Confession: I’ve seen Shrek with my boys at least half a dozen times, bought them every Harry Potter book in the series, and, if I had a daughter, would relish the chance to dress her as princess on Halloween. But let’s be honest, many of us had a fascination with fairy tales or an imagination that transported us back to the Middle Ages when we were younger. So, after spending a hectic week running around London with my family at the Olympics this summer, I decided to book a four-day stopover in Ireland in the hopes that I could recapture some of the magical innocence of childhood while exposing my kids to a country steeped in both history and folklore.
Anyone who has ever dreamed of being a fairy princess or medieval knight can have this fantasy come to life by staying in a genuine Irish castle. After spending a couple of nights at Dromoland Castle (a Preferred Family Hotel), we made our way to the nearby Adare Manor for another taste of Irish luxury.
Located on the banks of the River Maigue in the charming village of Adare, this architectural scheme of towers, turrets, and stonework ornamentation dates back to the mid 19th century when the Earl of Dunraven commissioned it built.
Though it was made into a luxury resort in the 1980s, the house’s grandiosity and Gothic style remain largely intact. And its gardens, majestic landscaping, and the 13th-century ruins that surround the estate are just equally magnificent.
While the kids were kept busy cruising the grounds on bicycles, I ventured out to play one of the finer golf courses in Ireland. Designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. (the last of his legendary career), Adare Manor’s 18-hole championship course was ranked the “No. 1 Parkland Course in Ireland” by Golf Digest Ireland, and I immediately saw why. Even though my score wasn’t memorable, I didn’t much care. The setting was spectacular enough.
Archery, clay pigeon shooting, fishing, horseback riding, and falconry were also offered, so the kids never got bored. The only thing they complained about was not having enough time to try everything on offer. Hey, I thought we came here to relax, guys!
One of Adare Manor’s biggest selling points is its proximity to Shannon Airport. But even though it might not be a necessity, I would highly recommend renting a car, because driving in Ireland is an experience in its own right.
If you’ve never driven on the left-hand side of the road, you’re in for some fun. Their two-way streets are about as wide as single lane roads in the U.S., so there might be a few white-knuckle moments. The good news is that there’s relatively little traffic outside the major cities, so once you get the roundabouts down (stay left!), you’ll be ready to do some exploring.
If you have kids, I suggest making a side trip to the picturesque village of Bunratty and its renowned castle and folk park on the River Shannon just a few miles south of Dromoland Castle. Although a bit touristy, this fully restored Irish tower house retains many of the furnishings that belonged to the family who occupied the castle in the 15th and 16th centuries and is well worth a visit.
Follow Rainer’s story on Twitter at @JenssTravel.