Galway – Abbeyglen Castle Hotel, Kylemoore Abbey, Connemara, Dunguaire Castle Banquet
The Abbeyglen Castle was built in 1832, and has been transformed over the years from an orphanage to a neglected and rundown building to an impeccable 4 star Manor House Hotel. The Hotel is centered on the Wild Atlantic Way sheltered by the Twelve Bens and has stunning views overlooking Clifden Bay. The Abbeyglen Castle Hotel is very close to some of Connemara’s major sites, including the iconic Kylemore Abbey, The Connemara National Park and the renowned Connemara Golf Links, overlooking the rugged Atlantic Coast are nearby.
Mainistir na Coille Móire or Kylemore Abbey is one of the most photographed locations in Ireland. Originally a Benedictine monastery founded in 1920 the Abbey is a trust controlled by the nuns and in partnership with Notre Dame University it will now host students to continue advancing the spiritual and educational work of both. A must see is the walled Victorian Gardens a masterpiece of engineering as they were designed and built on an Irish bog. A stunning gothic church and a lovely mausoleum grace the grounds of the Abbey. There are shops and wonderful Irish hand made goods to be found and a fantastic restaurant serving meals enhanced with Irish meats, and produce produced right on the grounds of the Abbey.
After a stunning drive through Connemara try ending the day at Dunguaire Castle for a medieval feast. Dunguaire is probably the most famous land mark associated with Kinvara. The castle was built in 1520 on the gloriously rugged shores of Galway Bay. This restored 16th century tower house sits on a rocky outcrop on the Bay, 300 yards outside the village of Kinvara.
The bards tell of the time that the High King of Connaught, Guaire had set a feast at the castle to reward his men, nearby the hermit Saint Colman, who had been fasting in the nearby mountains, called upon God and his angels to provide him with food and drink. Miraculously, the food set out for the King was seen flying from the plates up to the Saint’s Altar in the mountains. The Kings reputation for generosity was immortalized in Seanchai (storyteller) tales. To this day the Castle has a fine tradition of superb feasts with bards, poetry readings, storytelling and much entertainment is to be had at the best medieval banquet in Ireland. Guests will gather in the main hall and welcomed with a cup of mead. Jugs of wine are set out down the tables and thick handmade beeswax candles light the way. You will have an evening of superb entertainment and fine feast food before we head back to the Hotel.
Limerick – Mustard Seed Country House, Adare Manor, Desmond Hall
The Mustard Seed Country House is set in a converted 19th century convent in Adare, it makes for a wonderful rest stop. This picturesque house is surrounded by 10 acres of forest, orchards and kitchen gardens where the chef gathers fresh herbs and vegetables daily for the restaurant.
No visit to Limerick is complete without a trip to Adare Manor. Long regarded as one of the finest examples of the fortified medieval castles in Ireland it is set on the banks of the tumbling River Maigue. The Manor is laid out as a Calendar House, 365 stained windows and 52 chimneys (with 75 fireplaces) and sly hidden references to the days of the week and the months of the year are hidden in the architecture of the building. Then there are the protective gargoyles high in the rafters and keeping watch over the exterior and if you look carefully you may see the Latin and French mottoes scribed into some of the secluded walls.
Desmond Hall stands on what is believed to be the site of an ancient ring fort from the 12th century and the weight of history is heavy here. There has been a castle standing on these grounds since the 13th century and you can just feel the age and history of Desmond Hall in the air. The Hall was eventually dismantled by the Roundhead forces of Oliver Cromwell in 1657. An extensive renovation has been in progress on the castle since 1996 and supervised tours are offered in the summer months. Bloody sieges, rebellions and uprisings have all been a part of the Hall’s history.
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