Friday, October 17, 2014

Irish eyes are smiling at Ballynahinch Castle Hotel

Ballynahinch Castle Hotel, Connemara, Galway, Ireland  (Photo: Ballynahinch Castle)
CONNEMARA, IRELAND Ballynahinch Castle Hotel in Connemara, Galway, Ireland has been described in one word which perfectly characterizes it as “poetry.”

Situated in the spiritual heart of the region, this manor castle and its 450 acre woodland estate reflects the spirit of Irish hospitality with its rich history and nostalgic location. Nestled on the shores of the Owenmore River at the foot of the 12 Bens Mountain range and just five miles from the Atlantic Ocean, the popular luxury hotel resembles a sporting estate more than it does a traditional castle.

The Cliffs of Moher, Ireland  (Photo: Taylor)
Ballynahinch, which means settlement of the island when translated from the original Irish, was built in 1684 for the Martyn family, of which one of its most famous members was Colonel Richard Martin.

Colonel Martin was a politician and well-known animal rights activist who founded the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). At first Martin was source of public ridicule, but eventually his reputation earned him the nickname of ‘Humanity Dick.’

Majestic Irish coastline  (Photo: Wikipedia)
Since 1946, when Ballynahinch became a hotel, the property has thrived upon the distinction of offering superb accommodations and award-winning dining in luxurious, but unpretentious, surroundings. Among the most popular activities are fly-fishing for salmon, nature walks amid pristine forests, horseback riding and golf, all of which capture the ambiance of a gentler, more relaxing day and age. 

Ballynahinch blends a Downton Abbey lifestyle with a rustic atmosphere that immediately embraces its guests by encapsulating them in a world that only seems to exist in period novels and films.

Fisherman's Pub, Ballynahinch Castle  (Photo: Ballynahinch Castle)
Much of the appeal of Ballynahinch is the opportunity to venture away from the castle for a variety of excursions before returning to open log fires and the lively old world charms of the Fisherman’s Pub.

The Ballynahinch Fishery, located on the property of the castle, is recognized throughout the world as providing some of the best salmon and sea trout fishing on earth. It’s a “riverdance” for anglers.

Several nearby fishing villages feature sea cruising and both deep sea and freshwater fishing. There are also regular outings to the Aran Islands and picturesque Inishbofin with its population of just 160 inhabitants.

Ancient ruin at Inishbofin  (Photo: Wikimedia)
Inishbofin, which means the Island of the White Cow, is primarily known for its scenic location, but it is also home to St. Colman’s Cemetery, the ruin of a 13th century church on the site of a 7th century monastery.

The 12 Bens, Connemara, Ireland  (Photo: Wikipedia)
The island is a short 30-minute ferry ride from Cleggan Pier. Noted for its delightful walks and sandy beaches, it is also a popular spot to carry a picnic lunch prepared at Ballynahinch before you set out for the day.

Shoppers enjoy the villages of Roundstone and Westport as well as the local market in Clifden. Along with its market, Clifden is the gateway to the appropriately named Sky Road which is known for its breathtaking views of the Irish coastline.

Reflections of Kylemore Abbey  (Photo: Ireland Tourism)
Another favorite day trip is a visit to Kylemore Abbey, Ireland’s oldest Benedictine Abbey. Kylemore, just a half-hour’s drive from Ballynahinch, was built in 1868 and, it has been home to the Community of Benedictine Nuns for nearly 100 years. The site features a Gothic church, Victorian gardens, walking areas in the mountains plus crafts and pottery.

Among the list of characters associated with Ballynahinch was Maharaja Ranjitsinhji who many regard as one of the greatest cricket batsmen in history. In addition to being an Indian prince, Ranji was a member of the English cricket team and played first-class cricket for Cambridge University.

His unorthodox batting style called the “leg glance” revolutionized the game by allowing quicker reaction time with the bat. One teammate tabbed him with the nickname “the midsummer night’s dream of cricket.”

Outside the cricket pitch. Ranji became the Chancellor of the Indian Chamber of Princes in 1907 and later represented his country at the League of Nations.

The Grand Walk at Ballynahinch Castle  (Photo: Ballynahinch Castle)
For the traveler, Ballynahinch Castle represents casual elegance. Classic rooms are individually furnished in a variety of sizes that conjure images and impressions of a bygone era. Rates begin at approximately $145 per night and all classic rooms are located in the original Ballynahinch building.

The rest of the story  (Photo: Ballynahinch Castle)
At the higher end of the scale, three riverside suites occupy the full width of the luxury wing of the castle hotel. The suites feature panoramic views of the river and woodlands or the walled garden. 

Prices start at about $270 per night.

Ballynahinch is a four-star property that prides itself on traditional Irish hospitality. Sequestered within the idyllic forests of Connemara, Galway, Ballynahinch will not overwhelm you with pomp and ceremony. Rather it welcomes you with all the sensations of a genteel lifestyle where living is quiet and uncomplicated. Just the way it used to be.