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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A 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.
Over 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.
The 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.
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.
At full tide, and with the right weather, the lagoons between the Bull Island and the coast are indeed blue. Shortly after the island was declared Ireland’s first bird sanctuary in 1931, a plan was hatched to maintain a Blue Lagoon at all tide levels and develop the island for tourism, though it never took off.
At low tide, one reason for the island’s 1981 designation as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, extended in 2015 to all of Dublin Bay, becomes clear. As mud.
The lines of the Samuel Beckett Bridge, inspired by the harp on the obverse of Irish coins, complement those of the Convention Centre and One Spencer Dock. Its location means Dublin’s second Calatrava bridge is fast becoming the city’s most recognisable landmark among the tech community. Leaving the Ha’penny Bridge in, well, the ha’penny place.