Ireland’s Adare Manor sets a new standard for five-star resorts by being both dreamy and adventurous.
The Padel Club features a fitness center with astounding views of the property
Willie Forde is the most confident man in Ireland at 9 in the morning. Provided he has a whistle and the adoration of two black Labradors.
Wearing soft leather boots to my knees, I stand with Forde in a chilly and wet field punctuated with bluebells. We watch his dogs, on command, sprint east and west for 300 yards and retrieve yellow decoys. The sun slants through the evergreen oaks and weeping beeches in a cinematic show of Irish nature. I half expect the ghost of Seamus Heaney to whisper in my ear about life and “music of what happens.”
Forde is the facility owner and manager of Adare Country Pursuits, which includes falconry, clay pigeon shooting, archery and gun-dog training. But he’s also a storyteller, history buff and comedic bon vivant. He’s been doing this since 1974, and his son is now helping run the business and thrill guests. “I say to him, ‘Son, I’ve taught you everything you know,” Forde says, pausing for effect, “but not everything I know.’”
Adare Manor, built in the 1830s, will host the 2027 Ryder Cup.
We laugh. Everything is brilliant.
Which could be the catchphrase for County Limerick’s Adare Manor were it not for the resort’s real tagline: beyond everything. “Our goal is to be the best at what we do—and to do everything right,” Brendan O’Connor, Adare Manor’s general manager, tells me. It’s often cliche to note that staff treats everyone like family, but the notion isn’t a stretch here. The resort’s team is genial, smart and efficient; service is accommodating without being overwhelming. Maybe it’s an Irish thing, but they know how to read the room. (Case in point: After the resort staff learns I play Gaelic football with my club in the States, the creamy foam on every Guinness I drink at the resort reveals a stenciled O’Neills football and my name.)
The 104-room resort, which hosts the 2027 Ryder Cup on its Tom Fazio-designed golf course, sits along the River Maigue on 842 acres surrounded by medieval ruins, parkland, trails, gardens and tidy lawns that rival the pitch at Dublin’s Croke Park. The manor’s construction began in the 1830s, and it was a private residence for more than 100 years, until it was sold and transformed into a five-star property. Adare reopened several years ago after a steep investment from owner J.P. McManus, who continues to boost the luxury quotient at every turn.
One example is the culinary program. Two years after it debuted, The Oak Room, which overlooks the golf course, earned a Michelin star— only the second restaurant to receive the designation in County Limerick. Chef Michael Tweedie puts on a show, which begins with a simple allocation of bread for the table and the coveted Abernethy butter (guests also can opt for a starter of Royal Belgian premium label caviar). From there, Tweedie’s team wows with dishes like monkfish bouillabaisse with razor clams and caviar; and Higg ins beef cooked over coals with butternut squash, oxtail and peppercorn. The kitchen has an assured and deft touch on every dish, which is repeated throughout the property at spots like The Gallery (the second-longest room in Ireland behind the library at Dublin’s Trinity College) and The Carriage House (a wonderfully designed venue that draws guests and locals alike).
The 842-acre property offers plenty of outdoor pursuits, including horseback riding.
Afternoon tea is akin to the sacred and divine The Gallery. Don’t order what’s sipped at home; instead, rely on the staff for 22 exotic and local recommendations. Accompaniments include four types of finger sandwiches like baked Limerick ham croque monsieur and Duncannon smoked salmon (with lemon gel, salmon caviar, treacle brown bread). Executive pastry chef Xavier Torne follows with sweets. Think golden raisin scones, caramel chocolate tarts and his miniature miracles of strawberry cheesecake.
Another surprise is the Padel Club, which opened last year and is the first of its kind in Ireland. The sport is like a mashup of tennis, squash and pickleball. The custom courts, lined with artificial turf, are walled off with glass. Four players, two on each side of a center net, face off against each other. In addition tohitting the ball over the net like tennis, opponents can play the ball off of the back wall’s glass. After 15 or 20 minutes, it’s an easy game to pick up, and the smaller court size allows for some thrilling volleys.
The lobby at Adare Manor feels like a classic country manse.
On my last day at the resort, I wake early and borrow a complimentary bike from the Adare team to ride around the property. The air is cool. The sun and a few low clouds reflect off the River Maigue. Robotic lawn mowers, the size of Cadillac hubcaps, graze quietly across the manor greens in tight, preordained arcs. I roll past ancient, lichen-kissed walls and huddles of primroses and snowdrops.
Don’t miss afternoon tea in The Gallery, the second-longest room in Ireland.
Far off in a side field, I see several figures. One waves his arms, as if recounting a great story. I look closer and see that it’s Forde. He’s with several Adare guests. His dogs dutifully stand close by, listening and waiting. Forde’s grinning audience does the same. I pedal on toward the green horizon, knowing great stories are everywhere at Adare. And the best ones, old and new, are worth telling again and again.
Photography by: PHOTOS COURTESY OF ADARE MANOR