The little Jewel in the lady of Limerick’s Crown
“Oh Sweet Adare, oh lovely vale, oh soft retreat of sylvan splendour” Gerald Griffin 1803-1840
Long regarded as one of Ireland’s prettiest villages – Adare or Ath Dara (the ford of the oak) in Irish is situated on the River Meague, a tributary of The Shannon. Dating from the time of the Norman Conquest its been home to the Earls of Dunraven (Quin Family) for over three centuries. Beautiful, unique thatched cottages line its broad street interspersed with ruins and buildings with local stonework.
Adare is an extremely historical town and was the site of many rebellions – for more on the history take a look at the villages website
Although Adare is a small village there is plenty to do here! For starters there are four historical places to visit.
Desmond Castle dating from the 13th century is a fortified castle one of the few remaining examples of a Norman castle in Europe. Tours run here every day from the Adare Heritage centre and the tour takes approx. one hour after which you get dropped back to the heritage centre (on a side note The Heritage Centre is great – everything you need here, information, shops, restrooms, café/restaurant and an interesting exhibition on Adare – thanks to Sandra at the desk for her help the day I was there!). The Castle tour is very interesting and well worth it. Kids will enjoy it too. There is a recreated door to the castle which has to be opened with a great big key and they love that. Inside you get to walk around and imagine yourself in the great hall at a banquet or in the kitchen cooking or even worse if you’ve done something bad – in the dungeon! Incidentally there was a banquet held in the grounds of the castle very recently to celebrate The Gathering – take a look here
Then there is The Augustinian Friary, The Trinitarian Abbey and the Franciscan Friary. There are many restaurants and cafes and gift shops. If you fancy a little shopping Adare is a little mecca of beautiful boutiques, only wish I’d had more time to go and have a look at them all!
Accommodation wise you have three hotels in Adare – Adare Manor, Dunraven Arms Hotel and Woodlands house hotel and there are also a load of B&B’s too.
For the ultimate in opulence – the 5* Adare Manor is the place to be! Legend has it that in the 1830’s the second Earl of Dunraven was riddled with gout and as a distraction from this took on the job of replacing the house.
The Dunravens intended that visitors would be spellbound by the building and would have to stop and look carefully at the building to see the significance of what they were looking at. The house was constructed in essence as a calendar house in that it has 365 stained windows, and 52 chimneys to signify the days and weeks of the year. During the construction many local workers (for whom the thatched cottages were built by their employer) found work in the Manor and thus were saved from the ravages of the famine that was occurring in that period. There is a huge gothic influence inside with many gargoyles about! I think they succeeded, as the buiding takes your breath away once you get to the top of the long drive and lay eyes on it!
The Manor is vast in every way. The grounds are beautifully manicured with beautiful gardens including a walled garden. There is an 18 hole golf course set in wonderful scenery with tree lined fairways and challenging greens. For some pampering you must go to the beautiful Lavendar Cottage and take some time out for a luxurious Darphin treatment.
In addition the Manor can arrange many more activities such as Falcony. Horse-riding and fishing to name but a few. If you like they will also prepare a picnic basket for you to bring with you as you explore the grounds. Newly added is their Fairy trail for the kiddies – something sure to keep them busy for a little bit as they follow the trail and try to find the fairies houses. There is easy access from the village to the Manor, the concierge will drop you down to the gate if you wish and then coming back you have a code to get into the grounds and then either walk back or call the front desk and they’ll pick you up!I stayed in a State room in the Manor which was a treat. The room was really big with dark luxurious wooden fixtures on the bed, dressing table and probably THE biggest bathroom that I have ever seen! I think it might be bigger than my apartments living area. After attending a Garden party at the Manor, a walk down the down and dinner in 1826 Adare, I had a great sleep. It was so blissfully quiet, a total change to my Dublin apartment!
For dinner in the Manor you have many options including the beautiful romantic Oak room (I recently had clients from the USA there and at dinner in the Oak room, a wedding proposal was made!), the more informal bistro type Carraige Room and should you feel like a more private meal there is the option for inroom dining too.
Breakfast in the Oak Room was a lavish affair too with a wide selection to choose from. I opted for the pancakes, an occasional treat I allow myself when staying in hotels.
All in all a true 5* experience in Adare Manor!
On this particular occassion, I walked down to the village and I ate in 1826 Adare. Owned by Chef Wade Murphy and his wife Elaine, its only just been open a few months and already has a great reputation. I’d eaten in the previous hotel Wade worked at and attended a Seven course tasting menu he did for an event there and was really impressed. 1826 prides itself on quality Irish food and is a modern but casual dining Irish experience.
I had a beautiful Crab starter with a tomato gazpacho and the Cod for main course. The cod was so tasty and Wade explained to me that he salts it for about an hour or so to take out the moisture and it holds its shape really well which I had noticed when it was served to me….thought that I was done after that but saw that there was a sticky toffee pudding on the desserts menu and its one of my favourites. This is Wades Grannies recipe and definitely one of the best I’d tasted!
4* Luxury with old world charm is an apt description for The Dunraven Arms hotel part of the Manor House Hotel Group . With a prominent position in Adare Village you can’t help but notice this quaint hotel. With its lovely gardens and Ivy clad walls it’s just asking you to come in and have a look. From the moment you walk in the door you feel welcome and relaxed and in a strange way at home! Originally a coaching inn on the estate of the Earl of Dunraven the hotel now boasts 86 bedrooms, The Hunters bar, The Maigue Restaurant, and a separate conference centre and health and leisure facilities.
Family owned and run by Hugh and Louis Murphy the hotel is one of Ireland’s best loved country houses.
The luxurious bedrooms are individually styled with period fabrics and furnishings- the 6 suites and 24 junior suites also boast authentic antique four poster and canopied beds. With the suites having a separate living area you really get the feeling of being at home. The award winning Maigue restaurant has a wide ranging menu with a focus on the Irish classics with a modern twist. They are well known and indeed famous for their roast beef and baked Limerick Ham carved from the trolley and have won all Ireland best breakfast awards.
The health and leisure centre has a 17m swimming pool, Jacuzzi, sauna and gym and provides classes such as Yoga and aqua aerobics. Guests may also partake in bit of pampering with an in-house specialist in The Beauty Rooms.
The owners are keen horsemen and can arrange hunting, cross country riding or racing at Limerick Racecourse for guests.
Of course you can also just sit back and relax and enjoy! Definitely one I want to go back to!
I’d been in Fitzgerald’s Woodlands house before but quite a few years ago. I’d had a great time then and always had a nice memory of the hotel and in particular how friendly and welcome everyone in the hotel was. I’m happy to say that nothing has changed!
Celebrating 30 years in business this year this family owned hotel run by Mary, David and Elaina Fitzgerald is the epitome of an Irish family hotel and is a member of Irish Country Hotels
Having the opportunity to go back and stay in the hotel I jumped at the chance. They’d made some changes in the intervening years and I was interested to see what they’d done. There is a big open lobby space which has changed a lot since I was there last and now has a lovely new colour scheme. Fitzy’s bar has also changed but retains the local, warm, welcoming feel and has a mix of tourists and locals as their customers.
The hotel is in the process of upgrading rooms and already has a good number of them done. I loved the colour scheme in the room that I was allocated. Their rooms are really big and if you are bringing kids, they have suites with double room and a room with twin beds as part of the room. The rooms were really bright with lots of sunlight streaming in.
And so to Timmy Macs, their bistro style restaurant. It’s even better now. With a lighter colour scheme than before it’s much fresher and is open practically all day it seems. Its super child friendly too so if you’re bringing kids here you can totally relax. We ate lunch here – one thing I’d forgotten was the portions in this place have always been big!! They now also have an outdoor seating area which was well in use the day I was there as it was a rare hot summer Irish day.
After our refreshments we returned to our room to prepare for our trip to the Reva’s Spa for our Rasul Mud treatment. The spa wasn’t there the last time I was in the hotel so I really wanted to see this. After changing into our robes and slippers which were thoughtfully left in our room we went down to the spa. All I could think was Wow! It’s huge! I didn’t expect it to be quite so big. The staff in the spa, like the hotel staff are extremely welcoming and attentive. Michelle brought us into the Rasul Mud chamber and explained to us the process.
We were left then as we prepared ourselves with scrubs (a heavenly chocolate orange one that smelled good enough to eat!) and then a chocolate mud scrub. Suitably relaxed after this experience we were escorted to the thermal suite which comprised Sauna, steam room, foot salt scrub, and exotic shower experiences. There was also an outdoor hot tub which we did partake in and it was a pleasure to do so outdoors on a hot day. Felt like I was in a different country. We also lay in the relaxation area outdoors and enjoyed our smoothie and fruit skewers. A totally and utterly relaxing experience and one I would recommend you treat yourself to if staying in the hotel.
Although I wanted to go and sleep after the experience, I resisted the temptation and went back to the room and prepared for dinner. Fielding’s of Adare is a new addition to the hotel, a cool quiet and intimate dining space in which to enjoy the best of local Limerick produce.
With a philosophy of working with seasonal ingredients the menu offers a wide choice to suit all tastes.
Being just a tad obsessed with Crab at the moment I went for another crab starter as did my friend – this time crab mousse wrapped with smoked salmon and served on a bed of leaves. I again went for fish and had the Hake while my friend went for the chicken rolls with Asparagus. We both went for the warm chocolate cake with ice cream for dessert and it was soft and light and delicious. Service was fantastic and quick and I should say the breads that they serve while waiting on your starter to arrive were particularly good! A fabulous addition to the hotel offering guests now the option of a more formal dining experience.
Breakfast on Sunday was in Timmy Macs and while I have to admit I’m not much of a breakfast person – I did appreciate the amount of food on offer. I don’t really do the “ full Irish” ever but there was a great selection of cereals, fruits, breads, hot food and if you liked poached eggs, kippers etc. on request.
Fed and watered we reluctantly left and headed down to the village before continuing on to Dublin. I can’t wait to go back to Woodlands House!
Adare is a little Irish treausre – definitely put it on your list as a must see place!
My thanks to all the hotels involved for their assistance with this blog. I was a guest of both Adare Manor and Fitzgeralds Woodlands House Hotel. All of these hotels can be booked as part of any tour available on http://www.authenticireland.com