The website grandtour.ie gives plans for various types of driving tours in Wicklow and Kildare. The Great Houses tour includes the houses Killruddery, Powerscourt, Russborough, Castletown, and Carton. I have now visited four of the five, Carton so far elusive. They are an interesting combination as they represent different eras, different styles, and different ownership arrangements.
Killruddery House, owned and lived in by Earl of Meath and his family is on the outskirts of Bray. It is the only one of the five grand tour houses still used as a private residence. The gardens are unusual as they have retained their form as arranged in the 17th century (whereas others moved with fashions and ‘modernised’). High points in the garden include the twin canals, which extend out to a lime walk, which combine to offer a great vista from the house. The Angles, an arrangement of hornbeam, beech, and lime is the oldest part of the garden, which has its origins in a monastery on the site.
The house tour was a first for me. As this is a working house, with I think two families living there, the tour is restricted to a handful of rooms on the ground floor. However, the guide was wonderful, and while she had a narrative, the sense was being shown around the house by a friend of the family while they were away. You feel a bit guilty nosing at the photos and books (Knights of St Patrick books prominent), but you do it anyway. Who knows when the Earl might come in and send you on your way.
A sensible amount of information is given about the history of the house and its inhabitants, and there are photos to show what the original arrangement looked like before a substantial amount of the house was removed (which explains the rather meek-looking gateway). The work of the Morrisons is described in redecorating the newer parts of the house. My lasting impression though is the pride taken in the display of Irish furniture throughout, which is beautiful.
The tour ends quite abruptly in the orangery, but after leaving I had a good sense of the history of the house as well as seeing some of its showcase rooms. Entry to house and gardens was €11. The all important tea is available in the Octagonal Dairy near the house.
Details about the house, gardens, and ongoing events are at the Killruddery website.