Monday, December 9, 2013

TWO OMANIS IN: Temple House Demesne, Ballymote, Co. Sligo, Ireland

The drive from Co. Meath to Co. Sligo seemed to take forever. Don't believe your GPS when it says it will take only two hours. The two hour estimate is if you are driving the speed limit, and the speed limit in Ireland is suicide if you are driving on winding one-lane country roads in the rain.

It tooks us more like four hours to pass the Ballymote train station.

Once we passed the JJ O'Grady's gas station (best truck stop mashed potatoes YOU WILL EVER TASTE!!!) we realized the GPS for the Temple House estate must be wrong, so basically we just drove until we found a sign for it. We came upon its white wrought-iron gates with rain streaming down, and down the long drive.

The grey house emerged from the gloaming green, impressive, stately: everything Georgian architecture should be.

We had an (uneeded) awkward moment deciding where to park the rental, and stood at the door stop, and rung the bell. A sign informed that we should wait five minutes after ringing the bell since the house was so large it might take a while for someone to answer it.

It took only moments, however.
The house's owner, Roderick, greeted us, and helped us carry our bags upstairs, and told us that we were the only guests to yet arrive, though his family had just finished hosting a wedding. The croquet set was left outside in the rain, to testify to this. The wedding party had fortunately had sun. 
Temple House was built in 1864 and is my architectural preference (I love Georgian architecture). Anything grander just doesn't feel cozy. The house lies on 1,200 acres of working farmland dotted by fuzzy (but easily frightened) sheep, with the ruins of 12th century Templar castle by a lake (with pike my husband intended to fish) nearby for exploring. It felt very comfy for being such a large and grande old building. Probably, and for sure, that inviting atmosphere is because of the family who owns it.

The taxes on such a property, and the upkeep, are daunting, I imagine, so the original family, Roderick and his wife Helena rent the house out for parties, weddings, or weekenders, while painting and repairing. The rooms restored so far are lovely, and it was a pleasure for my husband and I to talk to Roderick about managing the restoration and upkeep, and the farm itself, and local produce. My husband wanted to meet locals, since back in Oman, he's used to the tourist wanting to speak with him. Apparently Ireland does not have a society of historical volunteers to help much in maintenance, which is different from where I come from, in the land far and away;). If you'd like to stay here they have a facebook page and a lovely website: http://www.templehouse.ie/.

We were give the "half acre" bedroom, named thus because it is massive, and is actually two rooms if one is specific. It was perfect, very feminine, and had a fantastic view of the front lawns. I only wish we'd brought our daughter. The extra bed made me miss her.

{chokes up but continues}... I prefer rooms with shutters to drapes, being a fan of Omani and Moroccan traditional windows, and this room delighted. My only sadness is that the fireplace was not working, but I suppose that is a safety measure and one less tiring upkeep.
Of course, being that crusades history was the mainstay of my education, I had to get down to the lake and examine the ruins of the Templar castle there. My husband was more fascinated by the lake. Oman has a lot of castles, and forts, and ruins. Nature appeals more to him, and history more to me. I've read a lot about historical houses in Ireland, and had more than one a coffee table book of ruins in the Irish countryside on the booksheld back in Victoria.
While I actually don't know a lot about Omani architecture or Islamic political history from the 13th century onwards, I am pretty good on my European. So we borrowed some wellies (if you are an American size 5 or 6 or less bring your own;) and mucked our way down to the lake.
The castle is 12th century, in ruins, yes but some of its major features are still apparent. I enjoyed myself.
We took some photos and slogged back to the house, where we were served tea and left to read after Roderick made some suggestions about we should see or do. Regretably, and maybe because I am cheap, and maybe because my husband didn't know the lamb was slaughtered halal, we didn't have dinner with the other guests, but chose to drive to Drogheda--- near-ish-by.
BTW, Roderick and Helena, if you happen to read this, Helena I totally think you have the coolest nailpolish colour and music taste for any "lady of the manor" I have ever met;) and I am sorry I said your name wrong all weekend. And we'd totally take you up on the house swap (joke I think) if we didn't think at all that our crumbling towering peice of Yemeni architecture would not be just a little dissapointing to you both. But you are welcome if you need hosts in Oman at any time.
Options at the house itself include hunting, fishing, going out on the lake, hiking, and other activities like eagle flying (for all you bedouin Falconers out there), riding, ect, : these can be arranged nearby. We were just a little more low key, since we were so tired from all the driving.
Since there were no other guests, just us, and Roderick's wife had driven into the city to pick up their son, we were encouraged to snoop around the other bedrooms.
 My husband loved this bathoom: (if this was my house ---and those books were my books---I could totally see myself reading in the bath and daydreaming out that window ALL DAY)
 If I were alone, I would stay in this bedroom, the castle bedroom, although the half-acre bedroom "suited my personality more" said my husband.
 After snooping, we went back to our room to get dressed to go back out.

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