixlip and seven years later his son Arthur bought an existing brewery in Dublin which bears his name to this day.
Irish Houses & Castles by Desmond Guinness and William Ryan
I was searching for Leixlip Castle. I could see the boat house. I found the gates to the castle.
Leixlip Castle (Part 1)
The center part of Leixlip Castle was built here just after the Norman Invasion of 1171. It is one of the oldest continuously-inhabited buildings in Ireland. King John, the youngest son of King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, Richard I, Richard the Lionheart’s youngest brother used Leixlip Castle as a hunting lodge in the late 1100s. It later belonged to William Conolly of Castletown House. William Conolly’s heir, his nephew William James Conolly lived in Leixlip Castle until the death of William Conolly’s widow Katherine.
In 1958, the Hon. Desmond Guinness bought Leixlip Castle. He and his first wife, Mariga restored the castle. They founded the Irish Georgian Society to preserve Irish architecture. Mariga’s grave is near the Obelisk, Conolly’s Folly, on the grounds of Castletown House.
I was looking for a way to the other side of the river to see if I could see the castle from that side when I came around a bend and a car was coming right at me. I was correctly driving on the left, but my first reaction was “What am I doing? I’m on the wrong side of the road!” So, I swerved and braked. The American, driving on the right, the wrong side of the road, also swerved and braked and we hit each other head on. Not very fast, but the airbag went off and I broke my wrists. My tiny little car was demolished. His giant Mercedes barely noticed. Coincidentally he was from Asheville, only about 30 miles from my home in Hendersonville, North Carolina.
So, I got to meet the Garda. They were very nice. They asked if I wanted to go to hospital and, when I refused, called for a taxi to take me to Greenacres Bed and Breakfast. My hostess took one look at my swollen wrists and hands and took me to the hospital.
Click any photo to start a slide show.