AT HOME IN IRELAND
By Hilarius D.G, from national geography magazine, original words by Turtle Bunbury
FIVE MANOR HOUSES WHERE YOU’LL FIND WARM HOSPITALITY AND A YARN OR TWO
Fgr, The ancestral seat of the kings of Connaught, Clonalis House welcomes overnight guests. A resident roams Hilton Park.
IF YOU HITCH A RIDE on the back of one of the black crows that constantly wing through Irish skies, you will spy hundreds of castles and mansions sprawling below. A century ago, Ireland had more than 7,000 Big Houses, as the Irish call these stately homes. They ranged from handsome rectories for clergy to audacious architectural standouts built by the ruling Anglo-Irish aristocracy. With the creation of the Irish Free State in the early 1920s, these country estates quickly feel out of favor; many were destroyed during the Irish Civil War.
Nowadays it’s rare to find one in the hands of the family that built it. As the late Anglo-Irish novelist Elizabeth Bowen said, owning a Big House constitutes “something between a predicament and a raison d’etre.” One way owners have kept their houses going is by opening them up to paying guests. I’ve long been fascinated with Ireland’s vanishing heritage, so I set out over a summer to visit five classic Irish homes in which you can now overnight with the lords and ladies of the manor for a taste of life in a Big House.