I’m lucky enough to be part of a large family spread across a lot of the world. My dad’s parents had six kids and their eldest had six kids. As you might imagine, this results in a fair few get-togethers and my trip to Athy in County Kildare last weekend meant this is the third year in a row we’ve had an Irish wedding!
The ceremony took place on the Saturday in a little church in the village of Clogh in County Laois and then moved back to Athy for the reception. There was a lot of champagne and ‘The Wedding Cocktail’ (which was Sex on the Beach renamed so as not to offend my grandparents and the little kids) and a lot of nibbles to keep us going until the speeches and four course dinner!
The Sunday happened to be Father’s Day and had us all remarking that it was the first time in a long time that every one of my dad’s siblings had been in the same place for Father’s Day for over, I imagine, a good few decades. Same goes for my cousins! We decided to check out the Irish National Stud because we had heard they had the best Japanese Garden in all of Europe. My immediate family and one of my aunt’s were keen to see if that were true. I was just happy to see all the little foals!
Both my parents are very allergic to fur – my mum is especially allergic to horses. I remember when I was young (and mad for animals), I asked to go into a stables to see the horses and my mum joined me but could only manage about 10 seconds before having to run outside to have an asthma attack.
Thankfully, all the horses were in paddocks far enough away so my parents were fine and I was able to make good use of my telephoto lens. We passed the mares with their foals, then the stallions and found the little miniature falabellas.
I was definitely struck at how powerful these horses all looked. You could see the rippling muscle from 20 feet away and it’s from the impeccable stock the National Stud has. Retired racehorses pass on their genes to create even stronger animals.
We took a quick look in the museum, which had the skeleton of the famous racehorse Arkle on show with loads of interesting facts about how Ireland developed with horses.
|We also saw a few cows along the way.
After that, we finally headed into the Japanese Garden and I can absolutely agree that it is the finest in Europe. You follow a path around the garden which symbolises the Journey of Man. You pass through the extremely dark caves and under large cherry trees, follow a stepping stone path down a stream, climb what is known as The Hill of Ambition for a look over the gardens and visit the tea house. The path finishes at the Hill of Mourning where the soul departs and moves on through the Gate of Eternity.
For such a small amount of space, it is absolutely jam-packed with incredible plants and beautiful vistas and the cafe is to die for. I think the slice of cheesecake I had was about the size of my head. Definitely worth a visit if you ever find yourself in County Kildare!