There’s Luxury Living on the Emerald Isle

By Carleton Varney


Ballybunion Golf Course

Ireland – in all counties of the country – is a picture postcard: green fields, cows, houses, flower gardens, mountains, lakes, golf resorts, beachside pubs and cities with lyrical music.  It’s the country where you can see the Book of Kells, where you can attend a medieval banquet at Bunratty Castle that was built by the Vikings in 1425. Yes, there is much to love and learn about Ireland, so if you are planning a trip to Europe, don’t just stop off on the Emerald Isle, stay for a week or a month for a vacation of sunshine, rain and rainbows.  This past summer found me at my home in County Limerick, enjoying all the magical sunshine –  and don’t think I’m “fibbin” – Ireland’s summer and fall have been sunshine filled.


Bunratty Castle

If you are a golfer, there are so many courses to play – Ballybunion being one of the most frequented by the golfing set.  Of course, there is the “K” Club course in County Kildare, where the very popular “K” Club resort/hotel is located.  If you follow star ratings – the “K” Club has many.  In today’s world, I forget the stars and diamond reviews, preferring to check the Internet and read guest comments.

The Land of Limerick
The Irish city of Limerick is this year’s Culture City, so do visit and see the multitude of events happening here.  The Hunt Museum, right on the river, offers special shows and presentations.  I am a fan of the artist Roderic O’Connor whose work is strong, colorful and dramatic.

PLP1795At Limerick, don’t miss a dinner at the Locke Bar, right on the quay.  The owners, Jacqueline Costello and her son Richard, an all-Ireland rugby star,  offer Dublin Bay prawns, fresh wild salmon, grilled filet of sole, as well as my favorite Irish delights – succulent lamb and pork dishes and, of course, the daily made chowders and the dark brown breads that are Irish “cannot be copied” cuisine.

Go brown bread, with creamy butter when you are in Erin. This coming holiday season, everyone has a different brown bread recipe, some with nuts and an unusual mix of natural grains.  The Locke Bar is perhaps one of Limerick’s, and the country’s, best known gourmet pubs – having received many awards each year.


The Locke Bar

Maureen O’Hara

Maureen O’Hara

On Route to Foynes
From Limerick, on route to Foynes, stop by the roadside pub – The Coach House in Kilcornan. At Foynes, the actress Maureen O’Hara has created a museum in honor of her husband, Charlie Blair, who made one of the first ‘across the Atlantic’ crossings on an air boat plane.  At the Foynes Flying Boat Museum, you can walk through the flying boat plane where Cary Grant traveled. After museum sightseeing, stop at the Coach Inn, operated by Maureen Delany and her daughter Ann.  You’ll enjoy the collection of paintings by Irish painters.

Lodging in Ireland
The Limerick hotels are many. Allow me to guide you through my favorites.
Dunraven Arms
Main St, Adare, Co. Limerick, Ireland
TEL: +353 61 605 900
If you prefer a nearby inn, stay at the Dunraven Arms, owned and operated by the Murphy brothers. Named
after the original owners, Lord and Lady Dunraven, the Dunraven Arms hosts many parties and has a great dining room and bar menu where Guinness (that dark brew) is always
filling the pints.  I enjoy, on a cold evening, a taste of the toddy Jameson Irish Whiskey with water, a spoonful of sugar, cloves and a twist or two of lemon.  One sure way to get rid of a cold!  Imagine yourself in Ireland this winter, sitting by the open fire, sipping on an Irish toddy – but only Jameson please.

Dromoland Castle
Dromoland, Newmarket-on-Fergus, Co. Clare, Ireland
TEL: +353 61 368 144
While castle hotels are considered somewhat passé (too many of them), I do recommend a stay at Dromoland Castle in County Clare, once the home of the Royal O’Brien clan.  The castle is Victorian and built in the 1800s. The current Lord Inchiquin has removed the family portraits, but a stop there for lunch is a charming idea.  While there, you’ll want to venture to the Cliffs of Moher.  A must-must is a ride through the Burren, the rocky rock filled terrain, right at the Atlantic seashore where small pretty flowers grow right amongst the rocks.

Cashel House
Cashel, Connemara, Co. Galway, Ireland
TEL: +353 95 31001
My very favorite place in Ireland is Cashel House in Connemara, where the landscape is  lakes, and mountains and a vision of restful people – joyous for the life that God has given.

Ballyfin Demesne
Ballyfin,  Co. Laois, Ireland
Tel: 011-353-57-875-5866
Ballyfin is somewhat like a touch of the past. You might even think the staff at Downton Abbey is attending to your every wish. A 15-bedroom manor house in County Laois, Ballyfin Demesne is owned by Palm Beacher and Chicago industrialist Frederick Krehbiel and his wife, Kay. This past summer, Kay and I chatted at a luncheon given by the fashion designer Michelina Stacpoole of County Limerick.  The Krehbiels purchased Ballyfin, an hour and a half drive from Shannon Airport, some 12 years ago and reportedly spent $20 million restoring the dilapidated 600-acre estate. A single room is 580 euros, or $777 dollars, meals included – and you will understand why once you have passed through the hotel’s elaborate metal gates.  The estate has a family chapel, as well as a lake and a neo-classical great house. The house was built in 1820 by the aristocrat Coote family.  You’ll find everything of top order – service, food, and décor. You’ll even find your private workout room, near the indoor pool and a massage with a cup of peppermint tea.

Ballymaloe Country House
Shangarry, Co. Cork
Tel: 011-353-21-465-2531
Ballymaloe Country House in County Cork is where you can live on a 100-acre organic farm and dine in a gourmet dining room that is chef’d and served by students at the Ballymaloe Cooking School.  There are three generations of the Allen family who
operate this delightful adventure.  The well-known Darina Allen and her daughter-in-law and granddaughter-in-law have continued presenting dishes that attract the cognoscenti of the cooking world. This is a farm-to-table experience and one not to be missed. Try savory cabbage and a crackling pork dish or some seaweed creamy pudding – all delightful.  You can find a room for under 200 euros a night and enjoy the charmingly decorated rooms – the outdoor swimming pool and a shop filled with Ballymaloe goodies.

Mustard Seed Hotel
Ballingarry, Co. Limerick
Tel:  011-353-69-68508
A short distance from Adare, home of the thatch cottages, you’ll find the village of Ballingarry and the hotel – The Mustard Seed.  Remembering the Biblical words:  ”If ye have faith as strong as a grain of mustard seed, nothing shall be impossible unto thee!” This Biblical sentence holds true for Dan Mulane’s charming inn hotel, which he invented and saw come to life, some 20, or more, years back. Everyone who visits the Adare region looking for a beautiful garden,  country style guest rooms and Irish country house style, will love Dan’s hospitality. I have known Dan Mulane for many years, and when I was designing the interior for Adare Manor, I often spent an evening at Dan’s gourmet dining restaurant in the village, appropriately called “The Mustard Seed.”  Dan’s cuisine was featured on the Aer Lingus First Class menu – so Irish prawns and Irish cheeses were always readily available in flight.

The story of Ireland today is definitely the west, where people go for the luxury of life today–ease, quiet and friendly faces with friendly greetings. Travel to and through Shannon Airport, an airport that is still easy to enter, and easy to leave, and best of all, travelers clear customs in Shannon, before returning to America – no long lines to think about when arriving to your American destination.

Oh, there is such luxury – simple though it might be – in Ireland. Come and enjoy a  grand stay.

Arthur Guinness:
The Stout Poured ‘Round the World

Arthur-Guinness Stout beer enthusiasts around the world drink more than 10 million glasses of Guinness Draught every day.  Have you ever wondered where that dark creamy Irish stout got its start?  I’ll never forget the story told by the tour guide at Guinness Brewery on St. Patrick’s Day three years ago.  The tale goes that back in the mid 18th century Dublin, at the St. James’ Gate Guinness Brewery, two brewery workers were roasting grain for the day’s batch.  However, they broke a cardinal rule of brewing and enjoyed a few too many.  When the pair sobered up, they realized they had overcooked the grain, and fear for their job securities set in. They faced a choice of using the overly-roasted malt or telling their boss, brewery founder Arthur Guinness, about the mistake and taking the consequences. They went with the former.  What was the worst case scenario? They’d still lose their jobs either way.  So, they used the very dark malted barley in the brew.

Did the Risk Pay Off?
By the time that batch had made it into the hands of the public, the workers had nearly forgotten about the incident.  Mr. Guinness stormed into the brewery and pulled them aside.  He demanded answers.  What was this beer? This dark stout was unlike anything he had ever tried.  The workers thought surely their termination day had come. Little did they know the boss and the public loved the unexpected brew. They had stumbled upon a fluke that would eventually help Arthur Guinness drastically change Dublin, and, ultimately, the world.

guiness-glassIt was in 1759 when Arthur founded the Guinness brewery by signing a particularly massive lease – one that gave him rights to the St. James’ Gate property for 9,000 years! But, he never would have had the opportunity to purchase his brewery at all had he been born Roman Catholic.  It is important to understand the religious influences in Arthur Guinness’ life that shaped the way he built his legacy.  When Arthur moved to Dublin, he was Protestant, as was the ruling class of Ireland.  Even though Roman Catholics made up the majority of the country, they only owned a very small amount of land. They were the majority, but they were the shunned, as well.  It became clear to Arthur that the injustice being dealt to the Catholic people of Ireland was not acceptable.  As Mr. Guinness’ empire grew, so did his passion for helping his fellow man and fighting for equality.

Manning the Politics
Arthur Guinness made many important decisions in the rise of his brewery – such as making Guinness the official beer of Dublin Castle, where all Dublin’s politics were held.  Another huge decision was marrying the very lovely and very wealthy Olivia Whitmore.  Olivia was stunningly beautiful, and the two shared a long, loving relationship.  The Whitmore’s massive dowry and connections to high-society in Dublin were also excellent perks enjoyed by Guinness.  By 1781, Olivia had given Arthur 10 children, four boys and six girls.  She built a dynasty of heirs for Arthur’s legacy. Arthur Guinness founded the first Sunday schools in Ireland, fought against dueling and violence, and chaired the board of a hospital for the poor.  He gave returning WWII British soldiers a pint of stout with their Christmas feasts in December 1939.  He gifted the St. Patrick’s
Cathedral to the city of Dublin, along with many other landmarks.  Arthur Guinness built a beacon of compassion and community in the heart of Dublin, and his legacy lives on to this day. Thanks to Arthur’s legacy, Guinness became the largest brewery in Ireland in 1838 – and the largest in the world just six years later. Today, it remains the largest stout brewery on
the planet.

So the next time you order up a pint of Guinness Draughts, have a toast to Arthur and his two absentminded brewers whose debacled recipe resides in your glass. Cheers!


There’s Luxury Living on the Emerald Isle