Out of office adventure, Educated Machine goes to Roscommon. For Fun!
For the first time in a long time, the Educated Machine team went on an out of office adventure. One of the great things about living in the West of Ireland is that once you escape the, admittedly modest, cities like Limerick and Galway there are miles upon miles of countryside packed with interesting features to explore. They certainly make a nice break from working in a soul crushing environment every Monday to Friday.
(At this point I’m legally obliged to state that my allusion to a soul crushing work environment is a humorous aside and is not in any way a slight at the working conditions of Educated Machine. I’m told by my superiors that Educated Machine is a wonderful place to work and if anything souls have been observed expanding in those lucky enough to be employed there.)
We’ve recently had a few interns join us to learn about and get practical experience in the web development business so we thought it’d be only proper to take them out on one of our trips while they’re with us. When putting together promotional material for our tour of Connaught in June I’d seen some incredible photos of Castle Island in Lough Key and thankfully everybody else thought giving the place a visit was a good idea too so off we went.
If there is a breed of tree that will survive in the Irish climate it seems there’s one growing in and around Lough Key. When first arriving you’ll follow a winding road, passing through a densely wooded area before emerging onto a wide green that spills down to the edge of the lake that gives the place its name. Its dark waters stretch out to the horizon with heavily wooded peninsular pieces of land clawing at it intermittently giving a great parallax effect. What will grab your attention though is Castle Island itself which seems to emerge proudly from the waters immediately in front of you.
Like most areas of interest in Ireland, Lough Key has been a hub activity for thousands of years. The castle ruins poking out of the overgrowth are only the most recent structure on the island, being constructed in the 1800’s and built upon the ruins of other, older structures. This was common practice throughout Ireland for centuries with many historical sites acting like a catalogue of different, disperate eras thanks to the layers of history piled up on each other. Older Crannogs and structures are still visible on smaller islands that no doubt would’ve been contemporary to the original buildings now buried beneath the stronghold on the water.
Fairly quickly we agreed to rent a boat and head out to get a closer look at the Castle, which meant I had to learn how to row pretty quickly. Its an odd way of getting around as all you can really do is accelerate in one direction or another, with your back to your destination. Micheal took over rowing duties when we got closer to the castle which was the first in a series of awkward oar exchanges that sent the boat rocking wildly from side to side. Basically if you move the boat moves, so don’t move if you can help it. There was some resistance from the tides once we were actually at the castle and then we started noticing all the rocks poking up from the bed of the lake, I think we weren’t supposed to be there. The castle itself is obviously quite beautiful and I couldn’t help but admire how ostentatious it is. I suppose if you’re going to build a castle in the middle of a lake it takes a bit of hubris and while you’re our there you might as well make it fancy.
Darragh rowed us back to shore, which involved another unbalanced exchange, I can only imagine it looked like we were playing Twister as we negotiated around each other while trying not to tip everybody else into the lake. Micheal wasn’t concerned with this though and stood up so frequently I thought he was going to start breakdancing just to prove how steady footed he felt while they rest of us came perilously close to the water.
Back on shore we took a tour of the surrounding grounds and discovered a large mansion called Rockingham House had existed there before it burned down in 1958. Ireland is littered with ruined houses and stories like this. During British occupation dozens of these massive homes were constructed for the landholding gentry but very few survived the 1900’s for a variety of reasons. I’ve often wondered if this could have something to do with our reluctance as a country to build big. Even the tallest buildings in Dublin and Cork are modest in comparison to their European counterparts.
In place of the manor house there is a tall, brutalist, concrete tower. As a structure its not really to my tastes but the view from the top is pretty stunning and its well worth climbing its many steps. On one side you have miles of forest, rising and dropping in waves of greenery. On the other is the lake, from high up you get an idea of just how many boats there are on the lake. Pleasure crafts drift in from all corners of the country to moor up in Lough Key and take in its relaxing ambience.
The end of the grounds walk takes place on suspended walkways placed up among the canopy of the surrounding forests providing more spectacular views. We complimented this by wandering far into the woods once we were back on ground level. There’s something inherently pleasing about hiking through a forest especially when its filled with oddities to find as Lough Key park is. The trees that dominate the landscape and have been allowed to grow into bizarre natural shapes and forms you won’t see near towns and cities where civilisation has bent them to its will.
On the way out we encountered some of the strange bridges dotted around the area, also built in the 1800s. The entire area has the feeling of folly being reclaimed by the earth. To people who lived there when the estate was at its height the place would probably appear post apocalyptic now, especially with common types like us stomping around the place and discussing the web development market, amongst other things. We’re fun people ok, deal with it.
That brought our journey to a close, it’s always interesting to explore these parts of Ireland with their mix of natural beauty and human history and we hope the newest additions to the Educated Machine fellowship got to experience the fun side of working here.
They had better or they’ll be out on their ears.
Image by Castle Island. Copyright Tourism Ireland