The Hacker: Greens and fairways awash with history on Emerald Isle

 

One of the joys of playing this game, as I've said before, is the opportunity to enjoy the flora and fauna that can flourish in what quiet tracts of countryside. After all, at the plankton end of the golfing food chain there has got to be something to enjoy when things are perhaps not going quite as planned on the sporting front.

Many courses, aware of their responsibilities, now produce guides to the conservation and management of wildlife; that available for this year's Open at Royal St Georges's was as fascinating as the action on the mown stuff between the habitats. But as well as nature study, there are other subjects on the golfing timetable.

History, for instance. On some courses, there is as much past as present. Take Killeen Castle, site of the modern transatlantic battle that was last month's Solheim Cup. The golf course is only three years old; the house and lands have existed, in some form or another, for more than eight centuries.

That part of Ireland, Royal Co Meath, is rich in heritage, be it that of the prehistoric tombs at Newgrange, the hill of Tara that was the heartland of the ancient high kings, or the site of the battle of the Boyne. And although Ireland is justly famous for its wonderful links courses, those fashioned from the great estates created by the Anglo-Irish aristocracy that arose after Henry II began to take an active interest in the country that his Norman buddies had invaded during the 12th century.

Killeen, with its square turrets and fortifications, was built as part of the defences of Leinster and looks like a castle, now forming the most picturesque of backdrops to the 18th. More typical, perhaps, of the family seats that have, of necessity, survived by going down the commercial leisure route are the elegant Palladian mansions of the 18th century.

Places like Carton House. The first owners of the estate – today it stretches over 1,100 acres – near Maynooth were the FitzGeralds, their reward for siding with the Normans in the invasion of Dublin in 1170. The family acquired land and power, virtually ruling Ireland as Earls of Kildare by the end of the 15th century.

And though the recent development of Carton House as an hotel and two golf courses was criticised by Irish heritage groups, legacies can still be enjoyed by both those on the fairways.

Of the two, the newer Montgomerie course is an inland echo of links. The O'Meara course is classic rolling parkland, skirting the waters of the Rye, a tributary of the Liffey, at its lowest points and providing stunning views towards the Wicklow mountains at its highest, where the Tyrconnell Tower, medieval in origin but rebuilt as a famine relief project, is a reminder of grimmer times.

Infinitely more decadent are the connections with Queen Victoria, such as the Chinese Boudoir, where she used to sleep, and Shell Cottage, from which the royal personage once enjoyed private views of Rye Water Lake.

The cottage now overlooks the 15th green, approached over the river, and the short 16th, entirely over the lake. I was fortunate enough to play Carton House before watching how it all should be done at Killeen, and unfortunate enough to send balls serially into the water on both holes. And no, ma'am, I was not amused either.

Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
News
Stephen Hawking is reportedly taking steps to trademark his name
people
Sport
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins win the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor