Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Classy Days and a Knight; Mix with the Irish Aristos on a Castle Break

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Classy Days and a Knight; Mix with the Irish Aristos on a Castle Break

Article excerpt

Byline: SANDRA LANE

"SO that's the Knight?" came a mock-serious American-accented stage whisper from the next table. "What about the... erm... armour?"

Casual, in black poloneck jumper and beige trousers, Desmond FitzGerald, the romantically titled 29th Knight of Glin, in whose castle we were making ourselves at home, had just left the dining room after entertaining us with some of Glin Castle's secrets - a 700-year history of fluctuating fortunes, moments of glory, and some rather wayward and eccentric ancestors.

If Glin Castle, Co Limerick, were a hotel, the brochurespeak that would infallibly describe it as "grand and antique-filled" would be wide of the mark.

For one thing it's not exactly a hotel - it is still the FitzGeralds' family home - and for another, its grandness is cosy.

The museum-worthy array of art, furniture and knickknacks and the wonderful colours of the main rooms would look contrived and soulless in the hands of a hotel decorator, but at Glin there's a not-quite-perfect nonchalance that epitomises great taste.

The hotel-style display of tourist brochures on a table by the front door was the sole jarring note amid such loveliness, where ancestral portraits mix with relaxed family photographs and the casually arranged flowers are from the garden, not a fancy florist.

Everything looks as if it's always been there, even though the Knight and his wife, Olda (who has the deliciously archaic title of Madam FitzGerald) moved back to Glin in 1975 and began working on the house in earnest.

The third-floor bedrooms were finished only two years ago, having remained a spooky maze of exposed rafters and bat colonies since an ancestor ran out of money in 1820.

The Knight, who is president of the Irish Georgian Society, was a precocious collector. "That's the first thing I ever bought," he said, pointing out a headless marble Andromeda in the walled garden. "I found it in a field at Ballynagarde when I was 13 and paid a pound for it."

Later, I returned with a book to Andromeda's rustic bower.

Warmed by the late-morning sun I gazed across the gardens. …

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