Adare

On the banks of the River Maigue, this once-upon-a-time-ified village dotted with thatch cottages is famed as one of Ireland's prettiest spots. Perhaps it's more correct to say it's actually one of England's: the place was given a beauty makeover by a rich Anglo lord, the 3rd Earl of Dunraven, in the 1820s and 1830s, in an effort to create the "perfect rustic village." To a great extent, he succeeded.

Few local feathers were ruffled since Dunraven won goodwill by restoring many villagers' houses. Playing into the mid-19th-century vogue for romantic rusticity, the earl "picturesquely" restored many of the town's historic sights, including the remains of two 13th-century abbeys, a 15th-century friary, and the keep of the 13th-century Desmond Castle (now the centerpiece of a private golf course). Adjacent to the Adare Heritage Centre you'll find the Trinitarian Priory, founded in 1230 and now a convent. From the main bridge (where you can best view the castle), head to the Augustinian Priory and its gracious cloister. The most fetching time-burnished allure is provided by Adare's stone-built, thatch-roof cottages, often adorned with colorful, flower-filled window boxes and built for the earl's estate tenants. Some now house boutiques selling Irish crafts and antiques, along with a fine restaurant called the Wild Geese. Adare Manor, an imposing Tudor–Gothic Revival mansion, which was once the grand house of the Dunraven peerage, is now a celebrated hotel; on its grounds you can view two 12th-century ruins, the St. Nicholas Chapel and the Chantry Chapel.

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