Many of you already know that Bantry is a terrific base for a holiday. Great scenery, terrific food, helpful people at every turn.
Sometimes, more often than you’d think, you get the sunshine as well. I got it last week on a day trip that included stops at Mannings Emporium and the Ewe Sculpture Garden . The final visit was to Bantry House, with its centuries of history, its magnificent gardens, lovely woodland walks and splendid views, all for a tenner.
|From top of the 100 steps|
Started with a walk through the lower gardens. Here there are 14 large round beds, cannons, statues and large pots and terrific views over Bantry Bay. Then at the other side of house, we found the 100 steps which take you up through a series of terraces to an even more magnificent view, out over the house. Back down then by a wood land walk, this named The Old Ladies, a walk that you can also take up from the house if the 100 steps are too much.
After a long period of neglect (from the 1930s to the 1970s), restoration began. It is still a work in progress. Much remains to be done but do go there now and visit this splendid place.
Bantry House is the ancestral home of the Earls of Bantry, still lived in by their descendant Egerton and Brigitte Shelswell-White, and their family. The Queen Ann house has been in the family since 1820. Not alone can you visit, you may also stay here and indeed you may get married here in the Gobelin Drawing Room, go out to the gardens for the photos and come back in for your reception.
Upstairs, there is a magnificent library room and some of the bedrooms (and their adjoining dressing rooms) are also open to the public. Here too you will see a fascinating Doll’s House (I had to drag someone away from it!) and again, from the big windows, enjoy the views over the bay.
The house, containing its important collection of furniture, tapestries and objets d'art has been open to the public since 1946. It also hosts various literary and musical festivals and next up is the Master of Tradition (9th to 14th of August 2011).
But even if your visit doesn't coincide with a festival, the house and gardens are well worth a trip, even a long one. In the past few years, I’ve seen some of the big chateaus in France and can tell you that Bantry House is a match for many of them.