SHOTEnglish country charmsBy Anna R. Denbow, Bel...

MY BEST

August 08, 1999

MY BEST SHOT

English country charms

By Anna R. Denbow, Bel Air

My sister, Janet, and I have just returned from a very enjoyable holiday in England, visiting the Cotswolds and Cornwall. We enjoyed the charming villages of Northleach, Burford, Stow-on-the-Wold and Bourton-on-the-Water, to name a few. The scenery of Cornwall with the cliffs and the Atlantic Ocean was breathtaking. There was so much to see -- Windsor Castle, Winston Churchill's grave, cathedrals, castles. This was our second trip to the British Isles and we hope to return again.

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A MEMORABLE PLACE

The green balm of Ireland

By Lavinia Edmunds SPECIAL TO THE SUN

At the end of a conference, set mostly in the cities of Cork and Dublin, I am aching to get away to the countryside. I remember how beautiful and peaceful it is from an earlier trip to Ireland as a student. But I have just a half day. Will such a rushed trip do it?

I take the Dart, Dublin's commuter train, and head for Malahide, just 9 miles north, which has been recommended as a charming village with a castle, by my guidebook, by a native Dubliner and, finally, by a lady who was waiting on the bench with me at the train station. The Dublin suburbs finally subside to those green fields that I remembered -- all such rich, soothing greens -- the color of moss and pine.

From the tiny station at Malahide, I am told, just go up a block for the entrance to the castle. I follow the signs to the castle and take the first pathway, a bark-strewn road through ivy-covered woods. Knots of schoolchildren are walking in the opposite way. It is almost closing time. The trail goes on for at least two miles. I walk and walk so long that I begin to get a rhythm and relax.

I realize that I am approaching the castle from the back, passing by stables and a railway museum. When I finally get a view, when the trees recede and the ancient gray castle rises up in the fields of rich green, I am in awe. It's a beautiful castle, almost purple, now at dusk. I can see why the Talbott family occupied it for so long, from the 10th century to the 1970s. Now with the only medieval hall to exist in Ireland, it is a bona fide tourist attraction.

Even though I am unable to get in and see the furnishings, the solitary sight of the turrets and towers, without crowds of people around, is good enough for me. Green parkland unrolls in front of the castle. The grass is bright, almost chartreuse -- cut shorter than a golf course. A number of fields, I find out, are public rugby fields.

But at this hour, just before dinner, as the sun begins to sink behind ancient trees, no one is out except for one man walking his dog. There are benches set at contemplative positions all around the fields. I find one on the edge of the green, with a direct view of the castle. I sit back on this wonderfully comfortable bench, with its well-worn wooden slats, and imagine knights and ladies who at one time occupied the fortress, and fairy tales come alive -- until the green grows to dusk and the castle turns to a black shadow. It is an indelible image, soothing as a balm of ages.

Lavinia Edmunds lives in Baltimore.

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