There’s something a little Disney about Adare Manor. Although the original manor house dates to the early 19th century, the style is akin to a Gothic chateau – turrets and towers and gargoyles all hewn from flawless grey limestone and surrounded by immaculately manicured lawns and hedges. Ideally you should approach the place on horseback, your banner flying in the breeze, your magical talking wolfhound bounding along beside you. Oh look, the woodland creatures are performing a musical number.

I’m hardly the first to fall under its spell: the Irish resort is frequently recognised as one of the best in Europe, even the world. Situated within the picture-perfect village of Adare, Limerick, the Manor is a place of almost impossible romance. The river Maigue flows through its grounds. Across the riverbank, you can see the medieval ruins of a Franciscan friary and Castle Desmond – I mean, come on! Most hotels are happy with an outdoor sculpture or two.

The manor began construction in 1832 under the orders of Windham Henry Quin, 2nd Earl of Dunraven. The poor Earl suffered awfully from gout; his wife Lady Caroline suggested her husband distract from his ailment by transforming their bog-standard Georgian mansion into something a little more grandiose – you know, Windham, like they have in Europe. Strong work from Lady Caroline, who managed to rouse her moping husband with a project while simultaneously upgrading her own home. Married to a lesser woman, he’d have taken up stamp collecting or homemade marmalade.

A three-decade architectural glow-up commenced and Adare Manor was transformed into one of the most baller homes in the continent. It’s also a ‘calendar house’: 365 windows, 52 chimneys, seven pillars, and four towers. The Dunravens lived there for another 150 years until maintenance costs forced Thady Wyndham-Quin (7th Earl) to sell to a Florida businessman who transformed the manor into a hotel and golf resort. In 2015, Adare Manor was purchased by Irish businessman JP McManus who funded a major refurbishment, built another wing in the style of the original, and made it an even better hotel and golf resort.

The Great Hall, Adare Manor
The Drawing Room, Adare Manor

Among his many passions, McManus is a passionate racehorse owner; he famously fell out with Sir Alex Ferguson over a horse while Manchester United majority shareholder, triggering the club’s sale to the Glazer family. We arrive the day after McManus’s stallion I Am Maximus won the Grand National and unsurprisingly the mood is buoyant. The mood would be even more buoyant if this particular guest hadn’t bet on Limerick Lace. Can’t win ‘em all. Or place higher than tenth.

However Adare Manor is a hard place to hold regrets. The sun is always shining here, metaphorically if not literally. (Ireland gonna Ireland.) Every member of staff from the doormen to the concierge to the waiters embody the famed Irish hospitality. Their smiles are bright, their manner warm. Nobody actually says, “top of the morning to you!” but there are some close variations on the phrase.

The great hall alone is enough to leave your eyes wide and your mouth agape with its collection of armour, artwork, curtains and chandeliers. The black marble fireplace is crowned by an Old Master. (Painting rather than a mummified Earl.) The ceiling is several miles above your head. Note the crouching man statue, a carved stone figure situated halfway up the wall. Apparently Edwin, the 3rd Earl wasn’t a fan, complaining to his mother that “it spoils the whole room and besides it is totally useless”. Oh yeah, Edwin, and the gargyle on the north tower is a critical design feature? Have some joy, man!

The Gallery, Adare Manor
The spa, Adare Manor

Our tour must be whistlestop otherwise we’d be here all day. Adjoining the Great Hall is the Drawing Room, resplendent with curtains and curtains, an ideal spot for lunch or afternoon tea. (Try the steak sandwich, a certified banger.) Upstairs we will find the Gallery, 132 feet of stained glass, ornate marble fireplaces and wall tapestries; sample the hearty breakfast buffet ahead of your afternoon’s joust.

The rooms are magnificent, naturally – ours came equipped with a vast bed, a sofa, a view over the grounds and a roll top bathtub housed within a bathroom containing more marble than a Greek mausoleum. I could have spent hours simply admiring the engravings on the fireplace: mermaids, monsters, minstrels frollicking across the wood. Apparently the bathroom mirror also turned into a TV but alas, our mirror seemed to be on the blink

Anyway, you shouldn’t spend all day watching the mirror when there are so many activities on offer. Head to the Padel Club to play a match on one of the two indoor padel courts, the only courts of their type in Ireland. Relax in the spa, smash out some laps in the 17-metre swimming pool. Try archery, clay pigeon shooting, fishing – the list is exhaustive. We had a wonderful hour meeting the owls and falcons of the manor, the birds perching on our arms (an eagle owl is bloody heavy).

Signature Suite, Adare Manor
Suite bathroom, Adare Manor

Naturally, there’s also the golf course, one of the finest in Ireland if not the world. Eighteen gorgeously landscaped holes designed by the legendary golf architect Tom Fazio, the course is a must for any lover of the game. Adare Manor will host the 2027 Ryder Cup so you’ll be in good company. Plus when one of the pros sends their drive into the lake, you can point at the TV and exclaim, “I managed to par that hole!” (Just don’t mention your handicap.)

The estate spans 840 acres and will take a decent hour to circumvent on one of the bikes you can pick up by the main hall. Check out the walled garden, the woodland, the tiny cemetery where a number of beloved Dunraven pets are laid to rest. Pop into the village and explore the beautiful main street with its thatched cottages, craft shops and ample pubs. Enjoy a Guinness or two but resist dinner – the best restaurant in the county is waiting for you back at basecamp…

The Oak Room

The Oak Room, Adare Manor

Adare Manor has a Michelin-starred restaurant, The Oak Room by head chef Michael Tweedie. Open Wednesday to Sunday, tasting menu only. From the very first dish it's clear that a special evening is about to commence. Technically it's not a dish at all but a goblet containing a tiny dash of truffle oil and then filled with a game consume so deliciously rich it must have been made from Scrooge McDuck.

But then the evening was already special. It was special the moment our server Dylan, a man who could charm a smile from a weeping willow, ushered us to our table and the delightful couple beside us, Angela and Dermott, struck up a conversation the moment we sat down. They are Adare regulars and only too happy to sing its praises – here’s me singing theirs. (Happy 82nd birthday, Dermott!)

The meal is just stonking. Ballyneety beetroot salad is cool, crisp and refreshing as an Irish breeze. Then a gorgeous little rectangle of duck liver terrine with a warm slice of toasted brioche. However the latter is a borderline support act to an absolutely stonking 2021 Monzinger Riesling that I fully expect to be served in heaven as and when I arrive.

The Tack Room, Adare Manor

Monkfish, morels and asparagus raises the bar further still. You can smell the monkfish from the bowl, like a sea breeze has wafted over the table. It's salty, sharp and pure, perfectly offset by the crunch of the asparagus. And the main course blows it off the plate.

For Higgins beef is just divine. It's dry aged for two weeks, drowned in a red wine sauce. Served with the creamiest mashed potato – or is it very potatoey cream? – and the mash is topped with tiny crispy balls of deep fried potatoes that's basically potato rice krispies. The dish is paired with a Spanish red so full bodied it probably has an Only Fans account.

Find some room for the chocolate souffle tart and then stagger downstairs for a nightcap at the Tack Room, where each cocktail is inspired by one of the many mythical creatures carved in the wood and stone of the Manor. Just another touch of magic in a place suffused with it. 

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From £595 per per night for a Classic Room. Rates include tax and complimentary breakfast.

Adare, Co. Limerick, V94 W8WR, Ireland; Adare Manor