By: Kevin Duffy
During a recent visit to Ireland I had the opportunity to stay at Ballynahinch Castle Hotel in the Connemara region of County Galway. The castle itself was built in the 1750s on an island within a lake on the 450-acre estate of the OaFlaherty clan. At the time of our visit, the original castle was undergoing renovations, and if the Irish weather doesnat cause too many rain delays, construction is expected to be completed next year.
The castle has had many famous residents and visitors over the years. During the 16th century, the castle was home to Grace OaMalley, who was the subject of the 2007 Broadway play aThe Pirate Queena. One of the founders of the SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), Richard Martin, better known as Humanity Dick, made the castle his home in the late 1700s. President Gerald Ford and First Lady Betty Ford visited the Castle in 1981. The carpet that the President stood on while giving a brief speech, has been adorned with the presidential seal, and hangs in the stairwell. Former British Prime Minister James Callaghan was also a guest at the castle in more recent years.
Although the castle renovations were underway during our visit, we were able to appreciate the newer hotel that was built in 1946, as well as the land that the belonged to the OaFlaherty clan several centuries earlier. We drove to the ancient fishing village of Clifden also known as the aCapital of Connemaraa. Breathtaking sites along the way included the famous mountain range known as the Twelve Bens and Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands. The island of Inishmore is home to what is believed to be the smallest Church in Ireland, and possibly the world. St. Benanas Church measures just 11a x 15a and dates back to the 7th century. The island has also hosted the famous Red Bull cliff diving championships for the past two years.
While I often marvel at the architectural and engineering feats that I see in New York City, the unparalleled natural beauty of Ireland is truly awe inspiring to me. I am already looking forward to my next trip back.