A Sublime First Night Near Shannon
By Patricia Keegan
Built in the style of a Gothic castle and endowed with the traditional warmth of Irish congeniality, the Adare Manor Hotel and Golf Resort steps back in time to a more gracious and hospitable era. Close to Shannon Airport, this is the ideal first stop on a tour of Ireland’s southwest counties. Flights from the US arrive at Shannon from 6 to 7am. For visitors to Ireland, this can be difficult -- facing the challenge of driving on the left when tired, and staying alert on the antiquated, sometimes poorly directed,roundabouts. The Adare Manor offers a grand welcome within a reasonable distance. A stay at Adare ensures the perfect introduction to an enjoyable sojourn in Ireland.
Entering through the ornate black and gold gates, we stopped at the gatehouse security check, then drove down the long avenue through beautiful grounds toward the towering manor. Set on 840 lush acres, it appeared like a beautiful mirage, a castle in the distance. At the entrance we were greeted byBernard, the smiling doorman in tall hat and tails. It was then we crossed the threshold of Irish hospitality, and entered one of the country’s most gracious, historic settings. The structure was initiated in 1832 by the Second Earl of Dunraven and his wife Lady Caroline Wyndham. During the years of construction, Ireland was struck by the potato famine which devastated the population. Adare Manor bacame the primary source of employment for the villagers of Adare.
There are 52 chimneys, 75 fireplaces, and 365 leaded glass windows in the original residence. Entering the grand foyer, we could feel the flames of Irish charm radiating from a warm fire, and welcoming smiles soon wrapped us in a soothing blanket of tranquillity. The no hassle check-in added to the smoothness of the manor’s high standard of guest protocol.
Our “stateroom” was palatial, with five casement windows overlooking gardens and the swiftly flowing river Muragh, a tributary of the Shannon. The room was elegantly decorated with rich wood furnishings and exquisite fabrics designed by world-renowned Carlton Varney. All rooms have luxurious marble bathrooms with double sinks and an abundance of fluffy towels. Looking out the window on a dull November day, I saw a white swan, still as a statue, lost in contemplation, under a wooden bridge. The grass on the banks of the river was such a deep green, it stirred the imagination by seeming to hold the history of Ireland in each strong blade. The trees were shedding their last autumn leaves. A graceful maple tree has dropped red, yellow and orange leaves in a perfect circle around its trunk, and the river was close enough to see a sprinkling of leaves being carried lightly off on its surface. This peaceful setting was conducive to a rapid decline in jet lag.
Settling into this castle-like atmosphere was easy. A November walk in the formal gardens and along the river gave us a chance to inhale the freshness of the countryside. There are a wide variety of indoor and outdoor activities available for guests, from salmon fishing, to spa treatments, to a workout in the beautiful indoor swimming pool and fitness center. The estate also has the finest in facilities and professional instruction at the Equestrian Center. After an hour of horseback riding at the Equestrian center a visit to the spa for a massage can be very rewarding.
Although we didn’t play golf, Adare is renowned for its majestic, parkland golf course. The Adare course opened in 1995 and was designed and built by Robert Trent Jones Jr. It stretches 7,138 yards from championship tees down to 5,082 yards (incorporating 4 tees per hole). A 14-acre lake dominates the front nine holes, while the back holes are routed through wooded land. The river Maigue meanders through the course. As a 5-star, championship golf course, open year round, it has rapidly become known as one of the very finest in all Ireland, while retaining a customer friendly golf experience.
A tour inside the manor leads to surprising discoveries. At one point we found ourselves in the Minstrel’s Gallery, 132 ft, long and 26 ft. high. Walls are lined on both sides with Flemish Choir Stalls. This beautiful hall of mirrors was clearly inspired by the Palace of Versailles. One can only imagine how glorious the occassional luxury wedding appears in this grand ambience.
Dining at Adare Manor’s castle-like atmosphere surrounded by candlelight, arches and soaring ceilings is a memorable experience. Dinners are long and leisurely, the service is excellent, and the Irish and Continental dishes expertly prepared and presented.
Since location is considered everything when traveling, an added attraction at Adare Manor is its setting in the heart of charming Adare village with its variety of boutiques, restaurants and souvenir shops, many in original thatched-roof cottages, all restored to absolute, traditional standards.
In short, we haven't found anything to match the Adare Manor as the ideal first stop on a trip south to the Ring of Kerry and the southern reaches of Ireland’s most spectacular landscape. We were tempted to relax here much longer, next time we will!.
For more information and Special Package deals visit AdareManor.com or call 800-462-3273.