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Journeys: Artists' Residence: Tours With A Host Of Characters

Mike Nolan

A visit to Ireland can be memorable more because of the people you meet than for where you go or what you see. Siobhan Byrne, a director of the Dublin-based travel and tour company Adams & Butler, the sole representative of Luggala, understands this, and so her company offers an itinerary in which the hosts are the attractions. “We do a tour where your guide is the grandson of an earl, and on the first night you stay with Conor O’Brien, Lord Inchiquin, descendant of Brian Boru, the greatest high king of Ireland,” says Byrne.

O’Brien’s home is called Thomond House (+353.61.368304, www.thomondhouse.com), and it is located just six miles north of Shannon Airport. When not racing his Aston Martin, the baron—another of O’Brien’s titles—spends much of his time at Thomond, where he may be persuaded to demonstrate his skills with his 1966 Mark 1 Cooper S. The Georgian house, with five bedrooms for let, is set on a 600-acre estate next to Dromoland Castle, home to two fine restaurants and a golf course.

The next stop is Glin Castle (+353.68.34173, www.glincastle.com) on the banks of the Shannon. The Knights of Glin have been present in County Limerick since the 12th century. The present knight, Desmond FitzGerald, represents the 29th generation of the family to have lived on the property. FitzGerald has assembled at Glin what many consider Ireland’s greatest collection of 18th-century decorative arts. Georgian furniture, historic prints, and ceramics fill the 15 bedrooms. In the great hall, trophies, shields, and massive portraits of former knights line the walls.

The tour continues with lunch with the Earl of Rosse at Birr Castle, then dinner with Desmond Guinness at Leixlip Castle. The next day includes tea with architect and designer Lady Dunsany at Dunsany Castle. “We could, of course,” adds Byrne, “include Luggala.”

On at least one occasion, at the request of the clients, Adams & Butler adjusted an itinerary while it was in progress. “A few years ago, a couple was waiting for tea in the dining room of a country estate we had placed them in,” recalls Byrne. “Their host, an elderly and titled woman, had disappeared into the kitchen for over an hour. When they finally ventured into the kitchen, their host was nowhere to be seen, but there was a note saying she had gone to the pub in the village and they were welcome to join her. The couple, instead of being offended, was amused to say the least. So they had us set up a tour where they stayed with a number of eccentrics, which, truth be told, was not that difficult in this country.”

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