IRE­LAND: Fair­ways and Cas­tles on the Emer­ald Isle

Golf and cas­tles on the Emer­ald Isle

DINE and Destinations - - CONTENTS - By Toby Saltz­man

it’s well known that Ire­land is a golfer’s dream. Some yearn to stroll the leg­endary “Royal” fair­ways: Royal Portrush, Royal County Down and Royal Belfast, Ire­land’s old­est course. Com­pet­i­tive types long to test their met­tle on the cham­pi­onship holes of Bally­bunion, Port­marnock or the K-club, host of the 2006 Ry­der Cup, or Killeen, host of the 2011 Sol­heim Cup. As an avid golfer who ad­mit­tedly en­joys lux­u­ri­ous sur­rounds and culi­nary de­lights, I yearned for an escapade that would min­gle the game with in­dul­gence in some of Ire­land’s cas­tle ho­tels. Liv­ing like roy­alty came easy at three, fives­tar favourites: Dro­moland Cas­tle, Ash­ford Cas­tle and Adare Manor & Golf Re­sort. For all their ven­er­a­ble stature, each fea­tures sig­na­ture restau­rants renowned for su­perb cui­sine, a chal­leng­ing park­land course, plus myr­iad ac­tiv­i­ties that in­clude full ser­vice spas, eques­trian and archery train­ing, fal­conry, skeet shoot­ing, and fish­ing and fly-fish­ing with lo­cal ghillies or guides.

The first glimpse of Dro­moland Cas­tle takes your breath away. The epit­ome of fairy­tale en­chant­ment, the 16th cen­tury Re­nais­sance struc­ture—the an­ces­tral home of the O’brien fam­ily that once ruled southern Ire­land—holds court over a 410-acre es­tate in County Clare. Dro­moland Golf Course has hosted in­ter­na­tional Heads of State as well the globe’s great golfers. The 18-hole, 6,824-yard park­land course is a scenic splen­dour. Orig­i­nally de­signed by U.S. golf ar­chi­tect Brook L. Wig­gin­ton, and re­cently re­designed by Ron Kirby and Ire­land’s J.B. Carr, it me­an­ders through rolling hills and woods thick with an­cient trees, along­side lakes and across rocky streams. Tee­ing off from the lofty plateau at the sig­na­ture 7th de­mands a tar­get shot to a tiny green pro­tected by wa­ter and a sham­rock-shaped bunker. The 9th lures long hit­ters with a 280-yard carry to the green. Never mind if your shot goes astray: Guin­ness waits in the bar. Set on an ex­quis­ite

350-acre es­tate over­look­ing the blue wa­ters of Lough Cor­rib in County Mayo, Ash­ford Cas­tle may be Ire­land’s old­est—circa 1228—but it has the new­est ap­peal, hav­ing just re­opened in May 2015 af­ter an ex­ten­sive, two-year ren­o­va­tion that in­cluded re­vamped rooms, a new spa and in­door swim­ming pool. Ro­man­tic from its stony ex­te­rior to lav­ish interiors, Ash­ford has for cen­turies at­tracted celebri­ties: Sir Ben­jamin Lee Guin­ness was a past owner; Pierce Bros­nan was mar­ried here; and most famed Amer­i­can and Ir­ish golf greats have played here. At 9 holes, the 2,896-yard course is con­sid­ered an Ir­ish gem. The 391yard par-four 3rd is named “Watson’s Way” hon­our­ing Tom Watson. The 384-yard-par-four 5th—which has views of 365 is­lands—was the site of a scene in John Wayne’s movie, The Quiet Man. Nine holes al­lows plenty of time for tast­ing Whiskey or tra­di­tional English tea.

As you ap­proach the gates of Adare Manor & Golf Re­sort, the thatched houses of Adare Vil­lage in County Lim­er­ick evoke im­ages of an­cient Ire­land. Grac­ing an 840-acre es­tate along­side the River Maigue, 18th cen­tury Adare was the an­ces­tral home of the Earls of Dun­raven, an ar­chi­tec­tural mas­ter­piece of tur­rets and tow­ers with 52 chim­neys and 365 stained glass win­dows. Set amid un­du­lat­ing ter­rain crossed by the ram­bling river, Adare’s 18-hole, 7,453-yard golf course ranks among Ire­land’s top in­land cour­ses. De­signed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., it has hosted nu­mer­ous cham­pi­onship tour­na­ments, in­clud­ing the Ir­ish Open. The 18th is of­ten called “the best fin­ish­ing hole in golf.” Par it or not, play­ing here is a treat, and brag­ging rights come with the cas­tle turf.

It’s best to book tee times in ad­vance.

www.dro­moland.ie; www.ash­ford­cas­tle.com; www.adare­manor.com/en/; www.ire­land.com

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