Russborough House, the home of Sir Alfred and Lady Beit, is near Blessington, County Wicklow. Sir Alfred is the South African diamond magnate who financed De Beers Diamonds. Our goal was the Rhododendron Walk in the afternoon (€23 for three seniors and one adult ) but we also arrived in time to go on the noon tour of the house with Joan (€28 for three seniors and one adult with a €4 concession for seniors) and to have a bite to eat in the Tea Rooms. The most impressive parts of the house for me are the wooden staircase and the Lafranchini ceilings which are both simple and intricate, if that is possible. Thanks to numerous art robberies at the home, you will have to journey to the National Gallery in Dublin to see the vast Milltown art collection that used to be housed here. The weather had been wet for a few days before we arrived so we were warned that the Parkland Walk to see the rhododendrons was quite muddy but we did fine with our sturdy sneakers. One fellow on our tour even had dress shoes on and managed to keep clean. Our walk started in the 18th century Walled Garden which is still being restored. The greenhouses in particular have fallen in on themselves but you can imagine what they would have looked like by the plants that are overgrown inside and bursting through the broken panes of glass. Then we headed back up past the house with our guide, Peter, past the Upper Pond and Terraces where there were plenty of sheep and cattle grazing, to the Woodland and Rhododendron Garden which was created by the Beits in the 1950s. Although there were many coloured blooms on the ground, there were still many in bloom with evidence of more to follow. There are storyboards along the way with the history of the terraces and pictures of the wildlife and flora you can expect to see. When we returned to the house we walked along the back to the West Wing and checked out some craft shops. One thing we noticed here was happy people at work. For the first, and not last, time we came across a worker singing on the job. The happy fellow also told us about Bloom happening in Dublin later in the week – a flower show in Phoenix Park. As we walked back along the front of the house to the entrance and a coffee break we took in the views of the Blessington Lake and the Wicklow Mountains. The house is perfectly situated to take advantage of the views. After our coffee break we headed down into the basement to explore the exhibits about the Beits’ travels including some of their home movies. We were so enthralled with the exhibits that we ended up being the last visitors and were escorted out.
The Tea Rooms at Russborough House are also worth a visit. We had lunch and afternoon coffee here and both were delicious. Light lunches start at €6.95 and go up from there. The cottage pie was very good for lunch with a delicious side salad of beets. Two mochas, 2 lattes and 2 large portions of cake was €23.70 and worth every Euro.
You can book tickets or book a stay in the West Wing Accommodations at www.russboroughhouse.ie