The Powerscourt Estate and Gardens can be found near the town of Enniskerry in County Wicklow, about a half hour south of Dublin. We visited the Gardens on our way back to Dublin from touring Glendalough earlier in the day. What a difference between the two tours! In the morning we wandered among Irish monastic buildings constructed in the 9th and 10th centuries. And in the afternoon we witnessed British architecture of the 18th and 19th centuries.
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An Anglo-Norman named LaPoer built a castle on the land in the 13th century. The name was later Anglicized to Power. Phelim McCartan owned the property in the 16th century. The Wingfield family coveted the land and murdered Phelim, then got King James I to forfeit the rights of McCartan’s grandson to the property because Phelim was a rebel. The king then leased the land to Wingfield who was soon to become Viscount Powerscourt.
We thought we would wait till we arrived at Powerscourt to have some lunch and so skipped eating at Glendalough. But by the time we got to the café there was very little food left. So most of us just had desserts. Claire and her mother found breadsticks.
Construction began on Powerscourt House in 1731 and it was completed ten years later. It was built in the Palladian style. The house burned down in 1974 and was renovated in 1996.
The faster walkers in our group visited the Japanese Garden after the Tower Garden. My wife and I skipped the Japanese Garden and walked back to the House through the main path of the Italianate Garden.
The Powerscourt Estate includes a distillery, a pet cemetery, a golf club, a river walk and a five-star hotel. There is also a scenic waterfall but it is six km away from the gardens and we did not see it.
The Wingfield family sold their Estate to the Slazenger family in 1961.
In 2014 National Geographic listed the top ten gardens in the world. The Chateau de Versailles in France came in first place. The Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, England took second place. And the Powerscourt Gardens were awarded third place.
Many movies have been filmed at Powerscourt, including Barry Lyndon, Moll Flanders, Into the Badlands, The Count of Monte Cristo, David Copperfield and Where’s Jack?
The Gardens closed on 3-22-20 because of the covid-19 pandemic. Let’s hope they reopen soon!
Irish Music Bonus — Lord of the Dance — Jim McCann and the Dubliners
Many people today believe that Lord of the Dance was created by Michael Flatley and company in the 1990s. Wrong. The melody comes from an old American Shaker song of the 18th century called “Simple Gifts.” And the lyrics were written by the English songwriter Sydney Carter in 1963.
The song was recorded by Martin Carty and Dave Swarbrick in 1968 and by the McCalmans and The Corries in 1969 and Donovan in 1971. Jim McCann and the Dubliners recorded it in 1975. Let’s listen to their version from their 40th Anniversary tour in 2002:
The Dubliners 40th Anniversary performance was held at the old Gaiety Theatre a block down from the Grafton Street entrance to St Stephen’s Green. We visited the Gaiety the day after our Glendalough and Powerscourt Tour to see the matinee performance of Riverdance which has toured around the world several times in the last 25 years and has returned to Dublin every summer in recent years.
Riverdance was a sensation when it debuted at the Eurovison show in 1994 and then continued with fantastic performances throughout 1995. But Michael Flatley split with the Riverdance producers a year later and he formed his own similar troupe called Lord of the Dance which had its own sensational run for a number of years. Flatley followed up this success with two additional shows, Feet of Flames and Celtic Tiger Live. He retired in 2016.