A Visit to Lambay

Art, Experiences, garden landscaping, House Tour, instagram, landscaping, Musings, Ramblings, Travel

Lambay, sometimes also called Lambay Island, is a private island lying off Dublin Bay and owned by the Baring family trust.  It was purchased in 1904 by the Hon Cecil Baring,  who later became Lord Revelstoke, for his new bride Maude whom he was madly in love with.  The island came with a 16th century fort, so Baring hired Edward Lutyens to remodel and extend to make an idyllic castle for his young bride and subsequent family.  This became a beautiful example of Lutyens architecture with his typical motifs everywhere, circular stairs, vaulted ceilings, stone fireplaces and furniture designed for the house specifically.  Outside there is a huge circular enceinte wall surrounding it to create a windbreak.   It’s very blowy outside this shelter on the island, and once within the confines of the wall the garden becomes a calm oasis from the brutal Irish wind (even in summer).  Lutyens also designed the horseshoe shaped harbour, another building called The White House for Baring’s daughters to use with their own families when they later came to stay, and cottages for the staff.  There is also a chapel on the Island and farm buildings.  Gertrude Jekyll designed the gardens around the castle, and it is a privilege to see the work of both these notable designers in a private setting.

My husband and I were lucky enough to be invited to stay by a family member who still visits the island, and I realised recently that I had not shared this adventure on the blog.  It was an amazing time and very memorable.  The Baring Trust still own the island, and family members can still come and stay.  It is also rented out privately for shoots, day trips and events.  They have also recently started making Lambay whiskey.

Here is an aerial view of the island lying off the coast of Ireland.  As we flew into Dublin I could not believe how big and empty of human signs of life it seemed.

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Photo by Joseph Mischyshyn

So we arrived in Dublin and headed to the very smart port area that is Malahide where the boats leave to get to the island.  This is a genteel port with the most expensive supermarket I have ever been to, it outdid Fortnum and Mason’s in delicacies and everything looked delicious.  We had to collect food we had ordered ahead to take over to the Island, where we would be staying in The White House with friends.  The Island is inhabited full time only by a few people, so this taking of provisions across the waters is par for the course.   Once upon a time animals for food used to be put on the boat to take over, but EU regulations put a stop to that.  Clanking with bottles, bags of food and luggage, we then were collected by the boat used by Lambay to ferry passengers and provisions and headed across the bay.  In summer this crossing was fine, but I don’t think it would be quite so much fun in winter with gales.

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This rather buxom beauty reclines in Malahide overlooking the sea

On arriving, the first thing you see is the amazing port Lutyens designed.  To the right you can see the cottages and then The White House.  Towards the rear you can see the trees and wall that protect the Castle.  The sea is teeming with seals who are very nosy and come over for a look at visitors.

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Photo credit: M Baring

We arrived and unpacked our food and drink and then had a look around.  The White House where we stayed is beautiful and vast.  All of the fitted furniture is still there as Lutyens designed it.  The kitchen still has all of the old china and huge storage jars intact.  The current full-time occupants of the island had just upgraded all of the bathrooms so there is not just ‘one bath a day which we share’ which is what a long-visiting family member told me used to be the order of the day.  Now it is simple and spacious, but still luxurious.

What makes Lambay unique is that time has stood still.  It does have generator power, but even though you can see the lights of Dublin twinkling at night in the distance, there is no wi-fi, no light pollution and peace.  In fact there is no noise except the seabirds, the waves and the wind.

The castle sits nestled in its peaceful wind-free grounds, with herbaceous borders, secret walled gardens and the sound of water trickling in ponds and streams.  We were given a tour of the Castle and gardens, and listened to friends reminiscing about the summers they spent as children on the island where they were literally free-range for 3 months of the year.

We spent our time on the island catching lobsters, fishing, setting rabbit traps, harvesting edible seaweed, picking vegetables and making all our food from scratch.  Every morning the dense soda bread was baked ready for lunch, cakes and pastries were made for tea time, and then foraging began for extra treats as we explored the island.  I swam with nosy seals, roamed around the spectacular coastal path and watched nature in its finest state of freedom.

The wildlife is extraordinary on the island.  Many birds use it as their nesting grounds as it is far from the madding crowd, and I saw guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes and puffins to name just a few breeds.  The west side of island that faces away from Ireland is the main breeding ground with spectacular cliffs, and the amount of birds on it rivalled a FA Cup stadium on a finals match.  The noise was terrific; screeching birds and crashing waves reverberated as we watched seabirds dive bombing into the sea to catch their fish. The seals that dot themselves around the island are Grey Atlantic Seals, and apparently there are also Harbour Porpoises in the waters.

One evening we took a walk up to the highest point of the island to watch the sun set.  The wind was blowing away, and dusk was settling so we could see Dublin in the far distance starting to twinkle with lights.  A Labrador who was with us started woofing, and chased after what I thought were rabbits.  But the dog then retreated bit pathetically, and looked really confused.  Out of long grass sprung the most bizarre animals, which in the half light I thought were huge rabbits.  But they turned out to be resident wild Wallabies who bounced around us, spinning off in all directions.  Apparently a pair were taken in by one resident Baring and they breed copiously so have to have their numbers reduced every few years so they don’t overrun the island, according to one family member they are “Ok, but a bit chewy…”

In the evenings we would have drinks outside watching the sun set, and then eat all of the food we had caught or made that day.  There is nothing better than lobster you have caught that day with fresh home made Hollandaise sauce… although our Soda Bread was a bit like eating dried cardboard – but that could be our culinary skills.

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A Lutyens gate in the distance

Then as the sun set we would light a fire (it’s damp on this island when the sun sets) and get out board games or just sit and chat.  There were no televisions, phones or dreaded iPads and even the teenagers with us seemed to love this disconnect from the real world that they know.  It was like turning back the clock 50 years, and I loved it.  We decided to have a Lambay Art Exhibition, with everyone on the island having to take part and make something from items they had salvaged from beaches or cliffs.  Considering that there were probably no more than 20 people on the island, we all did really well with just one glue gun to share and few pencils.. and the competitive streak did take over for a couple of days – people vanished and claimed beaches for themselves as they hunted for finds.  This culminated in a Private View for ourselves and an exhibition party, again for all 20 of us – it was great fun.

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On the left is my Lambay artwork – a spoof dinosaur skeleton find of a ‘Lambaysaurrus’

The stylish wardrobe I took with me thinking I was partaking in an Agatha Christie style weekend (minus murder), did not see the light of day… it’s way too windy for linens in this place.  And my wetsuit served me well for jumping off the port to swim with seals, (incidentally they appear behind you very quietly so when you turn around there is a curious pair of eyes right next to you).  By the end of my stay I was covered in mud, bedraggled and dreadlocked, but as relaxed and happy as a lamb.

But we did go home in this plane, so I got my Agatha Christie moment in the end… sort of…

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There is some great drone footage of island you can watch https://player.vimeo.com/video/233184732 <p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/233184732″>Millie’s Island Club, Lambay</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user50024027″>Miranda Baring</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>here

Stairs & Landings – the ‘nearly’ finished results…

before and after, Decorating, gallery wall, House Tour, interiors, Makeover

In my earlier post, you may have been aware of my procrastination about finishing off the top floor of my hall and stairs.  But it is finally done, with some serious hanging off bannisters paining techniques.  I forced myself to start yesterday, and it is now finished, well very nearly….

This was looking up to the next level before I changed the wall colours.  That wallpaper which is in in the strange ‘door-to-nowhere” architrave is going to change too, I have ordered some samples of eye-wateringly expensive wallpaper from the lovely Fabricsandwallpapers.com and we’ll see what works best when they arrive.  They are all very large scale patterns:

I am really forgetful about before and after shots as I tend to dash in with paintbrushes on a whim.  So I don’t have any photos of the floor above pre-makeover!  Probably as it was always such a dumping ground, it had loads of overflowing bookcases, an electric piano in pieces, and I never really liked it so never photographed it.  Sorry….😐

Anyhow, I cleared out all of the books and had a huge cull so there are boxes and boxes ready to go off to charity shops, and I removed 2 out of 3 bookcases.  I had to keep hubby’s collection of comics, books and coca-cola limited edition bottles, plus we had a lot of film posters and things to hang.  This is now what it looks like looking down the stairs with the dark grey walls.

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And here is the artwork.  The weird original Harry Potter troll picture was a present to my daughter from her Godfather, who got it from the art/concept designer Rob Bliss from the films.  If you look carefully, he has pierced nipples, which Warner Brothers obviously asked him to tone down for the final film!  It scared my daughter to bits when she got it, so it has been hiding in the loft until now. That is the bonus of having older teens, I can put whatever I want on the walls now without fear!

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At the top of the stairs is an odd landing which goes nowhere, a bit like the door mid-way down the stairs.  What is it about my house and places going nowhere?  Originally this landing had 3 full size bookcases on it, now it has been reduced to one,  And I have hung the strangest huge anatomical drawing/chart on it which the hubby gave me, and until now I had no idea what to do with.  But I think he looks great against the red carpet!

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It looks so much better than before.  There is no natural daylight in this landing, so I was a bit worried about how dark it would be with the grey walls.  But it looks bigger in a strange way as the corners vanish with the dark grey.  I kept the original wall light which was a converted victorian gas light, and got 2 excellent wire cages to go on the top from eBay.  The ceiling is white so light can bounce around still, so it’s not dark at all.

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The bookcase generally houses Hubby’s stuff, and I have moved the books I saved for myself elsewhere so it looks much more spacious now – althought somewhat random items are on it…

I’ll do a final post when the wallpapers have come, and I have decided what to do with the ‘door-to-nowhere’.  I also have the odd corner wall to hang something on so I am hunting for something large like a mirror to go on it, or maybe a lovely bit of taxidermy.

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Final Makeover Post – Townhouse

before and after, Decorating, House Renovation, House Tour, Renovation

GAH!  So I totally, totally forgot to do a final post about all the work I did in the summer and autumn renovating a city townhouse.  So here is a brief rundown of everything that was done.  New heating, plumbing, electrics, lighting, garden fencing, plastering, decoration, windows, plus a new kitchen roof with skylights and new unforeseen beams (long story that one..).  On top of that it was totally decorated, had bespoke wardrobes made and fitted, a kitchen makeover, new flooring, refurbished original flooring and probably some other things I have forgotten.  It also had plans drawn up for a huge loft conversion to make another bedroom and bathroom.

I was going to move into it once it was finished, and once we had sold our current home we live in.  But priorities changed, as they always do, and we ended up having to get rid of the city house… so it was put on the market and snapped up straight away.

DINING ROOM:

Here is the dining room before, during and after.  It had to have electrics chased, new lighting installed, new plaster, lining paper, decoration, floor renovation and new central heating.

Walls were done in Cookie Crumble, with the Chimney Breast in Railings.

Loved the way it turned out… and it’s a big room with lots of space and light,

SITTING ROOM:

Selling the house, it’s all happening fast…

House Renovation, House Tour, Ideas, selling

We have decided to move back to the big city, and although I have loved living in our little country town I am quite excited about future events.

I am sharing some beautiful pictures of the house that the agents’ photographer took.  Those wide angled lenses certainly make it look lovely, and I cleaned and dusted for ages so it all looks very sparkly and unnaturally tidy.


We already have a house in the city which we are moving back to, which was rented out for ages, and it is bijou compared to this current one.  So I have to seriously get rid of a lot of stuff, pick what to take and discard brutally a lot.  We will be extending into the loft in the city house to make it sizeable enough for us for now, but with one daughter off to Uni this year and the other following in two years I don’t want to be rattling around in a big house anymore on my own, it’s easier for work, and I get some culture on my doorstep!

This is the size of the one we are off too…it has lots of lovely old Victorian fireplaces, floorboards and sash windows still in situ.  But as you can see I need to gather some more room as that box bedroom is teeny…. We will be adding a new bedroom and bathroom out of attic space, adding a downstairs loo under the stairs, and making a dressing room/study/something out of the box bedroom.  I am already dreaming about a new kitchen, how I will be decorating and the horror of shrinking my wardrobe.
Now to go and start on the clothes situation….Have a good weekend!

Decorating for Christmas

Christmas, Decorating, House Tour, styling

Fa la la la la, la la la la….

I LOVE Christmas decorating!  I had a photo shoot last month in the house for a Christmas decorating feature to go out next year in a magazine, and as it was not quite December it didn’t feel ‘christmassy,’ (although the photos I saw looked beautiful). Plus everything came down again at the end of the shoot.  It was quite mind-blowing how fast the stylist and photographer worked.  So it was like a Christmas-for-8-hours in a mind altering day!

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A lovely fresh berry and evergreen wreath sets the scene on the front door

But come the 1st December I get everything out of the attic and from stashes all over the house. Boxes of baubles, lights, garlands and more.  This is just some of the stash I have, it has grown over the years and I can see lots of things my children liked when they were small like little gingerbread men garlands… actually I have FAR TOO MUCH STUFF!

DINING ROOM

This year my children are 18 and 15, and I decided that for the first time we would not be doing the usual fir tree which always stands in the Dining Room, but an alternative version instead on a tabletop.  I asked the girls if this was all right, as they are the ones that the tree is usually aimed at with decorations collected over the years that they remember and coo over.  This idea went down OK-ish!  I found this really cute 3D  wooden tree at Hobbycraft, and it was a snip at £10.

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Given that dining room had a recent overhaul, we did not use a lot of the existing tree decorations and stuck to gold and silver ones with accents of oranges (literally) around the room:

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