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Day 4 - May 20, 2009 - Waterford, Eire

By Dr. Toby Musgrave

Co-ordinates: 52o 15.7N, 07o 06,2W
Weather: Mixed cloud and sunshine with occasional heavy showers

This was my first full day aboard the Prince Albert II having joined the ship in Tresco and it was a pleasure to be back on board. The journey up the river to the mooring in Waterford was just beautiful with verdant views over the fields, and the showers just a reminder of why this is called the ‘Emerald Isle’. After breakfast it was to the coaches for an 08.45 departure, destination Mount Congreve garden some 15km from the city.

Established in the 1950s by Ambrose Congreve and inspired by the famous Rothschild garden at Exbury in Hampshire, this 70-acre woodland garden was planted with the shrubs and trees in groups rather than single specimens for maximum visual impact.

As a horticulturist, it was a great treat to visit at this time of year. We were just too late for the magnolias, but I was delighted to see so many rhododendrons in bloom, lighting our way as we took our leisurely stroll through the gardens with our most informative guides. For me, the highlights were the towering handkerchief tree (Davidia involucrata), the Clematis montana that scrambled to dizzying heights in several of the trees, the bizarre flowers of the Beschonaria yuccoides and the collection of Loderi hybrid rhododendrons with their delicately scented flowers in the loveliest shades of white and pink. In the walled garden the large conservatory greenhouse made a fine feature and I wanted to get a peek inside, but unfortunately the door was locked!

After a delicious hour-and-a-half meandering through the gardens it was back to the coaches for a 50km drive to Kilkenny and a welcome lunch - the sea air and walking combining together to work up a mighty appetite. Invigorated by the Kilkenny beef washed down with Guinness, it was time to visit the castle. The once four-square stone castle had been renovated in the 19th century Gothic revival style by the Butler family who inhabited it for 500 years before auctioning the contents and selling the building to the city in the early 20th century for a mere fifty Irish pounds. 

Now restored by the State and with some of the original contents back, the tour was an interesting insight into the life of one of Ireland’s most powerful families. I was particularly jealous of the large library, and took my hat off to whoever decided to decorate it with chrome yellow silk wallpaper. It should not have worked, but did.

Then it was back on the bus for the hour or so return journey, where I joined the majority by sneaking in a quick power nap. Back aboard at 16.30, there was time to settle back into shipboard comfort before the Recap & Briefing at 18.30 followed by the traditional excellence of dinner.

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