Early one morning I stroll through a light drizzle to explore Glin's high-walled kitchen garden. In the greenhouse I meet Tom Wall, the head gardener for 25 years, who is busy plucking pheasants. He leads me on a tour, describing how he produces honey from a battalion of beehives and grows Glin's supply of asparagus, sea kale, rhubarb, beetroot, spinach, celeriac, leeks, potatoes, and six varieties of lettuce. "If we were to wrap each vegetable and fly it in from South Africa it would probably cost the same," Madam FitzGerald says with a sigh. But a castleful of guests makes such abundance possible—and "the house seems to lend itself to this wonderfully old-fashioned way of doing things."
Keen to welcome more guests, the FitzGeralds created six new suites this past year by renovating the third floor, left unfinished when money ran out while the castle was being built in the 1780's. Next year they hope to add two more bedrooms to the sprawling west wing. "You only live once and you have to take some risks," the knight says. "Anyway, it's fun to do. There are very few houses left in Ireland that contain their original objects, so one's preserving a fairly rare bird."
Glin Castle, Glin, Co. Limerick; 353-68/34173, fax 353-68/34364; doubles from $208.
Christopher Mason writes for the New York Times and New York magazine.
beyond the castle walls
Two hours by car from the Dingle Peninsula, an hour from the lakes and mountains of Killarney, and 40 minutes outside Limerick, Glin provides a good base for exploring southwestern Ireland. Here are some worthy day trips. BALLYBUNION: Glin is surrounded by celebrated golf courses, including Ballybunion, often ranked as one of the top five links in the world. President Clinton has teed off here, and the course will be the setting for this month's Irish Open. DROMORE CASTLE: A witch's lair if ever there was one, this round-towered castle was built in 1867 by architect Edward William Godwin for the Earl of Limerick (whose ambition clearly outweighed his fortune). The masterpiece is now little more than a shell, albeit one with a lovely view of the river Shannon. SCATTERY ISLAND: A 20-minute boat ride from nearby Kilrush, Scattery is uninhabited — great for walks and picnics (supplied by Glin's chefs). All that's left is a deserted village and five churches. Viking pirates used to sail up the river to divide their spoils on Scattery.