Lambay Island is the kind of place you want to tell everybody and nobody about for fear of spoiling its integrity or seductive allure. A romantic idyll in every sense of the word it shimmers in the distance a couple of miles off the east coast of Ireland, just north of Dublin. Deliciously unspoiled, Lambay Island has remained a safe haven for birds and wildlife ever since it was purchased by Cecil Baring in 1904 for the princely sum of £5250. Newly married to an American divorcee, he sought to create a romantic and very private enclave for himself and his beautiful wife Maud in which to raise a family and live out a quiet life indulging his twin passions of poetry and natural history. He commissioned the famous Arts & Crafts architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens to design a house that would incorporate the existing 15th century castle and blend seamlessly into the landscape. Together with Gertrude Jekyll who designed the tiered rose gardens which surround the house, he created not only a dream house but a perfect family home that has more than stood the test of time.
This is a very beautiful house, not only is it aesthetically divine, the clean lines of the arts and crafts interior and furniture work as well today as they did 100 years ago, but it is also much loved and adored by generations of children, grand children and great grand children whose laughter and music still echoes around this wonderful house. Low, pan tiled roofs swoop down over stone mullioned windows with the original lead paned glass standing open on a warm sunny day, filled with the scent of roses wafting in on the birdsong. Floors boards are worn smooth and creak comfortingly as you move about the light filled spaces filled with pottery and paintings and personal memorabilia.
For a grand house it is very intimate and because the interior has not being altered in any way, it is absolutely perfect and finest Arts & Crafts house in Ireland. All of Lutyen's signature, oak furniture was especially made and designed for the house and apart from a glorious patina acquired by years of loving use it is as robust and beautiful as the day it arrived. Which all sounds very rosy and indeed it certainly is, on a warm summer's day but the current owner Alex and seventh Lord Revelstoke admits that modern day heating and plumbing would be a welcome addition, especially as he intends letting his magnificent house to private clients on a weekly basis when not in use by the extended family which includes some 200 cousins.
Formerly out of bounds, Alex’s grandfather guarded his privacy zealously, which is why Lambay Island is in the pristine state it is today. The house too has remained in a time warp of sorts and is a true architectural gem. There are two other Arts & Crafts houses in Ireland, Ard na Sidhe in Kerry and Renvyle in Connemara but this is my favourite because it is original and a family home. But times change and needs must be to make it sustainable in its own right while preserving its integrity which is going to be a delicate balancing act for sure.
Access to the island is only available via Skerries Sea Tours who have a special arrangement with the current 7th Lord Revelstoke, Alex Baring. Limited to just 7 people per trip they offer guided walking tours of the island which depart from Rogerstown daily weather permitting and last approximately 3-4 hours and cost €75 per person. Guided tours of the house are available occasionally but only to private groups of no more than twelve when the family is not in residence. Lambay, truly is one of Ireland's Hidden Gems and I cannot recommend a trip out there highly enough, Susan