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?
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

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert