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End of an era?

Lugala Estate is one of the most beautiful places in Ireland - a valley with a deep dark corrie lake - Lough Tay, nestling under the dramatic cliffs of Lugala Mountain. In recent years, Lough Tay has become known as "the Guinness Lake" and with good reason. It looks like a pint of the dark stuff with it's black peaty waters and the bright sands of the beach are like the creamy head on a good pint!

It has also been home to members of the Guinness family since the 1930's and the house itself is special. I would describe it as a "gothicky wedding cake "of a house, built around a courtyard, in the midst of stunning scenery. Built as a shooting lodge by the La Touche family (made their money in banking!), later owned by Viscount Powerscourt, it was leased to the Guinness family as a holiday retreat and in 1937, Ernest Guinness bought it for an undisclosed sum and gave it to his daughter Oonagh, as a wedding present. In 1970, Oonagh transferred it to her son, the Hon Garech Browne.

Garech Browne died yesterday and will be much missed locally. He was a major figure in artistic and social circles in Dublin and London, and a generous host to those who knew him. I was lucky enough to have had a couple of visits to Lugala, once for a family occasion, and once with a group of walking pals. He entertained us wonderfully with his great stories of an interesting and unusual life and these are memories to treasure. He generously allowed "permissive access" through his estate down to Lough Dan and this privilege has been enjoyed by walkers, for many years. The estate has been on the market for the past year (price tag €28 million) and many of us hope that whoever is the next owner continues this open policy in an area of such beauty. May he rest in peace.

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