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A walk in Turlough Park

It’s early March and Nephin is snow-capped once more. But just a few days ago February borrowed from early summer to present us with a delightful week of warm sunshine.

Turlough Park looked magnificent – shafts of light streaming through the bare trees bringing a warm glow to the plentiful clumps of shaded snowdrops, daffodils and early crocuses.

Nature was suddenly shaking off the grey coat of winter promising brighter, more colourful days and warming our hearts for summer as the world kindled into life once more.

Pretty pink blooms of Cyclamen coum in Turlough Park. Photo: Anthony Hickey

The pretty pink blooms of Cyclamen coum in a carpet of silver-marbled leaves beneath the shade of a tree blended beautifully with the white of the snowdrops, all flattered by the bed of dried brown leaves.

The gleams of afternoon sunlight cast shadows everywhere, the museum building reflected in the mirror of the lake and the sharp light of early afternoon cast a searchlight on Turlough House.

It’s a calm and peaceful park to walk around on such a lovely day of promise along the trails ornamented with the flowers of early spring.

Daffodils in Turlough Park. Photo: Anthony Hickey

Walking down the steps of the 19th-century terraced gardens, the resident swans were lolling by the lakeshore, soaking up the unseasonal warmth of the sun.

On the slope above the lake, a flowing bank of dripping snowdrops decorated the lawn like white chandeliers beneath a summer-like blue sky.

The ornamental lake could have been a giant landscape painting. The reflections of the still bare trees that fringe its banks created delightful patterns framing the mirrored clouds, flowing overhead in ornate shapes and patterns in calm celebration of the majesty of the scene.

Reflections on the ornamental lake in Turlough Park. Photo: Anthony Hickey

As I walked along the banks of the Castlebar River towards the charming bridge that leads into Turlough Park, the whining and moaning of the chainsaw in a distant beech grove told that the tree surgeons were giving the tallest specimens a short back and sides in preparation for May when new buds will burst into leaf.

When Charles Lionel Fitzgerald (1833-1902) commissioned the famous architect, Sir Thomas Newenham Deane, to build Turlough House, a Victorian Gothic two-story dwelling, modest for the landed gentry of the time, little did he think that one day the Irish Folklife collection of the National Museum would reside there, creating a link between his troubled 19th-century Ireland of deprivation and our age of consumerism and profligacy.

Snowdrops in Turlough Park. Photo: Anthony Hickey

As I headed for a short walk along the adjoining Turlough to Castlebar Greenway, I could hear the joyful sounds of children playing in the recently opened playground overlooking the Park’s wooded hollow.

Built for the privileged few, Turlough House and Park are now enjoyed by the masses, a remarkable legacy of the landed gentry, restored by Mayo County Council, that is today a beautiful place for recreation, relaxation and research.

By Anthony Hickey

Follow writer and photographer, Anthony Hickey, as he travels around his native Co. Mayo, Ireland.