Summertime

Royal Hospital, Kilmainham
Royal Hospital, Kilmainham

The living may be easy, but telling the time isn’t. Summer began a couple of days ago, but the clocks changed to summer time just over a month ago. Except they didn’t: officially, we don’t have summer time. In 1968, Irish Standard Time was defined to be one hour ahead of GMT, and in 1971, winter time was defined to be the same as GMT. In practice, Irish time has mostly been the same as British time since the end of Summer Time in 1916 (the year it was introduced). Prior to that, the standard time across Ireland, as decreed in 1880, was Dublin Mean Time, which was 25 minutes and 21 seconds behind Greenwich Mean Time, with Dunsink Observatory as the reference point.

The clock on the North Range of the Royal Hospital is just over an hour slow, perhaps still showing winter time (almost). The building dates from 1684, long before the railways demanded the use of a standard time across the country, so the sundial should show local time. That would be roughly the same as Dublin Mean Time, with a small adjustment for the Equation of Time, or about an hour and 22 minutes behind standard time, all told. It doesn’t, and one source puts this down to a gross error made during one of two known restorations. So what time is it? Lunchtime.

Where eagles dare

Bray Head, Co. Wicklow
Bray Head, Co. Wicklow

The view from Bray Head encompasses the town of Bray and south county Dublin as far as Killiney Hill and Dalkey Island, with Howth Head and Lambay Island visible across Dublin Bay. The concrete cross dates from 1950, and has far outlasted the chairlift opened in the same year to ferry customers to the Eagle’s Nest café above the town.

Greystones, Co. WicklowThough the cross marks the top of Bray Head as seen from the promenade, the highest point is actually 2km further south, with views over Greystones and on to Wicklow Head. No eagles here, but ravens sometimes put on an aerobatic display above the cliffs.

Back to college

Albert College Park, Dublin
Albert College Park, Dublin

Albert College Park is a public park adjoining the main campus of Dublin City University, on lands formerly owned by the Albert Agricultural College and then University College Dublin, before being transferred to Dublin Corporation in the 1960s. Sometimes called Hampstead Park, the park contains several stands of native and non-native trees, as well as individual specimen trees dotted around the open spaces and pathways.

The Glasnevin Model Farm was established in 1838 for the training of National School teachers in the teaching of agriculture, and was renamed after a visit by Prince Albert in 1853. The Albert College Building is now part of the DCU Glasnevin campus; with the establishment of the DCU Institute of Education, the circle will be complete.

Two sugars please

The Baily Lighthouse and Dublin Bay
The Baily Lighthouse and Dublin Bay

The last of Ireland’s lighthouses to be automated, the Baily Lighthouse on Howth Head lies to the north of Dublin Bay, while Dalkey Island and the Muglins lighthouse are to the south. The double summit of the Little Sugar Loaf and the conical summit of the Great Sugar Loaf are visible beyond.

Whereas most Wicklow summits were rounded by glacial action, the Great Sugar Loaf was a nunatak protruding above the ice, and so escaped erosion. Its conical shape and exposed quartzite summit gave rise to its name. West Wicklow also has a Sugarloaf Mountain, as does Cork, although the more modestly named Sugarloaf Hill on the Tipperary/Waterford border is the tallest of them all. Sweet.

Ablaze

Howth Head, Co. Dublin
Howth Head, Co. Dublin

The heather and gorse are ablaze with colour in the autumn sunshine on Howth Head, unlike earlier in the year when the gorse was literally ablaze.

Howth Head, Co. Dublin

Known in Irish as Beann Éadair, the name Howth is thought to derive from the Norse ‘hofuð’ meaning head. That would add Howth Head to the list of tautological placenames, and make the Ben of Howth (the highest point at 171m) a curious mix of Irish, English and Norse.

The names of nearby Ireland’s Eye and Lambay also derive in part from Norse, with ‘ey’ meaning island. As with Beann Éadair, the Irish names Inis Mac Neasáin and Reachra predate the arrival of Vikings on Lambay in the 8th century, and wallabies in the 20th.

Ireland's Eye and Lambay from Howth Head, Co. Dublin
Howth Harbour, Ireland’s Eye and Lambay, Co. Dublin

Land ahoy

Magazine Fort, Phoenix Park, Dublin
Magazine Fort, Phoenix Park, Dublin

Looking like a concrete battleship in a sea of grass, the Magazine Fort was built in 1734 on the site of the Phoenix Lodge, which dated from 1611 and was named for a spring of clear water (fionn uisce) nearby. With commanding views from its elevated position, the Fort was used as a powder magazine and munitions store well into the 20th century.

To Arthur

Wellington Monument, Phoenix Park, Dublin
Wellington Monument, Phoenix Park, Dublin

Wellesley, that is. The Wellington Monument (officially the Wellington Testimonial, as construction began while he was alive) commemorates the Dublin-born 1st Duke of Wellington’s military and political achievements. At 62 metres, it is the tallest obelisk in Europe, although it was originally intended to be taller.

Wellington Monument, Phoenix Park, DublinA statue of the Duke on horseback was also planned, but a lack of funds reined that idea in, as well as delaying completion of the obelisk until 1861, after the Duke’s death.

The bronze panels on each side of the base were cast from cannons captured at Waterloo. Those aren’t wellies though.

People in glasshouses

Great Palm House, National Botanic Gardens, Dublin
Great Palm House, National Botanic Gardens, Dublin

Great Palm House, National Botanic Gardens, DublinOver a hundred years of tropical heat and daily misting eventually took its toll on the iron structure of the Great Palm House at the National Botanic Gardens, built in 1884, requiring it to be dismantled and completely restored in the early 2000s.

Completion of this 7000-piece jigsaw (not counting the glass) earned a Europa Nostra Heritage Award for Conservation in 2005.

Curvilinear Range, National Botanic Gardens, DublinThe 1990s restoration of the Curvilinear Range, dating from 1843, employed innovative techniques that allowed most of the original wrought iron to be reused. This was supplemented by wrought iron from Turner’s Palm House at Kew Gardens, where it had been replaced with steel in the 1980s.

There are over 8000 panes of glass in the Curvilinear Range to be kept clean, inside and out. It’s a wonder they have time to do any gardening at all.

Curvilinear Range, National Botanic Gardens, Dublin
Curvilinear Range, National Botanic Gardens, Dublin

Ringing the changes

Teak House, National Botanic Gardens, Dublin
Teak House, National Botanic Gardens, Dublin

Named for one of the primary materials used in its construction in 1945, the Teak House at the National Botanic Gardens was reconstructed in recent years. Thankfully the original name was kept: ‘the stainless steel and iroko house’ doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

Whether or not the iroko came from one of the specimen trees in the Gardens is not mentioned, though waiting for it to grow would likely have jeopardised the project timeline.