County Limerick

has long been known as Ireland's prettiest village. Originally a fief of the Fitzgerald's and the Earls of Kildare, Adare owes much of its present appearance to the Earls of Dunraven, who restored the estate village in the 1820's and 1830's. The long thin village is a picture of neat stonework and thatched roofs punctuated by picturesque ruins, all in a woodland setting.

The tourist office is at the new Heritage Centre which includes a good exhibition on Adare's monastic history. Next door is the Trinitarian Priory, founded by the Fitzgeralds in 1230 and restored by the first Earl of Dunraven; it is now a Catholic church and convent. Opposite the church, by a stonewashed bridge is the Washing Pool, a restored washhouse site.

By the main bridge on the Limerick road in the Augustinian Priory which was founded by the Fitzgeralds in 1315. Also known as Black Abbey, this well restored priory has a central tower, subtle carvings, delightful cloisters and a graceful sedilla. Just over the bridge, from where it is best viewed, is Desmond Castle, a 13th century feudal castle set on the banks of the River Maigue.

Nearby stands the main gate to Adare Manor, a luxury hotel and golf course. Within its 365 acres of parkland lie two evocative ruins. The St. Nicholas church and Chantry Chapel date back to the 12th century and both are accessible by path. The graceful Franciscan Abbey is surrounded by the golf course, though it can be seen clearly from the pathway.

In the heart of the village is the Dunraven Arms Hotel from where the local hunt rides. Some of the nearby cottages, originally built by the Earl of Dunraven in 1828 for his estate workers, have been converted into restaurants, including the cosy Inn-Between.

St Nicholas