Orbiting Dicta

Category Archives: My Ireland

My Ireland – Dragonthorn

Dragonthorn is the name of a 180-year-old cottage in Co. Wicklow, Ireland, where I retreat when I can in order to reflect, write, and unwind in a quiet, pastoral setting. Located a few miles west of the ancient fishing town of Arklow, this “home away from home” is near the Vale of Avoca [also known now as Ballykissangel!]- close to the Meeting of the Waters — the Avonmore and Avonbeg Rivers immortalized in the poetry of Thomas Moore; Avondale — the stately home of Charles Stewart Parnell; and about 20 miles from Glendalough — the exquisitely beautiful site of the Celtic monastery founded by St. Kevin in the seventh century.

Originally, the cottage was one of the farm buildings of Shelton Abbey, the manorial estate of the Earl of Wicklow. It was used for storing potatoes and equipment and also provided a haven for the farm hands’ afternoon tea. After the death of the last Earl in the mid-1950s, the farm came under government ownership and the old buildings were used for equipment storage by the Forestry Service.  The barns and cottage were eventually put up for sale and were purchased by my friend the late Anne McCaffrey for development as a school for aspiring blacksmiths or farriers, as they are called in Ireland. Anne offered me the opportunity to redesign the cottage as a writer’s retreat. The name was the result of creative collaboration with my friends, the writer Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, and Mantas Adoménas, then a student of mine at Oxford from Lithuania. DRAGON linked it to Dragonhold Underhill, formerly Anne’s house near Newcastle, and the THORN to the brambles and briars that had grown up around the cottage in the years it stood idle. And still do!

Stop by for a cup of tea if you are in the area. For directions, drop me a note at my e-mail address –rjwoodsop@cs.com . Cead Mile Failte!