Brendan O'Connor visits County Clare: Five-star life at a canter
The hysteria is contagious.
The hysteria is contagious.
One is nervous and terrified about the horse, because she is predisposed to taking longer to adapt and adjust to new circumstances and things. The other is just a bit of a nervous nelly anyway. So they feed off each other. But Sean is cool as a breeze about it.
When I suggest that maybe we should just forget about the horse riding, he asks me straight out if the younger one will eventually come around. I tell him she will, but I can't say when. That's fine so, he says. We have plenty of time.
Sarah and I had said we wouldn't be getting on horses that afternoon, because we would be needed to keep the kids calmed. But then, in the name of calming the kids, it was agreed that brave dad should lead the way. Great.
So I had to show them there was nothing to be afraid of by mounting Black Jack.
When you're up close, horses are big, powerful beasts. But Jack was a docile old crathur. He's retired more or less, and even when he did work, it was for a monk, who still comes for a visit.
Sarah got up on one next, and soon enough, Sean and two endlessly patient teenage girls he had helping him had coaxed the children along and suddenly we were trekking through Lord Inchiquin's forest.
As it happened, it was a rare beautiful day in late February, so lovely dappled light came through the trees.
I had an overwhelming sense of serenity as Jack moseyed along.
When I attempted to explain the allure of it to a millennial friend later, she said: "Of course you felt good. You were forest-bathing. It's a thing. Look it up, granddad."
And it turns out it is. And it works.
Sean, who now runs a yard with stables right next to Dromoland Castle, courtesy of Lord Inchiquin, tells me he switched off from the news months ago, and he seems happy.
After the jaunt, we are ready for something to eat. Obviously, we're hungry after sitting on our arses on a horse for an hour, so it's just as well tonight is our fine dining night for us in Dromoland Castle.
Well, the adults will be fine dining. The kids will be looked after in the bar first.
Danny, who has become my go-to guy for food and beverage and any other matters in the short time I've been here, sorts us a table in the bar where the kids can eat while I have an excellent Negroni.
This is the thing about Dromoland. You're in a swanky five-star hotel with all that entails. What's more you're in one favoured by Yanks, so they have to do things properly, like cocktails. But equally it's all very casual and relaxed and human.
So you can have your Negroni, in a beautifully appointed bar, but the kids can also eat their fish and chips at the table.
And later on, there'll be music, and one of the barmen will even do a Frank Sinatra routine. It's like five-star but with a hint of Clare/Limerick crack and madness to it.
Even the fine dining, in the Earl of Thomond room, which is beautifully ornate, with massive chandeliers and an air of grandiosity, isn't remotely formal, or austere.
The food is fantastic, and they lift the silver cloches off dramatically to present it, but you know, there's nothing stiff about the whole thing.
I suppose what I mean is that there's a sense of relaxed warmth about everything.
For example, Dromoland offers falconry as an on-site activity, which I didn't do, being more of a horseman, don't you know.
But when I saw the falconer up with the birds one of the mornings, while the kids pedalled madly around a tennis court on go-karts, I wandered up to him. He chatted away for Ireland and had me petting owls, and learning all about the sex life of the falcon.
You could mosey around for the whole weekend just enjoying being in a castle and its beautiful wooded grounds.
When the natural beauty is this nice, even wandering up and down to the pool in the golf club is awe inspiring. But I had a mission while I was down in this part of the country. I wanted to swim in the Pollock Holes in Kilkee. I'd heard so many Clare and Limerick people, and Kilkee summer folk, boastinRead More – Source[contf] [contfnew]