How do you spend your 8th birthday when you were born on Leapday? In our red-headed son’s case, you celebrate with a visit to Malahide Castle in Ireland.
Our recent business trip took us to Ireland and fell across our son’s birthday. It’s terrible to miss your kid’s birthday when you travel for work but way, way worse when your kid has a leap day birthday and you are missing an event that only truly happens once every four years. That would have been catastrophic.
So we did the reasonable thing and brought our 7, soon to be 8 year old Leap Baby along to Ireland.
We allowed two extra days to explore Dublin. Not very long, considering all that is there to be seen. That’s ok. I don’t like to see it all in one trip. It’s best to have something to look forward to when we come back.
I looked up some of the things that might be fun to do there for an 8 year old boy and came up with 3 “musts.” Malahide Castle , the Viking Duck Boat tour, as well as the Viking museum “Dublinia” were all highly rated favorites. We saved the castle for his birthday and chose to take the DART (public transportation) to Malahide and walk to the castle.
I believe in public transportation. All over the world. I love to ride subways and trams and busses in foreign cities. Today Leo bagged a ride on the dart. First time he’s had to “mind the gap” #wanderlust #travelfluential #familytravel #traveldiaries #traveltheworld #trekarooing #travelwithkids 🍀❤️ A photo posted by ciaran blumenfeld (@momfluential) on
Note: I’d read lots of posts saying NOT to do what we did (bushwhack when pressed for time) and I will echo that. Particularly on a cold/rainy day you will be much happier and waste a lot less time if you book a proper tour. However if you do decide to save money on transportation and a guide, and hoof it alone, you can justify a shopping spree at Avoca (more on this in a bit).
Malahide castle is up the coast from Dublin and a short 40 minute train ride. Once there it’s about a mile walk door to door from the train station to the castle. Maybe shorter but in a downpour in squidgy soggy shoes, it seems about as far as Rome from Wessex.
Regardless, it’s not a particularly challenging walk and I imagine in summer it would be delightful.
There were bikes for rent at the gates to the castle grounds. We’d love to go back and explore!
I’m not exactly sure what I expected from the castle. I think large bricks and dungeons were what I was picturing, maybe some decayed stone staircases and broken turrets. The standard castle-y stuff. There was a whiff of that vibe in this graveyard and church beside the castle and also in the view of the castle from the side. Inside it was a whole other story…
In fact the castle housed a residence that was very Downton Abbey like. It was maintained by the Talbot family for over 800 years as their residence, through the 1970s.
Leo and I were amused and intrigued by the family portrait included this little red headed boy, Milo Talbot, that was around his age at the time of his sitting. Milo grew up to be quite a character and is interesting to read about.
The children’s gaze seems to follow you as you walk up the stairs. Between this, the ghosts and the Priest’s Hole, this place is officially creepy cool.
The priest’s hole is directly behind the chair at the head of the table. It is a hidden chamber where priests could be hidden. The story is that the key was long ago lost and the priest’s hole was not unlocked for centuries! Who else is now dying of curiousity?
Malahide castle, like all good castles, is reported to be haunted. Ghosts are rumored to be heard on the stairs and in the gallery (and by the small door “Puck’s door” pictured to the right below the gallery) in the dining room. I thought I saw a ghost in the library, but that’s just me. Check out the foggy area in front of the screen and the weird green lights reflected from I know not what…
We saw lots of lion’s heads all throughout the castle as these are one half of the family crest. I am a Leo and my son is named Leo and taking photos of Lion themed ornament in Europe is one of my quirkier hobbies, so this made me happy as well.
There was so much history and such a compelling story to this castle that I am now determined to learn more about the Talbot family. I wish we’d had the chance to spend a little more time and explore the grounds but it was also serendipitous that it was so wet and my feet were sloshing in my shoes because we headed over to the Avoca store and cafe and had what can only be described as a spectacular lunch. Irish food really surprised us with the variety and freshness of ingredients and this farm to table style meal was a perfect example.
We came, we saw, we ate local #cheese (cc @thejuliabeck). What a great lunch we had at Avoca. I might have done some shopping too. New 😍🍀 A photo posted by ciaran blumenfeld (@momfluential) on
After lunch I did some shopping. Avoca is a bit like Whole Foods meets Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters, with an artisanal twist of fine, local, woolen history.
Naturally I bought woolen socks (3 pairs and why did I not buy more!?) that I put on immediately for the walk back (2 pairs and my feet were still wet but warm!). I also bought a cashmere blanket in bright cheery plaid that shall henceforth be referred to as “my precious”.
All in all a great outing and I’m only wistful we did not have more time and better weather to explore.
You can find more info about Malahide Castle on their website and this very informative video shot on a sunnier day makes us long to return.