It’s time to bid farewell to Dublin. When I arrived I didn’t think it would be this hard but now, after staying for two extra nights in order to take it all in – also because of the whole not being able to find a place to stay in Kilkenny – I have a little tear in my eye as I catch my early morning taxi to the train station. I’m traveling from Dublin to Limerick by train and will then switch over to a bus to travel about twenty-five minutes to Adare, a small village southwest of Limerick. Why Adare? You may remember Siobáhn and her daughters, Aibha and Aisling from the story On a Wing and a Prayer and, of course, who could forget Siobáhn’s father Peadar from Guinness is Good For You. Well, you know how I keep talking about the incredible Irish hospitality? Yup, you guessed it, Peadar and his wife Áine have invited me to stay with them for the night before I have to the fly out of Shannon to head home.
After waiting at the Limerick bus/train station (sure feels like home now) I board the bus to Adare. Twenty-five minutes later, as the bus approaches Adare, we pass a series of thatched roof cottages which not only make me think of Robin Hood riding through Sherwood Forest, but also remind me of my trip bike riding through the New Forest in England (interested? You can read about it in Over the River and To the Pub). A few minutes later, I step off the bus and meet up with Peadar. In the car are my two favorite Irish-American girls Aibha and Aisling. We hop in the car for the short drive to Peadar and Áine’s house with Peadar pointing out historical sites along the way and the girl’s excitedly telling me about their time in Ireland from the back seat. It’s a balance between trying to be polite and participating in a conversation with Peadar, and listening to the girls excitedly tell me about their new cousin and the candy they’ve been eating (really? They’ve had sugar? Couldn’t tell).
We arrive at the house and I meet Áine and catch up with Siobáhn before the girls show me to the room I’ll be staying in. Aisling goes over to the dresser and points to her mom’s necklace and instructs me, “Don’t touch it because you shouldn’t touch things that don’t belong to you.” Something tells me this little one was scolded for, perhaps, touching things that didn’t belong to her.
I head downstairs and we gather around the kitchen table where we have some coffee and cookies before heading out to take a walking tour around Adare. A medieval town, Adare is now designated as a Heritage Town which, besides the thatched-roof restaurants and shops, and the beautifully landscaped quaint village feel, houses three abbey’s, a castle and a manor house(and yet not one Walmart!). We pass the picturesque town park, which looks as if it comes directly out of a storybook, and walk to Holy Trinity Abbey Church which was founded around 1230 and was the only Trinitarian Abbey in Ireland. The Trinitarians collected money with which to pay the ransoms of pilgrims and crusaders who had been captured in Jerusalem, or on their way there. While it changed hands many times through the years, it’s currently an active Catholic parish. I’m once again struck by the beauty of incredible stained glass windows.
Next, we move on to the Augustinian Friary. Founded in 1316 it was known as the Black Abbey after the black habits worn by the Augustinian Friars. Due to the Tudor suppression of Irish monasteries at the end of the 16th century, the Augustinians were driven out of Adare. Today it’s part of the Anglican Church of Ireland and also houses a school.
We don’t quite make it to the last of the three abbeys built in Adare which is the Franciscan Abbey. It was built in 1464 and is now in ruins. While the ruins are apparently well-kept, they’re ruins nonetheless. Known as the “Poor Monastery” because the Franciscans were an order of mendicant friars which meant they were dependent on people to give them alms. Ironically, these ruins are located on the grounds of Adare Manor Golf Club (alms for 18 holes now).
We take a few minutes to look upriver at Desmond Castle, which was built by the Fitzgerald family around 1215. It’s an important location as the monasteries grew up around the castles until they were all suppressed on the orders of King Henry VIII of England (you’ve heard of him). As you can only enter the castle through taking a coach (bus) tour arranged through the Heritage Center, we choose to move on.
Now that we’ve finished our historical tour of Adare’s religious sites, we wander through the grounds of Adare Manor Castle and Golf Resort. Built in the mid-1800’s, this neo-gothic manor was the dream of the 2nd Earl of Dunraven and his wife, Lady Caroline. After gout, a terribly painful ailment of the time, began afflicting the Earl and forced him indoors, Lady Caroline encouraged him to immerse himself in the building and decoration of the castle-like mansion (perhaps she was a fan of HGTV – Castle Hunters International). It’s my kind of house with 365 stained glass windows (yup, one for every day of the year) and 52 chimneys (hmmm, one for every week in the year). Yes, if you look hard enough there are architectural references to the twelve months of the year and seven days of the week (it’s sort of like the famous Hidden Mickeys at Disneyland).
After enjoy the beautiful day with a drink on the patio of the Carriage House Bar, I stop by the restroom and, when I come out, Peadar introduces me to Albert, the Head Concierge/Guest Service’s Manager who he happened to meet while I was taking care of business. Albert is kind enough to give us a short tour of the main manor building. We walk through the 132 foot-long Minstrels’ Gallery, where many weddings are held and which includes some 17th century choir stalls. It feels like the location of a royal or state dinner.
We head down to the Oakroom Restaurant where guests choose from a full menu, or eight course tasting menu, with a choice of 300 wines, served in a beautiful atmosphere lit only by candlelight. Finally, we take a peek in the Drawing Room where they’re serving afternoon tea, an Irish tradition. Patrick lets us know that they host countless weddings and corporate meetings and you can book your room online (I think Lady Caroline would appreciate the free Wifi). We thank Albert, head outside, pass by the pet cemetery (yup, that’s what I said) on our way back to the house.
We arrive back at the house where Áine has prepared a lovely meal of beef, vegetables and some amazing roasted potatoes (seriously, the Irish know how to do potatoes). We relax while Peadar tells me stories of Irish history, particularly Adare history (he knows a lot about this) and soon enough, out comes the whisky (yup, it’s not just potatoes the Irish know). Before long, Aisling comes in and hands us each an invitation to a piano concert. It seems she and Aibha are budding pianists, or simply performers, as neither one has yet to take a piano lesson. After a bit more chatting, we head into the sitting room where we’re individually seated in assigned seats. We hear some “freestyle” songs as well as one fairly recognizable Doe a Dear. Peadar pours a bit more whisky and before long, after a lovely family evening at home, it’s bed-time.
Tomorrow – The long, and I mean really long, journey home.