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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
News
news
News
Sir James Dyson: 'Students must be inspired to take up the challenge of engineering'
i100
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Catherine (Sarah Lancashire) in Happy Valley ((C) Red Productions/Ben Blackall)
TV
Caption competition
Caption competition
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

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?