Lismore Castle, located in the quaint village of Lismore, Ireland, is a magical dreamland waiting for you to explore. The private Irish home of The Duke of Devonshire, this castle brings guests into a fairytale all too familiar – one with a complex history, royal beginnings and well-known people who have graced its rooms. But, through all of this, it remains a home and a cozy one at that.
We rented Lismore Castle recently for a private event, one that saw 28 guests invited-in to its interior to experience the magic that exists here on River Blackwater, in stunning County Waterford, Ireland.
Over the course of three days, 28 people took-in the best Ireland has to offer, and did so through the lens of Lismore.
The castle’s history is far too storied to explain here, but it dates back to 1185 and has seen many iterations over the years. Its owners have included members of a monastery, The Cavendish family and the families of the Dukes of Devonshire throughout the generations. Each family and each guest has left a mark and a story to tell. This is what makes Lismore so interesting.
Lismore is not a hotel – it’s a home. And, you feel that immediately. The castle is not open to the public, but does open its storied gardens and Lismore Castle Arts museum to locals and visitors. The only way to get inside its living interior is to know The Duke of Devonshire personally, or to rent it. And, the price tag to rent it isn’t for the faint of heart. It is, alas, a luxury experience where you are Duke for a time, and the castle becomes your home when you are there.
Lismore is large, but comfortable. The team of lovely staff who work within its walls include lead butler, Dennis (a real gem, and absolutely lovely gentleman), young lads in charge of service, baggage and other odds and ends, as well as office managers who handle bookings and coordination. When renting Lismore, you go through them – but as a guest of the castle, you mainly interface with Dennis – who sees to your every comfort. He is the only full-time resident of Lismore, and knows it inside and out.
Aside from being a home, Lismore is a collection of art. As you walk through its rooms you cant help but notice the stunning furniture, tapestries paintings, photographs and wall hangings that make-up the unique decor.
Getting to know Dennis, and as you get to know the history of the castle through his experience and vast knowledge, you begin to have a whole new appreciation for where you are staying.
Augustus Pugin, the English famed architect, is responsible for most of the furnishings, lighting and wall coverings at Lismore – most of which are invaluable. Mr. Pugin designed such notable landmarks as Big Ben in London, as well as the chandelier hanging over your dining table in The Pugin Dining Room at Lismore. Everywhere you look here, there is a chair, an ottoman, a chaise – something he designed. There really are no words for the beauty that exists here.
When you rent Lismore Castle, you can customize your entire stay with the team. Before you arrive, you are contacted to help them get to know your wishes and habits. Do you prefer dinner at 7:00 pm or 9:00 pm? What would you like served at breakfast? What type of flowers and candles would you like on dining tables during dinner? Any particular requests for afternoon tea? It’s all up to you.
You’ll receive countless menu options that are filled with choices like: Irish beef and lamb, River Blackwater salmon, game hens and homemade desserts. We couldn’t get over the incredible array of food choices here, and each one better than the next. The salmon is caught just outside the door. The beef? It’s from a pasture up the road. The salmon? It was caught this morning in the river you are staring at out the window.
Lismore Castle is littered with priceless works of art. Each bedroom, hallway, bathroom – they’re all galleries for some of the most beautiful paintings you might ever see in Ireland. You can even located one painted by Prince Charles, given to The Duke of Devonshire when the prince was a guest in the castle a few years back.
You can scroll through the guest book and see names like: John F. Kennedy, Fred Astaire and J.K. Rowling. Dennis will tell you who slept in which room. The beds slept in by John F. Kennedy and Fred Astaire are still standing, and grace the room in which they slept. Every room here has something to share.
The staff at Lismore Castle cut flowers from the garden to help liven-up each space. The simple florals add such a nice touch and create a warm environment. Each guest has flowers in their room, and it’s just perfect.
When renting Lismore Castle you can place your guests in 15 bedrooms, give or take. If you have a few more or few less people, the staff will work with you on how best to place everyone. For our group, it was easy. The only issue was selecting the perfect bedroom for each person – because each one is better than the last. In fact, they all have names like: The Doctor’s bedroom, The Duchess Suite, The Duke’s bedroom – each name corresponding to a story.
Bathrooms at Lismore Castle are big enough to have a party in, literally. Most bedrooms have their own private bath, and each one is more than ample in size – with their own dressing rooms and living spaces.
What we loved about Lismore Castle and the bedrooms and public rooms in particular were the small items. Looking through the books of the Drawing room, notes in the bedroom…or the guestbook. What amazed us was that each item belonged to the Duke of Devonshire, and not once were we told not to touch something, look at something or sit on something. There are pieces of furniture, a chair for example, that might be worth as much as $50,000 in today’s market – and we were never told not to sit on it. We were made to feel completely at home.
This is truly your home away from home.
The staff of Lismore Castle will help you plan your days before you arrive. We had three days to plan for 28 people, and wanted each one to be interesting and different – keeping our guests thoroughly entertained.
We worked with Dennis to organize a private falconry experience at Lismore Castle. The staff helped us locate a gentleman who travels around the country to bring falcony, an age-old tradition, to visitors of Ireland wherever they are staying. One afternoon we were met in the courtyard with the most beautiful hawks, owls and more – each species with a story of its own and each guest with the ability to handle the birds, and fly them around the courtyard.
Archery was organized so that interested guests could learn how to properly use a bow and arrow, and shoot at targets in the expansive lawn.
Each guest was given the opportunity to canoe down River Blackwater on a warm day through a guided tour. The green hills and cliffs springing-up around each bend. The canoe trip was capped-off with a stop at the private estate of the Jameson sisters, heiresses to Jameson Whiskey. We were invited-in to their stunning home for coffee, tea and, of course, a whiskey tasting.
Some guests took advantage of the incredible access Lismore Castle offers to River Blackwater, which is one of the most important sources in Europe of freshwater salmon. The local guides take individuals into the river where you can spend a morning or afternoon soaking-in the peace of the bubbling water and fish for some of the most delicious salmon you’ll ever eat. In fact, if you catch one, you can have it brought back to the castle and the chef will prepare it for dinner.
We worked with the Lismore Castle staff to plan one major activity per day, but left time for guests to just sit and revel in their surroundings.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner were events unto themselves.
Each table set perfectly.
And, everyone dressed for the occasion – which was part of the fun.
Not one moment was overlooked by the staff or guests.
The transition from day, to afternoon and evening was seamless.
And, of course, the party went well into each night.
What started as a celebration and intimate affair turned into memories that will last a lifetime. Ireland is full of beautiful manor houses, castle hotels and special experiences – like nowhere else in the world. But, Lismore Castle is different. You have the entire place to yourself, you are in charge and the beauty that surrounds you is unparalleled. It’s here where you will be wowed, but will eventually settle-in and begin planning your next celebration to be had within its walls. This is not the ordinary, but extraordinary – and you feel that in each part of your time here.