Monday 17 September 2012

Swiss Cottage

Let's just get one thing straight, to begin with.  The Swiss Cottage in question is not Swiss, does not look particularly Swiss and actually has no connection to Switzerland WHATSOEVER.

On Friday I took a road trip with a friend to Co Tipperary where, in the town of Cahir, there is one of only a handful of cottages ornés in Ireland. (Please excuse French grammar pedantry - if I don't do this I will get jumped on by the various French teachers in my life.)  For cottage orné please read: some 18th century aristocrat's highly romantic notion of what a peasant's cottage would look like.  In other words, nothing like an actual peasant dwelling.

This cottage was built for the Butler family of Cahir.  (The visitor centre included a slightly convoluted but hilarious story about some evil relations who stole the rightful heir away to France because his mother was LOWBORN but he was traced and discovered in a garret 'completely overgrown with hair'.  It was not made clear whether this mean he was some sort of wolf child or whether he was just in serious need of a haircut.  Anyway, he grew up and had a very fancy faux-rustique cottage built for himself which I hope compensated him for the childhood hair & kidnapping trauma.)

The Swiss Cottage is well signposted from Cahir (which is a really pretty town - definitely worth a detour) and there's a very picturesque path from Cahir Castle to the Cottage ... which makes sense since the Butlers lived in the Castle and just used the Cottage for parties.

You get to the Cottage via a bridge, guarded by eagles ...

... and then go up through the underground passage that servants used.  We liked the idea of them magically appearing with tea trays on the lawn and all the guests exclaiming, 'where did those scones comes from?'

When you arrive at the main level of the house, it seems much less Swiss (as previously mentioned) and much more like Walt Disney's inspiration for the cottage of the Seven Dwarves.

Photography not permitted inside, but there are four rooms: a tea room, music room and two bedrooms, all beautifully restored.  I particularly liked the hand-painted wallpaper in the tea room, showing scenes of Turkish life - probably about as true to life as this 'rustic' cottage.

But the cottage - for all its artful 'artlessness' (they went out of their way to make all the windows crooked, for example!) - is charming.   On a sunny Autumn afternoon it seemed like the fairy cottage of fondest childhood imagination.

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