Hiking Connemara

A short drive from our home is the 260+ acres of the Carl Sandburg estate called Connemara, in Flat Rock.  He purchased the home in 1945, and continued to write and publish here until his death in 1967, producing almost a third of his life’s work in that time.  His wife raised goats, and they still are raised on the property today.  After his death, his wife sold the property to the government to be turned into a national park.  She also donated all the furnishings and goats so the estate could continue as a historic working farm.  It was designated a national landmark in 1968, and opened to the public in 1974.  When you enter the estate, you walk down a paved path to the pavilion.

Connemara Hike at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

After reading about Sandburg on the pavilion, a paved path leads up to the house and outbuildings.

Connemara Hike at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

This little ‘tenement house’ was used at different times as a guest house, a studio for Carl’s daughter Helga Sandburg’s painting, and a residence for farm assistants.

Connemara Hike at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

Lillian “Paula” Sandburg, Carl’s wife, was a breeder of champion goats, and continued that program at Connemara.  The large red barns were for the goats, with a smaller one for the baby goats, and a separate one for horses.  Today only goats live here.

Connemara Hike at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

They have a fun program for kids of the human variety.  In March, they let children read books out loud to the goats.  The goats are reportedly a great audience, and the children get valuable reading practice.  That program was suspended this year.

Connemara Hike at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

But the goats still have to be cared for.  They were out in two pastures on the day we were hiking.

Connemara Hike at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

Not sure what was so interesting here, but this little goat was trying to reach the top of the pole.

Connemara Hike at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

On the way back to the house, a full vegetable garden was yielding a wonderful harvest.

Connemara Hike at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

The edges of the gardens were planted with low shrubs full of colorful flowers.

Connemara Hike at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

These are Mexican sunflowers.

Connemara Hike at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

Small scenes like this along the road invite one to stop and observe.  An old gate stands open, inviting you to the other side.  It led to the lawn on back side of the house.

Connemara Hike at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

Low stacked stone walls growing abundant moss give the impression of age.

Connemara Hike at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

The woodshed stored old farm equipment and unused building supplies.

Connemara Hike at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

The property was first called Rock Hill when the house was built in the 1830’s by Christopher Memminger, a Charleston lawyer. Ellison Smyth purchased the property in 1900, doing some remodeling and re-named the property Connemara after the picturesque region in Ireland.  Sandburg liked the name, so he kept it when he bought the house and property in 1945.  Lillian’s dozens of ribbons for her champion goats are displayed inside the house.  The house is currently closed to visitors.  It was restored last year, and had just opened again with the furnishings back in place when it had to take a hiatus form visitors.  We toured the home while that was going on, and were looking forward to seeing it back together.

Connemara Hike at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

On of the neat things most visitors do not know, is that the foundation offers a writer-in-residence program.  For three weeks in April (except not this year) a writer is chosen to live in the house and work on their writing.  Sandburg’s chair sits on a rock bald near the home in a solitary place for use in reflection.  It is getting a bit shabby now, but you can still sit in it if you wish.

Connemara Hike at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

Leading away from the bald are five miles of trails leading up to the top of the mountain, around the forests and back down to the street level.   Most are well maintained dirt trails like this.

Connemara Hike at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

In some steeper areas, rough steps assist in going up or down.

Connemara Hike at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

A few lovely little bridges cross several streams.

Connemara Hike at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

At the bottom of this trail, you can look across the lake to the bridge at the head of the park, just past the pavilion.

Connemara Hike at FromMyCarolinaHome.com

We’ve hiked this area many times, and have enjoyed it every time.  Getting outside in nature is such a restorative thing, a shinrinyoku (forest bath).

Are there historic estates or parks near you to visit?

38 thoughts on “Hiking Connemara

  1. Donna Weeks

    Your post is a refreshing break from daily life. This is a place that I would love to visit, and will add it to my “Places to See” Bucket List.

  2. Nancy Bekedam

    Super fun tour! That’s a lot of rhubarb. I enjoyed your narrative and photos, Carole. Thank you!

  3. Sharon Vrooman

    Oh, I would love to see this. We have the Gilboa Dam project that has a visitor center, trails, and the Lansing Manor. Guilds take turns decorating the house with quilts, wallhangings, penny rugs, etc. for their open house tour. Yes, we had that cancellation as well this year.

  4. Carolyn

    Thanks for sharing your visit! We love this place, the setting, the old house, the books in almost every room , the goats and just the loveliness everywhere. It is so much as it was left that you almost expect the residents to be there, much like at the Thomas Wolfe house in Asheville. We have wanted to return to hike the trails, you are fortunate to be close enough to visit often. Thanks again.

  5. Diann Smith

    Thank you for this informative interesting report on Carl Sandburg.. and the goats for those who can’t travel. I always enjoy your blogs and photos.. a good way to start the day.

  6. karenfae

    what a lovely place! looks like a place I would like to see some day – lucky for whoever gets picked to live there for a little bit and do their writing

  7. Oh, what a treat for our eyes and hearts this morning! Lovely photos and great commentary. This is just the kind of place we love to find on our journeys, rather than the gift shops. Will have to put this on the list for when we can travel again, as our kids have moved to Raleigh and hope to get down to see them when this quarantine is over. Thank you for a delightful post!

  8. Kim J LeMere

    What a wonderful place to see, thanks for taking us along. The goats are so cute and I love the idea that kids read to them.

  9. What a beautiful and interesting place! I can’t think of something near us (in Colorado) like that, but we did enjoy visiting Buffalo Bill’s Historic Ranch and Museum at Christmas one year when we were visiting our son in North Platte, Nebraska. It was decorated for the season by various local groups who each took a room. Lots of older quilts were on display!

  10. I Enjoyed so much your hike. I could have watched the goats for hours. One of my favorite things of raising goats was watching the kids play. Now that I can no longer hike or raise animals your photos mean a lot to me. Thank you.

  11. Brenda @ Songbird Designs

    Beautiful! The way things are being destroyed in our world today, I’m so thankful places such as this are preserved for future generations to visit.

  12. Patricia Evans

    Thanks for the tour. We have a number of historic houses in the area, Granger Homestead and Sonnenberg Gardens in Canandaigua , George Eastman House in Rochester, and for hiking Letchworth State Park (the only historic home in the park is a restaurant). And of course, the Finger Lakes region is filled with historic houses and museums.

  13. Denise Force

    thank you for the visit (this Monday morning),what a lovely way to start my week. Live down the road from Harper’s Ferry..lots of walking trails in the near by hills as well as historic town.

  14. Joan Sheppard

    Thank you – I felt like I was right there. Love that they keep it alive and the little goats are so adorable. Chicago feels like he is our own and it was a surprise to me to realize he lived so far from “The Big Shoulders” both in miles and style.

  15. What a treat to see the many areas of Sandberg’s home. I visited there many years ago, following signs off the highway but I didn’t realize there were paths to hike then. One of my brothers regularly drives to this area to enjoy the area especially the cooler mountain air. (He lives in Upstate SC). I will have to visit again whenever the world allows distance driving that I can return to my beloved Carolinas! In Ohio, there are many locations to hike and enjoy, although I haven’t visited many that are historic estates/parks.

  16. Rita C.

    That’s super nice. At least you’re getting out, even if without a group. We’ve been wanting to head to the New River Gorge to hike, but have hesitated due to limited lunching. It’s a good day trip, and we’ve always enjoyed eating in the town of Fayetteville afterward. I suppose a picnic lunch would do, or possibly ordering curbside there. Hoping the heat calms down to where it’ll soon be a good outing.

    1. Judy G.

      What we do this time of year for lunch, on day trips, is take a loaf of bread, put some mayo in small container in a small ice chest. Get some good home grown tomatoes (be sure to take a small cutting knife) and bingo you have a lunch. We usually take a bag of chips, drinks and if lucky some cookies or brownies for dessert..If your really lucky you may find a small park but we often end up sitting on tail gate. Have even spread quilt on a river bank and after wards took , I didn’t mean to, nap river side.

  17. 230 acres – wow that is a lot of space! Wonderful photos, looks like a wonderful place to wander about. Enjoyed reading this history too! That would be a wonderful place to attend a writer in residence program! I could imagine lots of inspiration on the daily walks about the property!

  18. Brenda Ackerman

    Hello Carole, I am glad you shared your adventure with us! You shared such beautiful pictures and amazing history information. One thing that caught my attention was the choosing of one writer to come and write. Do you know how they choose the individual who gets the honor of doing this? If it was not getting so danged hot here in our area, we are reaching in the high 90’s to low 100’s once again this week, we would go and do something. Yet, even in the mountains it is a miserable temperature. Were there very many other visitors enjoying a day outing in this special place? I am just curious to know if other people are visiting places such as this during this time. Thank you for sharing this special outing you had with us! I want you to know that it helped brighten my day tremendously! Have a spectacular day!

  19. We’ve been to Connemara twice, once while the house was undergoing maintenance. Not everything was back in place the second time we went. We enjoyed the house and grounds both times.

  20. kathyinozarks

    I really enjoyed learning about this estate-that was wonderful they donated it for the park. the writer in residence program is a wonderful feature. when we were younger we had a mini farm and raised goats-the goat is probably reaching up on his hind legs to eat foilage from trees or shrubs.
    that is really special the children reading to the goats

  21. We have a lot of great parks and a University-owned arboretum and Botanical Gardens to visit. i believe they are open in a correct way for distancing. There also is a river running through town; we canoed on it last week. Also many good sized parks with trails. It’s a great area to be outside!

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