As we continued our trip, we went onto the K Club for the night and a good look around Sir Michael Smurfitt’s private house, Straffan Lodge which sits in the grounds within a gated park on the 13th green – what a view! Again, contemporary living in an historic setting with a smaller spa, but nonetheless a hugely impressive place.
The following morning we had some miles to cover, but the new motorway network in this part of Ireland shaved hours off the usual trek across the countryside and we were in Youghal by mid morning to see perhaps the most atmospheric and natural setting of all the properties we were to visit – right on the estuary of the River Blackwater – Ballynatray House. Again, completely restored and sympathetically renovated, this is a ‘gem’ of a place and we were blown away – little boat houses provided one and two bedroom ‘getaways’ and bothies had been faithfully restored to provide more onsite accommodation – all looking out onto this beautiful, unspoilt estuary which was very reminiscent of Daphne du Maurier’s Frenchman’s Creek.
Never enough time, but it was from one extreme to the other and up the river to 2 of my favourite places – Fort William and Lismore Castle. They didn’t disappoint and the charm of Fort William with it’s 3 prime beats of the River Blackwater, the cosy feel of the House and its lovely gardens are some of the nostalgic memories with which I returned home.
Lismore Castle stands proudly overlooking the river and has been in the hands of the Dukes of Devonshire for many generations and is now available for the discerning traveller to enjoy on an exclusive basis. It has been brought into the 21st century with a refurbishment of the dozen or so bathrooms and bedrooms while the main reception rooms, the Great Hall and kitchens remain true to its historic past – a heady fusion of the past and present.
Staying overnight at Ballyrafter House on the other side of the river (which had by far the best view of the castle) we feasted on scallops with black pudding and one of the best steaks I have ever eaten – then in the morning we headed off to Killarney to look at two houses situated on Lough Leane. Fabulous views from both and very comfortably converted into modern family homes which definitely will suit our demanding clients.
Running out of time we raced for the little ferry over the Shannon at Tarbert and into County Galway and across to Spanish Point on the Atlantic (presumably where some of the Spanish Armada ended their days) to find the most contemporary of golf courses and clubhouses nestled in the sand dunes. Built within the last 5 years and to an awe inspiring specification this granite monolith rises from the sand and makes a massive statement about what it is meant to be – and with Ballybunion and Lahinch golf courses just along the coast, you have the makings of an historic golfing prilgrimmage.
Quite a trip, and back by Glenlo House Hotel on Lough Corrib, it was then onto the ferry back over to Scotland with a large number of miles under our belt and many more lesser known Irish properties with which to whet our client’s apetite.
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