Our Irish Home Away From Home

Once again, Ireland has lured us in for a summer. Once again, we are exploring her green lanes, peaceful backwaters, and lively small towns. And once again, we are lucky enough to be staying at John and Mary Coyne's comfortable apartments in Kilcock.

There have been some changes since the last time we stayed here, in 2003, but all for the better. A fourth block has risen up, giving an additional six apartments for students and visitors, and John has won the insurance battle and placed a gate directly from the apartments to the Royal Canal towpath. Now, armed with the gate code, residents can leave home and be strolling along the green towpath, past the wild irises, water lilies, and tangled profusion of wildflowers in under a minute.

This time, we are staying in one of the penthouse apartments. Like our previous first floor apartment, the penthouse has three bedrooms, and all the conveniences of home. The slightly different layout gives it an even roomier feel; cathedral ceilings and a large skylight fill the living room with sunlight and fresh air. The balcony is smaller, but it boasts an uninterrupted view over the water. We can sit at the table, in front of the French doors and watch the fishermen reel in the day's catch, and the holiday barges float slowly down the canal, en-route for their berth in the village for the night.

Once again, we're enjoying all the life and laughter of a small community, with none of the hassles. John and Mary attract a variety of clients, and their diversity and differing tales add to the mix. Many are graduate students here for a quiet summer, unimpeded by the lively student life. There are a number of researchers too, here from overseas, to finish their thesis on something Irish: The famine, the Royal Canal, or the booming social phenomenon of the Celtic Tiger. And they come from America, from Libya, and Latvia, from Poland, and the United Kingdom. All find a temporary home away from home through the Coynes.

He's a hands-on sort of bloke is John, and this summer, when the annual summer redecorating of the apartments is done, he's been putting in bathrooms that disabled people can access with ease. And in between the measuring and the sawing, he's been acting as a sort of unofficial referee for the children's games. There's a few of them here; local kids with strong Dublin accents, some children from Libya, whose father works at the university, and whose unusual accents are slowly gaining a local patois. Every day after breakfast they emerge from their apartments and burst out into the quiet cul-de-sac. Their games are varied, and the most expensive piece of equipment is a wooden hurley stick and a ball. John's been keeping them supplied with his leftover bits of timber, and over the past couple of weeks, there have been mazes, forts, battles with cardboard swords, and elaborate games of skill involving a football and some timber oddments.

How quickly the outsider is incorporated into their games! The new kid on the block-a shy youngster, newly arrived from New Mexico so that his father could complete his research-crept out to watch their games on his first day in Ireland. Before the day was through, he was as happy as any of them, running around and raising the devil with his new friends. A month later, his GameBoy, brought over from America to keep him amused, lies untouched under the bed.

It's not all about the kids. There's a new Thai restaurant in the village, and a choice of five lively pubs. A side effect of the smoking ban now in place in Ireland is that many of them have benches and tables outside. So you can sit at a table, enjoy the parade of life in the village square from the front of the Gregory Tavern, or lounge alongside the canal outside the Green Ribbon or Spill the Beans coffee shop, and watch the ducks, or the rambunctious games of canoe polo. Or take a leaf from the book of these two lads from Clondalkin. They had a day off from work, and they had the brother-in-law's van. And it had a couch in the back. As they said, "why waste an opportunity?"

Further along the canal towards Maynooth, is the Kilcock G.A.A. club. There are five hard tennis courts here, which are normally quiet and available to all. They run kid's tennis courses in summer and social adult tennis in the long summer evenings, both at very reasonable cost.

A short distance away is another cheerful village, Celbridge, where the stately mansion, Castletown House, is often open to the public. Beyond Celbridge, is the other major canal that was a trade artery out of Dublin in times past. The Grand Canal crosses the Celbridge Road at Hazel Hatch, and here there are two quiet pubs with canalside tables and ducks to feed. You can stroll the canal towpath and enjoy the gaily-painted long boats that moor permanently here, an unusual home for those lucky enough to live on them.

So we've been enjoying our time here again. With the wide windows open to catch the breeze and the sound of children's laughter, Kilcock has once again proved an enjoyable base.

Save an apartment for us next year, John and Mary. We'll be back!

Further inquiries about Kilcock Apartments can be directed to John Coyne. Visit his webpage at http://www.royalcanalcourt.com or email him at atcof@iol.ie. Telephone inquiries can be directed to (086) 252-1440, or from outside of Ireland, +353 86 252 1440.

Want guidebooks and other things Irish? View our list of recommended products.

If you have ever spent a holiday in Ireland, or plan to, please take a moment to fill out our questionnaire. Your answers will help format a new rural travel guide by Bushducks. You can find the questionnaire here.

© Bushducks 2004
All photos © Bushducks 2003/2004

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