Appeared in July/August 2005 LINKS
Adare Manor’s imposing 19th-century manor house might appear a bit stuffy to a first-time visitor. The 60-bedroom stone structure is fronted by formal French gardens and projects a decided be-on-your-best-behavior air that’s underscored by the sight of a stern-looking doorman decked out in tails, vest and top hat. Then you remember: You’re in Ireland, where the natives never take themselves too seriously.
The doorman turned out to be a jovial Dubliner, John, who immediately put me at ease with wide-eyed stories of the rich and famous who have found refuge at this 840-acre County Limerick estate. “Bill Clinton slept here,” John informed me, pausing slightly to set up his well-rehearsed punch line. “Just don’t ask me who with!”
Indeed, Bill and Hillary did stay at Adare, as have Gwyneth Paltrow, John Travolta and golf buddies Tiger Woods and Mark O’Meara. Surely they were impressed by the manor’s sheer expanse and attention to detail.
Begun in 1832 by the Second Earl of Dunraven and his wife, Lady Caroline Wyndham, the structure contains 52 chimneys (one for each week of the year), 75 fireplaces and 365 leaded glass windows. Elaborate arches, turrets and gargoyles distinguish the exterior stonework; inside, the cavernous lobby is broken up by massive columns and finely crafted wooden staircases. Carved into the south parapet is an inscription from Psalm 127: “Except the Lord build the house, then labour is but lost that built it.”
The home remained in the God-fearing Dunraven family until 1982, when it was sold to an investment consortium. Five years later, the Thomas Kane family of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, acquired the property and began converting it into a world-class vacation spot for the sporting set. The conveniently located resort—it’s less than 40 minutes from Shannon International Airport—offers a spa, fine dining, fishing, an equestrian center and a 10-year-old Robert Trent Jones Sr. golf course.
Pristine conditioning, rock-walled streams, and fairways lined with mature hardwoods signal Jones’ 7,138-yard parkland layout as more American than Irish in flavor. But to a golfer who had spent the previous seven days battling stiff winds and rain squalls along southwest Ireland’s exposed links courses, it was a welcome respite.This golf course is no picnic, mind you: Ten holes are affected by water, including a 14-acre lake that anchors the front side; greens are large, slick and undulating; bunkers are deep and penal. The finishing quartet of holes is a string of Kodak moments: No. 15, a 370-yard par 4, hugs the River Maigue along the right side, the manor house looming just beyond; the 16th is a do-or-die 170-yarder over a pond; and No. 17 dances 415 yards over gently rising and falling ground, setting up a stirring 544-yard finisher, where the third shot—or an extremely bold second—must cross the Maigue, now running hard along the left.
Adare played host to the 2003 Smurfit Irish PGA Championship and has been home to the European Senior Tour’s A.I.B. Irish Seniors Open for three years running. Irish PGA winner Paul McGinley called the course “not just one of the best in Ireland, it’s one of the best in the world.” Legendary Irish tour pro Christy O’Conner Jr., who represents the club, has suggested it would make an ideal venue if a senior Ryder Cup-style event were ever staged on the Emerald Isle.
Even should that never come to pass, Adare will continue to lure public figures seeking peace from the spotlight, be they golfers, actors or politicians. Reminiscing about Clinton’s visit, my new friend John confided: “We love him here in Ireland. I know it’s not possible, but a lot of us wish he could be president again.”
“Well, you just might see Hillary in that office one day,” I replied.
John’s eyes lit up. “Do you really think so?”
Not really, I started to tell him, then decided against dashing his hopes. It was the least I could do, considering this hospitable Irishman had made me feel as welcome as any of his famous guests.