Temple House, County Sligo
By Hilarius D.G executive summry from national geography magazine, original words by Turtle Bunbury
RODERICK PERCEVAL occasionally rows his guests out on reeds-fringed Temple House Lake for some pike fishing. “We provide lots of enthusiasm but very little expertise,” he warns. But the real catch here lies on the banks of the 200-acre lake: the romantic ruins of an 800-year-old castle built by the Knights Templar, rising up through the morning mist like a panorama from Celtic mythology. Behind the lakeside castle stands the remaining gable of a 40-foot tower, its ivy-encrusted walls built in the 14th century. To top it all off, a third ruin wraps around both castle and tower, a redbrick manor built in 1627 for a Catholic family.
The Percevals came into these lands in the northwest of Ireland when an ancestor married into the family 360 years ago. They were part of a closely linked network of families, mostly English in origin, that dominated rural Irish life in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Built in 1820, Georgian-style Temple House is one of the largest in Ireland. Roderick and his wife, Helena, have opened up six rooms to paying guests, including my Castle Room, with it s view of the 5,000-year-old megalithic Carrowkeel tombs on a far hilltop, and the appropriately named Half Acre room, with its small annex, “where husbands sleep if they’ve been naughty,” suggests Roderick.
Forty-four-year-old Roderick has lived at Temple House and its thousand-acre estate most of his life. His sense of ease is contagious. He urges visitors to treat the Big House as if it were their own, so I do. o roam around the farm buildings, meadows, gardens, and ruins. The Atlantic Ocean draws surfers to tis shores just nine miles from here. County Sligo’s pastoral idyll especially inspired poet W.B. Yeats, who immortalized this part of Ireland in poems like “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” and the play The Land of Heart’s Desire. In the evening lights, the Temple House trees appear at their best, particularly a copse of beech planted in 1798. Roderick regularly adds new saplings. “Every generation ahs to leave its mark,” he says.
If he needs a hand on the farm, Roderick sometimes invites guests to help. During lambing season, some visitors have found themselves out in the fields in Wellington boots, ushering sheep from one pasture to another.
After asking “Have you ever had a falcon land on your hand?” Roderick sends me to an eagle sanctuary on the edge of the estate. “Life is never quite the same again afterwards,” he says. I’m treated to an hour-long flying demonstration by regal eagles and owls. The falcon sweeps by my outstretched arm and opts instead for the hand of a teenage boy whose eyes duly widen.