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Introduction to Adare Manor: Renaissance of an Irish Country House

Adare Manor, South East View, by J. R. Jobbins, 1812.

Return to Contents of Adare Manor: The Renaissance of an Irish Country House

 

‘We are what we repeatedly do,’ observed the American philosopher Will Durant in 1926. ‘Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.’

There has always been something excellent and uplifting about Adare Manor. The 2nd Earl of Dunraven, who oversaw the building of so much of the original Manor House, maintained that his spirits never failed to ‘immediately recover’ whenever he returned home. At the height of the British Empire, preeminent royals, governors and military icons returned to Adare Manor time and time again to enjoy the beautiful landscape and the splendid Victorian mansion at its heart.

In the distant centuries past, these mellow, rolling fields were home to a thriving Christian community where cassock-clad monks ambled along the River Maigue under the protection of the stone fortress of whoever held power in the Desmond Castle.

Thady Quin, the scion of a family of ancient Irish lineage, firmly established the family in Adare in the last years of the seventeenth century. By the time his grandson came of age, Georgian travellers were already starting to journey to Adare to behold the ‘serene beauty’ of these lands.

The romantic marriage of Windham Quin to Caroline Wyndham was arguably the most momentous event in Adare’s history because it was Caroline’s unexpected inheritance that paid for the construction of what would soon be hailed as one of the Great Houses of Ireland.

Built between 1832 and the early 1860s, the original neo-Gothic mansion was a massive endeavour, employing hundreds of local men during a particularly lean era of Irish history. As the 4th Earl of Dunraven proudly observed, ‘every bit of carving in stone and wood is the work of native village talent [and] every stone quarried, and every tree cut for the building, was native produce.’

Adare Manor was subsequently home to six of the seven Earls of Dunraven, as well as numerous younger sons and daughters of the Wyndham-Quin family. Always unconventional, this aristocratic dynasty was well-liked in a locality that appreciated their liberal, pro-Catholic, pro-Ireland attitudes. The 3rd Earl of Dunraven went so far as to convert to Catholicism while his son, the 4th Earl, presided over the most far-reaching land conference in Irish history.

The 4th Earl was also a tremendous adventurer who hunted in the Rocky Mountains with Buffalo Bill and twice competed in the America’s Cup. Two generations later, the 7th Earl survived polio as a teenager to become a pioneering champion of wheelchair users’ rights.

Quae Sursum Volo Videre, the Dunraven’s Latin motto, means I wish to see what is beyond.’ The motto inspired Adare Manor’s present-day creed, ‘Beyond Everything’, which was the guiding principle for all those involved in the project to restore and extend the property over the course of 2016 and 2017.

The achievement was nothing short of phenomenal. Every inch of the old house was given new life from the ornate chimney-pots to the cellars far below. Magnificent rooms like the Gallery, the Great Hall and the Oak Room were reinvented and reinvigorated in line with the 21st century. Over seven thousand tonnes of limestone, quarried locally, was cut and shaped to create a new wing that will stand for generations to come.

Across the 840-acre estate, over 100,000 trees, hedges, herbaceous plants and shrubs were planted, while every driveway, lodge and lawn was deftly retouched. The bottom line is that if something was capable of being enhanced or improved, it was.

Adare Manor was named the No. 1 Resort in Europe in 2023 at the prestigious Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards. This echoes its achievement in being  awarded a five-star rating by Forbes Travel Guide in 2023. It was also voted No. 1 resort in the world by readers of Condé Nast Traveler in 2022. These are by no means Adare Manor’s only awards. Within less than a year of its reopening as a world-class hotel in 2017, the collaborative efforts of all involved in its renaissance were justly rewarded when Adare Manor won Hotel of the Year at the Virtuoso Best of the Best Awards in Las Vegas. It was also voted No. 1 resort in Europe at the 2019 and 2020 Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards, as well as being on the Condé Nast Gold List in 2021. The Oak Room restaurant was awarded a Michelin Star in 2019, reconfirmed in 2022, while its founding sommelier Jurica Gojevic won the inaugural Michelin Sommelier Award.

That determination to excel was echoed with profound consequences on the new Tom Fazio designed 18-hole championship golf course. JP McManus made no secret of his desire to create a course that would bring the Ryder Cup to Adare Manor. The absolute focus and immaculate attention to detail by those who designed and built the course mean that Mr McManus’s magnificent dream becomes a reality in 2027.

Turtle Bunbury

 

The book is available from the Adare Manor shop.

See also Adare Manor – An Epicurean Journey.