Saturday, 20 June 2015

Caledon Estate Fête

Shortly after breakfast this morning I got my stuff together, started the two-seater, and drove to the Earl of Caledon's splendid estate in County Tyrone.

My first stop, however, was in the village of Caledon itself, a place of considerable character and charm.

Successive Earls have stamped their mark on the village.

There is a water fountain dedicated to the 4th Earl, KP, on the main street.

I stopped opposite a little café called Café Rose, where I had a beaker of tea.

Afterwards I took a stroll along the village. The Caledon Arms Hotel is, sadly, closed down.

Alexander House, Main Street

It's a pity that such a pretty village cannot sustain a good inn or guest-house.

The main entrance to Caledon Estate is just outside the village, through a very grand entrance gate and lodges. It is unmistakable, especially since there are gleaming, gilded earl's coronets attached to the railings.

The drive must easily be a mile in length.

Caledon Park is one of the finest private estates in Northern Ireland, undoubtedly.

The garden fête today was in aid of the local parish church.

Caledon crest outside the portico porch

I arrived early. However,  when I departed in the afternoon, there were hundreds of cars parked in fields within the 3,000 acre estate.

The atmosphere was most agreeable. Lord and Lady Caledon were outside the house in the grounds.

I chatted briefly with Lady Caledon about an item for sale, viz. a pair of black and gold mini skis, presumably for children, which were emblazoned with the Bentley Motors motif.

The Lord-Lieutenant's official flag flew from the Castle's flag-pole.

Prospect from the garden front

At about twelve forty-five I was taken on a guided walk of the arboretum, yew-tree garden, stables and the grounds within the immediate vicinity of the Castle.

There were lots of displays on the lawns outside the Castle, including stalls in marquees, military displays, and police dog-handler demonstrations.


Of course there was no shortage of nosh, either. I could not resist the hog-roast stall.

For a fiver, you received a generous helping of roasted hog, baby roast potatoes, apple sauce, and stuffing.

Former head gardener's cottage

The fête was officially opened by Captain Dame Mary Peters CH DBE RNR, erstwhile Lord-Lieutenant of Belfast (obviously acquainted with Lord Caledon, KCVO, Lord-Lieutenant of County Armagh).

I left at about three-thirty.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Glenarm Castle Tour


I was in my element during the weekend: Barons Court, County Tyrone, on Saturday; and  Glenarm Castle, County Antrim, yesterday.

Viscount and Viscountess Dunluce (Lord Dunluce is heir to the earldom) have done a splendid job of restoring and rejuvenating their lovely home beside the historic village of Glenarm.

Glenarm Castle estate remains sizeable, comprising about 1,300 acres.

Antrim arms

I arrived in Glenarm  at about eleven forty-five, just in time for the first guided tour of the Castle.

George, the butler, and Elaine, the housekeeper, were on hand to guide us through the principal rooms.

East elevation

The present Castle seems to date from 1756, although there have been many additions and alterations since then.

Out tour began in the hall, which rises two storeys.

There are a number of family portraits here, including one of Louisa, wife of the 5th Earl and niece of the 2nd Earl Grey, Prime Minister from 1830-34.

A fine serving-table, dating from 1750, stands below the portrait of Anne, Countess of Antrim in her own right.

The splendidly ethereal ceiling was painted by Angela (née Sykes), Countess of Antrim (1911-84).

Garden front

OUR NEXT stop was the drawing-room.

The late Angela, Lady Antrim, painted scenes from La Fontaine's Fables round the ceiling in the 1950s.

Many ancestral portraits hang here, and four 18th century landscape paintings of the family's two castles, Dunluce and Glenarm.

A number of personal family photographs stand on the grand piano.

THE DINING-ROOM is spacious and elegant, containing two full-length portraits of the 5th and 6th Earls.

Randal, 6th Earl and 2nd Marquess of Antrim, KB, (1749-91), wears the robes of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath.

The dining-table was laid for six today, though can be considerably enlarged, I gather, to accommodate twelve.

Crockery is monogrammed with the Antrim cipher.

We were apprised that the open fire is seldom lit here because its draught is somewhat less than satisfactory.

THE BLUE ROOM was originally the billiards-room.

There are quite a few equine paintings on the wall, drawn for the 5th Earl, a passionate horseman who kept a stud in the estate.

The 5th Earl is said to have been an avid gambler (hardly surprising given his fondness for the Turf) who squandered much of his money.

Like Barons Court in County Tyrone, Glenarm Castle flourishes today thanks to Lord and Lady Dunluce's love and passion for this historic, ancestral, family home; its magnificent gardens; the wooden Obelisk hand-crafted by Corin Giles; the beautiful cascade and fountains; the herb garden; and the yew circle.

THE BARBICAN gate lodge, available to rent, is built into the estate wall at the end of an old stone bridge spanning the river Glenarm.

It was commissioned in 1823 by Edmund Phelps, the second husband of Anne, Countess of Antrim (in her own right), who inherited the estate when her father, the 6th Earl, died without male issue.

The architect William Vitruvius Morrison built it using local, coursed, rubble basalt and red ashlar sandstone dressings.

This gate lodge has a narrow turret staircase which leads onto a roof terrace overlooking the surrounding countryside.


BEFORE I conclude this article, I wish to mention the Castle tea-room.

I lunched here yesterday and enjoyed a hearty bowl of home-made sweet potato and parsnip soup, with a fresh bread roll and butter.

It was delicious. I complimented the staff and accordingly bade them Farewell.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Barons Court Tour

Our tour of Barons Court House began in the front hall, where Lord Anthony Hamilton, the Duke of Abercorn's brother, greeted us.

The House dates as far back as 1790 and has adapted itself admirably throughout many generations of the family.

When you enter this large hall, the splendid ceiling catches the eye with its elaborate Italian plasterwork.

It was used by the 4th Duke and Duchess, the present Duke's parents, as a living-room.

This hall has six doors leading from it into other reception rooms.

There is an exquisite portrait of Emma Hamilton (no relation) by Sir Thomas Lawrence.

THENCE we moved in to the rotunda with its glorious coffered ceiling.

I gather that this was once a music-room; though today it is used for formal dinners or even meetings.

Yesterday there were four sizeable portfolios of drawings by Sir Edwin Landseer laid on the table.

THE LONG GALLERY is about thirty yards in length.

It faces what is now the garden front of the House; however this was originally the entrance to Barons Court.

This is a bright and spacious room.

Its considerable size makes it ideal for family celebrations, parties and even christenings.

This room contains fine furnishings and paintings, including a commode with the cipher of Marie Antionette.

THE BROWN LIBRARY, leading from the long gallery, is a family room which makes skilful use of subdued and quiet red and brown colours.

OUR next part of the tour took us to the lofty and spacious staircase hall.

It's not hard to miss the massive painting by Jordaens, quite aptly entitled Soldiers Carousing (!).

I've been told that this room can be used for shooting parties and children's parties.

An antique pianola sits directly under the staircase.

THE last room we visited was what is today known as the Family Room.

It used to be the large dining-room, though, with the sage advice of the celebrated interior designer, David Hicks, the room has been "compartmentalised" into different areas and dark green free-standing units.

At one end there is a kitchen; while there is a space at the other end with drinks cabinet and CD player and so on.

BARONS COURT remains essentially a family home and it is delightful that the Duke and Duchess open its doors occasionally for everyone to enjoy and admire.

Thursday, 4 June 2015


Star, Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order

His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Wales has been appointed a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (KCVO) by Her Majesty The Queen.

Monday, 1 June 2015