Welcome to our latest ‘Postcard from Ireland’ where the Irish Family History Centre try and give you a flavour of some museums/exhibitions and attractions in Dublin and further afield in Ireland. Our intern Alana, heads to Malahide to enjoy the Castle and local sights.
One of the best things about staying in Dublin is that there’s not only so much to explore within the city itself, but there are also loads of fantastic day trips you can easily make (with or without a car) to explore the surrounding areas. One that my husband and I recently enjoyed was a trip to Malahide Castle and Gardens, just a short half-hour jaunt north of Dublin city centre.
Since we live in the suburbs of Dublin and don't own a car, the extensive and efficient tram and train lines here have quickly become our best friends, and my favorite type of public transport to use in our excursions. For this particular trip, we caught the DART train from the station on Tara Street (near Trinity College) to the station in Malahide, which is a convenient 5-minute walk from the castle grounds.
Tours of the castle last around 45 minutes, and they begin in the underbelly, where you can read all about the history of the castle and its owners – from the time it was gifted to the Talbot family in 1185 to the last family member, who lived there in the 1970s.
Malahide Castle is a fantastic place to tour, especially if you enjoy a great walk through history, like I do! The castle itself is not very large, but it is incredibly unique, in that it is truly a time machine – each room is like stepping back in time to a different era.
The tour took us from the medieval basement up through a stunning Gothic room with beautiful, dark wood panelling and a striking front window, then to the bright and neatly decorated Georgian dining rooms, where we even learned a little tidbit about the history of pineapples, since they were decorative status symbols of wealthy families like the Talbots!
The Victorian sitting room showcases some of the historic social conventions of the era through its unique furniture (try having a tete-a-tete with a suitor when your chaperone has a built-in eavesdropping seat right next to you!), and the Edwardian family bedrooms give a feel for family living when the castle had permanent residents. I found the nursery particularly enchanting, as it was filled with a collection of vintage and well-loved toys.
Finally, our tour concluded in the great dining hall, where we heard the story of the jester Puck, one of the castle’s most famous resident ghosts. Don’t forget to knock three times on Puck’s Door (the small, pointed door in the far corner of the great hall) as you leave the castle– it’ll bring you good luck!
One thing that made our visit especially fun and personal was some of the history connected with the castle, because we found a surprise connection to our own surname! Though the Talbot family resided in Malahide Castle almost exclusively from 1185 up to the 1970s, their tenure was briefly broken from 1649 to 1660 by Myles Corbet, Lord Chief Baron of Ireland and a supporter of Cromwell. It will take a little genealogical digging to see if Myles Corbet is a long-lost cousin to our Corbett family in the United States today, but it has certainly piqued my interest– hello, new research project!
The castle itself wasn’t the only attraction we discovered on the grounds. After you’ve finished the tour, stick around to check out the little greenhouse oasis of the Butterfly House within the Walled Garden, where you can see live butterflies hidden among the exotic plants in the greenhouse behind the visitor’s centre. We managed to find a few hiding in the foliage!
We also loved following along the Fairy Trail through the woodland out back of the castle, where we met some of the magical wooden inhabitants of the West Lawn– watch out for any bridge trolls, and be careful not to disturb the dragons guarding their egg! If you keep an eye out, you may even be able to see some of the resident wildlife too.
The gardens provide loads of fantastic spots for a picnic, but if the Irish weather decides to put a damper on your plans and you fancy a mouthwatering meal indoors, the Avoca Cafe – a true Irish institution – next to the castle gift shop is a wonderful place to grab a bite. They offer delicious selection of a la carte lunch items, and if you’re anything like me, you won’t be able to resist their absolutely scrumptious dessert bar! While you’re there, be sure to pop into the Avoca shop for some fun take-home gifts for all your friends, family, or even yourself – they have something perfect for everyone!
Overall, our day out at the castle and gardens has certainly made it into our top list of favorite excursions in the Dublin area, so whether you live in Ireland or are only visiting for a day or two, Malahide is a trip worth making!
Beyond the Avoca Cafe, Malahide also has a number of local restaurants to choose from, and it can be a great adventure just to go poking around and explore the town itself – to get a feel for the local flare.
Also nearby are the beautiful coastal cliff walks at Howth, which can once again be accessed via the DART rail. We weren’t able to make it out to these for lack of time, but Howth is only a short hop away from Malahide and comes highly recommended as another great day trip from Dublin!
By Alana Corbett