Annaghmore House + Stables County Sligo

Heir B+B

Annaghmore Sligo River © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Sounding like a tongue twister,  Cooney, Collooney and Coolaney are villages in rural County Sligo. There are two major country houses on the edge of Collooney: Markree Castle and Annaghmore House. Until recently Markree was owned by the Cooper family. Charles Cooper rescued the demesne from demise by dereliction, successfully securing the castle’s future as a hotel.

Annaghmore Sligo View © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Emerging out of the wooded driveway into the low autumnal glow, that breath before twilight, the stable block at Annaghmore comes into view ahead of the house. The intense assault of this place is immediate, evocative and sensory; it’s another world, a world full of magic things. The stable block is an accomplished symmetrical design. A plaque under the clock facing into the quadrangle declares “1864”. The clock hands don’t move. Like everything at Annaghmore, the stables are serene, unsullied. There are plans to sensitively convert one range into cottages to let.

Annaghmore Sligo Estate © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Annaghmore is the home of the O’Hara family who are relatives of the Coopers. Other O’Hara houses in County Sligo include Newpark in Ballymote and Coopershill in Riverstown. O’Harabrook in Ballymoney, County Antrim, is, as its name suggests, another O’Hara seat. Fortunately for country house fans, Durcan and Nicola O’Hara rent out a bedroom to guests. And what a bedroom! Their half acre room has great windows with dandelion yellow curtains framing the endless countryside. Well, 1,100 acres anyway of estate. The en suite bathroom shares the same panorama.

Annaghmore Sligo Walled Garden © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Annaghmore Time is 20 minutes ahead of Greenwich Mean Time,” explains Durcan, referring to his ancestors’ tradition. A sign in the library, propped against the blood red painted walls, lists the daily agenda for prayers, breakfast, luncheon and dinner, all of course set to Annaghmore Time. But really, it feels like time has stood still in this west of Ireland country house. Mysterious, beautiful.

Annaghmore Sligo Terrace © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Annaghmore Sligo Railings © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Annaghmore Sligo Statue © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Annaghmore Sligo Stable Block © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Annaghmore Sligo Stables Courtyard © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Annaghmore Sligo Stables © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Annaghmore Sligo Stable © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Annaghmore House Sligo Bay © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Annaghmore Sligo Side Elevation © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Annaghmore Sligo Lawn © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Annaghmore Sligo Demolished Wing © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Annaghmore Sligo Bay © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Annaghmore Sligo Rear Elevation © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Annaghmore Sligo Dog © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Annaghmore Sligo Entrance Hall © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Annaghmore Sligo Stairs © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Annaghmore Sligo Staircase © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Annaghmore Sligo Dado © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Annaghmore Sligo Plasterwork © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Annaghmore Sligo Landing © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Annaghmore Sligo Bedroom Fireplace © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Annaghmore Sligo Bedroom Wardrobe © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

A drawing in the drawing room apparently shows the Georgian house, or an earlier proposed remodelling, which was evidently more modest than today’s sprawling pile. It illustrates a two storey three bay hipped roof main block with ground floor tripartite windows on either side of a columned porch. Two single storey two bay hipped roof wings with round headed windows augment the entrance front. Either way, “It looks much more manageable!” laughs Durcan. The house certainly must have been much more manageable until an ancestor commissioned the distinguished architect James Franklin Fuller to jazz things up.

Annaghmore Sligo Mirror © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“The architect was very young. This was possibly his first commission,” he surmises. That could help explain the exuberance of scale. The house was transformed from a villa to a mansion. One of the most interesting interventions is a sweeping staircase lit by a tall stained glass window. The staircase swoops into a bow with an overhead fanlight of leafy plasterwork. The seafoam green painted walls are filled with family portraits. One is of “Reverend Hitchinson Hamilton, Eldest Son of the Very Reverend John Hamilton, Dean of Dromore and Frances his Wife, Daughter of the Right Reverend Bishop Hutchinson, died July 1st 1778”.

Annaghmore Sligo Clock © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“There was an earlier 1600s house,” Durcan continues. “It was between the current house and the stables. All the driveways intersect at that focal point.” His grandfather demolished most of one wing of the fulsome house, leaving behind a ground floor room which is now the games room. Mid 20th century French doors open onto a terrace, a cool heaven undisturbed by the silent falling of the leaves. At night, bats dart and swoop past its great windows.

Annaghmore Sligo Bedroom © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

A conveniently positioned plank acts as a drawbridge for their 20 year old cat to climb over the dry moat that surrounds the basement. Two orphan sheep mow the lawns. Five dogs accompany walks through the 10 acre walled garden. Back in Uncle Charlie’s day, Durcan relates, there were 20,000 acres and a full complement of staff. Uncle Charlie lived the dream. One photograph in a corridor shows the merry bachelor with his pack of hounds; another, his polo team. The dream faded when he died in 1947. The greenhouses and formal planting in the walled garden are a distant memory. But the main rooms of the house are all still fully used and fires are lit throughout, from bursting dawn to some new moon. Translunar paradise.

Annaghmore Sligo Wallpaper Fragment © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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Lavender’s Blue +

The Anticipation

Off the red eye from Barcelona, Mary Martin’s on her way. Full entourage alert! In the top London fashion designer’s own catchphrase, “This will be amazing!”

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Mount Falcon County Sligo + Phantom the Falcon

The First September

The architect James Franklin Fuller sounds like he’d have been good craic at a dinner party. When not bashing out High Victorian melodramatic novels, bragging of his descent from Charlemagne or boasting of his wife’s connections to Napoleon, he was busy embellishing Ireland with a string of rather fetching future tourist attractions. Ashford Castle, Farmleigh, Kylemore Abbey and Park Hotel Kenmare are probably the best known ones.

He also worked on two country houses in the west of Ireland: the design of Mount Falcon and the redesign of Annaghmore. Quite the eclectic, Mr F ensured they’re not wildly similar. The former is asymmetrical and vaguely castellated. The latter is symmetrical and strongly neoclassical. They both have plate glass sash windows and grey stone walls. Fast forward a generation or two: Mount Falcon has had an extension added; Annaghmore, a wing demolished.

Mount Falcon is freeform baronial, an Irish take on a Scottish tradition. All 32 of the bedrooms are available to paying guests (Mount Falcon is now a hotel). Mark Bence-Jones in A Guide to Irish Country Houses calls Annaghmore “late Georgian”.  Esteemed architectural historian Dr Roderick O’Donnell retorts, “It’s lazy to just call Annaghmore ‘late Georgian’. It’s not. The remodelled front elevation is Victorian Greek Revival – the Greek order used is a giveaway.” The house was once joyously named Nymphsfield. Only one of the many bedrooms is available to paying guests (Annaghmore is still a private house).

“A few months after opening my offices I discarded the regulation copying-press and the regulation letter-book,” James Franklin Fuller confessed in his autobiography. “The ‘correct’ thing to do with letters received, was to preserve, docket and to pigeon-hole them… whereas nine out of 10 of them went into my wastepaper basket immediately after receipt . . . I kept no ledgers or books of any sort: I could not see the least necessity for them.” Clearly, admin was beneath him. It’s a wonder that any buildings can be attributed to him, never mind such a variety.

Mount Falcon retains its original internal fittings: cornicing, fireplaces, panelling and even servants’ bells. There are spacious reception rooms but it’s more fun to eat in the intimacy of the square tower: table for two only. Mount Falcon has, aptly, a resident falcon. Phantom is sitting balanced on the back of a chair in the dining room. “Falcons follow a matriarchal pecking order,” explains her falconer. “They respond more respectfully to female humans than males.”

Females play defining roles in the history of Mount Falcon. The house was commissioned by Ultred Knox in honour of his wife Nina Knox-Gore of nearby Belleek Manor. It was completed in 1876. Major and Constance Aldridge bought the estate in 1932 and opened the house as a hunting lodge. Connie was one of the founders of the Blue Book, Ireland’s leading guide to hotels of distinction. In 2002, Mount Falcon was taken over by the current owners, who include the local Maloney family.

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Ox Mountains + Gleniff Horseshoe + Aughris Head County Sligo

Spinning Round the Moon | West Coast Cooler

Yeats Country. The land of William Butler is Irish countryside at its most majestic. And dramatic. And awesome. And elemental. And poetic. The place names themselves carry a lilt, from Doonbeakin to Emlymoran.

The great poet may have immortalised Ben Bulben Mountain but there’s so much more countryside besides. At Drumcliffe, a tavern, café and shop cater for profane needs and then the spirit is lifted – once the church, grave and round tower have also been visited – by nature at its wildest. It ain’t called the Wild Atlantic Way for nothin’.

Half a century ago the composer of Adagio for Strings, American Samuel Barber, visited Yeats’ grave. He memorably found it “far from nowhere; there was not a sound, only swallows darting”. That serenity persists. Sheep take priority on the road laneway which winds and twists through the Ox Mountains around the dark waters of Lough Easkey. The mountain ringed valley of Gleniff Horseshoe, behind the distinctive escarpment of Ben Bulben, is where weather meets topography. A mist descends, cloaking the mountain tips of Benwisken, Tievebaun and Truskmore, and threatening to engulf the entire valley.

Seen from the coast, Ben Bulben shrinks to a distant bulge on the horizon of the golden strand of Aughris Head. Not every beach has a thatched 17th century pub but that is one of the many joys of this stretch of the cool west coast.

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Goodwood Revival 2018 + Richmond Lawn Marquee

Early Autumn

The War is over, the party’s begun. It’s a sepia tinted festival for the upper echelons. Goodwood Revival is all about the fashion dancing racing. Every September the West End comes to West Sussex as the Earl of March throws open his estate for a three day race meeting. Punters become actors as it’s staged in period costume to create the romance and glamour of Post War racing. Cutting lots of dashes in vintage threads, halcyon days have returned. The weather is glorious.

The dungarees and headscarves of Land Girls are everywhere – but wait – did Carmen Miranda just stride by? Pill box hats, poodle skirts, herringbone tweed, penny loafers: everyone has gone to town (and country). The War may be over but there are still plenty of military uniforms to be worn with panache. Five fashion shows a day compete with just as much dressing up off the catwalk. Shops along Fashion Parade offer the chance to update or rather backdate one’s wardrobe even more. Dressed to the Nines (teen Forties, Fifties and Sixties), it’s like wandering through the film set of Brideshead Revisited. Is that Aloysius in a pram?

After inspecting vintage cars being repaired in the Paddocks enclosure and watching a few races from the Grandstand, one can join in the action on the fairground rides Across the Road. One can get one’s skates on and join in more action at Butlin’s Ballroom Roller Rink. After all that action, there’s always pie + mash at the Spitfire Café followed by the movies at Revival Cinema.

Wait again – the best action is yet to come! Goodwood Revival doesn’t just reverberate to the howl of potent engines and the roar of RAF displays. Inside the Richmond Lawn Marquee, there’s the beat of Big Band sounds accompanied by synchronised boogying, twisting and turning to the Charleston, the Jitterbug, the Shim Sham. The band plays Tired of Being Tossed Around and everyone ups their moves. Suddenly the wild girls of St Trinian’s take the dancefloor by storm, led by their Vice Headmistress swigging from her hip flask. Screw lacrosse. She’s got the moves. Who needs a jasmine and rose G+T at the Bloom Gin Garden when you can BYO?

And now, a message from the Earl of March’s father, the ‘Station Master’, 11th Duke of Richmond: “Goodwood Motor Circuit was created immediately after World War II by my grandfather Freddie, the 9th Duke of Richmond, and the first race meeting was held here on 18 September 1948. I remember coming here as a boy to watch the likes of Graham Hill and Jack Brabham race. After the circuit was closed to racing in 1966 (due to my grandfather’s safety concerns), I grew up determined to bring it back, and we finally succeeded in that aim in 1998, when we staged the inaugural Revival. It is a particular delight for me, then, to welcome you to the 2018 Goodwood Revival: the 20th anniversary of our annual ‘step back in time’ and 70 years since motor racing at Goodwood first began.

Our celebration of the anniversary this weekend sees us host a parade of dozens of former Revival winners: from Ludovic Lindsay at the wheel of ‘Remus’ right up to victorious car and driver pairings from this year’s event, we will have a huge variety of winners on the circuit. We’ve also produced an anniversary book, Twenty Glorious Years, which you’ll find on sale in the Goodwood Shop.

Aside from our own anniversary celebrations, we’re also remembering Rob Walker – the most successful privateer team owner in Formula I history, and a regular entrant (and winner) at Goodwood. Look out for his distinctive Scots blue and white race livery around the Paddocks as well as in our special Rob Walker Racing Track Parades over the weekend. And, as many of you will know, this is the centenary year of the Royal Air Force, so we’re paying tribute with a special RAF themed Freddie March Spirit of Aviation. During the War, a fighter base, RAF Westhampnett, was built on the Goodwood Estate, and played a key role in the Battle of Britain. Later, the Motor Circuit itself was created using the base’s perimeter track. I’m very proud of the Estate’s historic links to the RAF and delighted to have the RAF Benevolent Fund as our official event charity.

It’s thrilling that the Revival has reached its 20th anniversary. The success of the event is a testament to the great support we’ve had over the years from our entrants, drivers, riders and mechanics; from our sponsors and partners; from the members of the Goodwood Road Racing Club, which is also celebrating its 20th anniversary; and of course, from you, our enthusiastic guests. I hope you all thoroughly enjoy the weekend.”

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Cecil Manor + Queen Áine’s Tomb Clogher County Tyrone

Royal Female

Cecil Manor Estate Clogher © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Lavender’s Blue are familiar with royalty. This summer, (the royal) we have met The King of Tory Island, The King of Nigeria, The Princess of The Congo (dancing queen), The Queen, Princess Alexandra, Prince Charles (again), the Duchess of Cornwall, Prince William, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward. Queen Áine is new to us. Greetings. She died a couple of thousand years ago. Goodbye. It’s been a dizzying journey from the Wild Atlantic to glitzy Africa Fashion Week London via snazzy Windsor Chapel to rural Clogher Valley in furthest flung County Tyrone. It’s an even more dizzying journey up Knockmany Hill to Her Late Majesty’s tomb.

Clogher Valley © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Augher Clogher Fivemiletown!” rhymed the County Tyrone schoolchildren of yore. A lot more yore ago there was Queen Áine. Reputed to be over two millennia old, this passage grave (cairn) is lined with 12 massive upright stones (orthostats). Three of the stones are engraved with designs of Boyne Culture (Neolithic period of Boyne Valley). She was celebrated as an ancient Irish deity, a goddess of the Tuatha Dé Danann race. Queen Áine shares her tomb with Queen Báine, the wife of the 1st century King Tuathal Techtmar.

Knockmany Hill once formed part of the Cecil Manor Estate. The Department of Agriculture bought the land in 1911, demolished the William Farrell designed big house, and planted a forest. Cecil Manor was a great box of a house, with that spare wall-to-window ratio typical of the architect’s august output. The wooded climb up Knockmany Hill makes the views from the top all the more exhilaratingly revelatory. Far below, from a distance Clogher Valley looks like a giant two-tone green quilt.

“The loss of Ireland’s great houses, most of them Georgian, is a baffling instance of state carelessness,” remarked Christopher Hart lately, critiquing the storyline of Brian Friel’s play Aristocrats. Chartered Building Surveyor and Irish Georgian Frank Keohane laments, “In southeast England there are not enough country houses to go around. It’s different in Ireland. We have one of the lowest population densities in Europe. I go up and down country lanes and get extremely dispirited by the ruins of country houses.”

Queen Anya's Tomb Clogher © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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St Mary’s Church + Font Gdańsk

Century Gothic | Myriad Pro Light | Times New Roman

St Mary's Church Gdansk Stained Glass © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Or Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary to give the church its full name. Like most churches in the city, its red brick exterior contrasts with a white plastered interior. Except for some fragments of frescos. It dates from 1343. Pope Paul VI raised the restored St Mary’s status to minor basilica in 1965. Just over two decades later, a Decree of Bishops recognised it as a pro cathedral. Everything about St Mary’s is on a vast scale: it has no fewer than 31 chapels.

St Mary's Church Gdansk Altar © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The baptismal font is symbolic of the rebuilding of the city. It combines elements of various periods from various buildings. The base, figures and gate come from the Mariacki Church in Gdańsk. Reliefs depicting Biblical scenes decorate the sandstone octagonal font. The tank dates from 1682. So much of the city fuses the old and the new, the worn and the shiny, reflecting both turbulent and better times in this enigmatic corner of Central Europe.

St Mary's Church Gdansk © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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Holy Trinity Franciscan Friary + Church Gdańsk

Outer Beauty Inner Peace

Holy Trinity Church Gdansk © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Another hugely impressive ecclesiastical (re)creation that has risen like a phoenix from the ashes of the 20th century. Holy Trinity is more than just a church. It’s also a friary. The complex fits around a cobble stoned courtyard. Brick walls meet half timbered walls at the perpendicular; it’s a colourful and complex confection. Almost 600 years ago, Bishop Theodore, with the backing of the Teutonic Knights, obtained approval from Pope Martin V to establish a friary in the environs of Gdańsk city centre. They took a century to construct. Gdańsk is still low rise, so the silhouette of Holy Trinity dramatically pierces the skyline with onion domes and wiry crosses and crocketed pinnacles and brick sculptures of varying complexion.

Holy Trinity Friary Gdansk © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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Uphagen House + Courtyard Gdańsk

Peace + Tranquillity

A burgher’s home originally dating from 1776, Uphagen House in the centre of Gdańsk is now a museum. It has the tall narrow frontage typical of the city and even more typical, an elaborate gable. The rebuilt historic heart of Gdańsk is rammed with gables of every kind: pointy, pointier, crenellated, crow-stepped, turreted, Dutch, Flemish, painted, flat-headed, chimney-like and so on. Once more typical of the city, Uphagen House has a long, long plot. A courtyard provides natural light to mid-plot rooms and acts as a sanctuary of restfulness.

In 1942, with great foresight, the Government Minister Fritz Kibel surveyed and photographed the house. Fittings including panelling, doors and stove tiles were dismantled and sent to storage. Three years later the house was burnt down during World War II. In 1953 its reconstruction by architects Ryszard Massalski and Kazimerz Orlowski took place with great gusto. In place of the patina of age is a 20th century historicism. In 1998 Uphagen House won the Special Award for Modernisation of the Year.

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Church of St Peter + St Paul Gdańsk

Bricks + Mortar

Another day in Gdańsk, another church. Bombastic architecture for sure, blank walls and blind arches give St Peter and St Paul’s the look of a fortified castle – with a contrastingly fantastical wildly crenellated pitched roof on top. It’s in the Old Suburb and dates from the 14th century. As is the story of Gdańsk, the church was extensively damaged in 1945. Just 13 years later, Reverend Kazimierz Filipiak began the reconstruction which was completed, or at least as much as anything is completed, in 2006.

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