Adare, Co. Limerick
My heart is racing. It's raining. I'm squeezed into a phone booth, mad-dialing numbers from a wet hostel brochure, each phone call costing me a fortune, trying to find a dry place for us to rest our heads.
We are in Adare village in County Limerick. We've just come from what seemed a land o' plenty - County Clare had all we needed. Sandy beaches for camping, sunshine, rural pockets tucked away to pitch our tent. Reluctant to leave, we have more ground to cover, so we've entered into County Limerick where we're hitting some brick walls. It is tough illegally camping in Ireland, especially with the rains coming down. Especially in County Limerick, we are discovering, where most areas have been developed and there is no coastline.
Plus, did I mention it's raining? These heavy rains in June end up breaking records set over fifty years ago. I'm making the travel decisions for us, and I'm not yet experienced in leading this brigade. The rain part still scares me. Wet and miserable, I can't see what is best to do. Should we stay here and stick it out, or head west toward the Kerry coastline?
Suddenly, I hear a voice. "Excuse me, do you need help?" a woman asks. I'll like to play one tough cookie; I don't usually ask for help. I'd rather suffer than ask for help, plus, I don't know the Irish customs yet. But something in the way she says the word help, I hear such sincerity and warmth, like she really means it. And I realize that I do need help.
"Do you need help?" she asks again.
"Yes," I say.
We start talking. I tell her what the problem is.
"Follow me," she says. "I know my car is dirty," she says, motioning to her car, "but I work close-by, and I can help you there."
It is all very strange, but I'm going with it. I don't know who she is or where we are going, but I trust her, and I truly believe she can help us.
My travel partner is wondering what the heck is going on. "She can help us," I tell him. He's at his wit's end too, so we follow her car through the sheets of rain. We drive to the edge of town, then up to an imposing guardhouse that is stationed at the foot of a pristine lawn. She jumps out of the car and talks to the guard, and we are immediately ushered through behind her car. We enter a huge, immaculate estate. My jaw drops.
We are on the grounds of the legendary 18th century Adare Manor. Earlier today, my travel companion was trying to photograph this place from over the hedges. What amazing luck!
This Manor is a full of architectural curiosities and allusions to other famous structures. The Second Earl of Dunraven and his wife, Lady Caroline Wyndham, built the house in 1832, providing labor for the community during the Famine. It remained in the family until 1987, when Tom and Judy Kane acquired the Manor, had it delicately restored, and opened it as a world-class accommodation. The Adare Golf Club is 230 acres of gorgeous countryside, with The River Maigue running through the backside. An 18,000 square foot clubhouse opened in 1999. This is the premier accommodation in the area.
The woman works in guest services at the Manor, and she sees people like us everyday. People distraught and fearful, far from home and lost. She recognized it right away in me, and her kind action changed our world.
I quickly use the internet and make a decision to head to the coast. She takes me on a quick tour of the incredible house. Upstairs, the staff is intricately cleaning the chandeliers. The dining room is formally set. The furniture is immaculate. What an incredible environment to work in, must be even better to stay here. It is obvious the staff attends to your every need.
Meantime, my travel companion is outside, snapping images of the incredible gardens and estate.
We reconvene in the parking lot and thank the woman. By now, the sky has changed. The rains have stopped. We drive out of the estate, on our way again, headed west. Everything feels much better.
Thank you Maura from Adare Manor.
Adare Manor Hotel and Golf Resort, Adare, Co. Limerick, Ireland. Tel: +353 (0)61 396566.
Written by Liz O'Malley - Summer of Travel 2007