Luxury and warmth combine at this country manor with a Ryder Cup-worthy golf course and Michelin-starred dining
February 28, 2020
Adare Manor is on a roll. Last July it was confirmed that the luxury Limerick hotel would stage the 2026 Ryder Cup at its new Tom Fazio-designed golf course. Then, in October, its fine-dining restaurant, the Oak Room, was awarded a Michelin star less than two years after it opened. Add to that the UK and Ireland’s only La Mer spa and everything from a plush cinema to expansive grounds to explore, and it makes the range of what the recently renovated property has to offer pretty formidable – both indoors and outdoors.
Which helps when you’re in the west of Ireland. We visited in the midst of typical August summer weather. Greeted by pelting rain on the half-hour drive from Shannon airport, by the time we had been welcomed warmly by top-hatted staff at the entrance gate, checked in and taken a window-side seat in the drawing room for some light lunch, dazzling sun had broken out across the formal gardens and 840 acres of immaculate grounds. (I’ll come back to the greenskeeping later – it turned out to provide an unexpected highlight of our visit.)
Built on the banks of the River Maigue in the mid-19th century and a hotel since 1988, Adare Manor has long been among the country’s top five-star addresses. Still, it is its multimillion-dollar full-scale refurbishment by Limerick tycoon JP McManus – who bought the hotel in 2015 and is a co-owner of Sandy Lane in Barbados – that has cemented its status as one of Ireland’s most illustrious properties.
Reopened in November 2017, its renovation – which took almost two years and was led by architectural firm Reardon Smith, previously behind the restoration of London’s Savoy – included the addition of a new 42-room West Wing that has been designed to match seamlessly with the neo-gothic limestone manor house, which emerges imposingly in the distance when you first wind your way along the driveway through the parkland. A ballroom with a capacity for 350 guests has also been added.
As well as restoring the façade of the old manor – which was built by the second Earl of Dunraven as a calendar house, with 365 windows, 52 chimneys, seven stone pillars and four towers – the works have made the most of its elaborate original features. In the Great Hall reception, the aroma of a crackling fire drifts up into its vaulted arches and ornate Minstrels’ Gallery, while upstairs, the 130-foot-long Gallery, with its high arched ceiling, stained-glass windows and intricate 17th-century wood carvings, is a lovely space in which to enjoy a leisurely breakfast.
Still, you would be forgiven for ordering in room service. Designed in classic, elegant style, the 104 rooms and suites start from 460 square feet and have restful color schemes, great views and marble bathrooms with Acqua di Parma toiletries. Sumptuous king beds and iPads for controlling the lights, blinds and air conditioning serve to make you feel even lazier.
Still, there is too much to enjoy elsewhere for lingering all day. The revamped 7,509-yard, par-72 golf course – and its David Collins Studio-designed club, the Carriage House – is drawing more enthusiasts since the Ryder announcement. In July it will host the sixth JP McManus Pro-Am, at which the likes of Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry will tee off against Hugh Grant, Mark Wahlberg and boxer Wladimir Klitschko in support of various charities.
I won’t pretend to be one of those enthusiasts – I headed for the spa instead, a beautiful spot with a light-filled pool area overlooking the golf course. My signature Sleep Sound massage worked as advertised – I was ready for bed right after our dinner in the Carriage House, which serves up excellent steaks alongside the likes of Dublin Bay prawns, Atlantic lobster and Connemara lamb in a buzzy, stylish space.
Located in the manor house, the Oak Room offers refined contemporary Irish cuisine overlooking the river and gardens. On top of the restaurant scooping a star, its head of wines and beverage, Jurica Gojevic, won the Michelin Sommelier Award 2020. Below stairs, the former servants’ hall is now the Tack Room bar, where the whiskey collection includes more than 100 rare bottles.
On the Green
For walking off all the indulgence, the grounds – which are planted with about 2,850 trees and 100,000 shrubs and plants – are also home to walled gardens and a fairy woodland trail. Bikes and wellies can be borrowed, while trout fishing, falconry and archery are among the activities available. Or you could wander down to pretty Adare Village and have a pint. Like the estate, the village’s history dates back to the 13th century, and it is home to traditional thatched cottages, antique shops and boutiques. If you have more time then the Cliffs of Moher, the picturesque beaches of Clare and Kerry and lively Galway City – a 2020 European Capital of Culture – are enjoyable day trips.
I mentioned the groundskeeping earlier. Previous Irish holidays of mine may have involved many a pint, but having a small child in tow this time necessitated better behavior. Our break here, as it happened, coincided with his sudden obsession with lawnmowers. With all of those acres and a cutting-edge golf course to keep in pristine condition, we couldn’t have been in a better spot; we thus spent much more time than I might have anticipated watching the various pieces of machinery marking out perfect strips of green. But what I really wasn’t expecting was that the staff, on discovering his new-found passion, would arrange for one of the greenskeepers to meet us from our lunch and take him for a spin on a ride-on, even supplying a set of mini-ear defenders to protect him from the noise.
Months on, he’s still talking about it, and for me it sums up the warmth and thoughtfulness of service you receive at Adare Manor. And that, ultimately, is what we remember the most from the best luxury stays.
Room rates in March start from $447.