Morning walks and castle tours
The Bus Eireann 13 and 14 buses both travel from Limerick bus station out to Adare on their way to Kerry (20 minutes, every 1–2 hours). Additionally, the Dublin Coach 300 Express service goes from Arthur’s Quay in the city centre to Adare (25 minutes, hourly).
Once you’re in the village, it’s easy to get around on foot – most of the attractions are on Main Street and fairly close together. The bus drops you off right by the Adare Heritage Centre, so make that your first port of call. You can pick up a copy of the village map and browse the craft shops and woollen mill stores inside.
There’s also an excellent Historical Exhibition at the back of the centre’s restaurant that tells the story of Adare, from the construction of the castle to the tales of life in the monastic houses. It’s probably one of the few exhibitions with restaurant tables within, so you learn all about the Earls of Dunraven as you drink your coffee.
Just over the road, the small Adare Town Park is a pleasant spot for a stroll, with a thatched bandstand, an archway covered with roses and the old washing pool, where local women would have washed their clothes in the 19th century.
If you fancy a longer walk, make your way up Station Road until you meet the entrance to the Adare Riverbank Walk (2km, 25 minutes). Here, a narrow pathway runs alongside the River Maigue, past fields of cows and bat boxes until you reach the arches of the old stone bridge, with Desmond Castle just behind.
The only way to see this 13th century castle up close is on a guided tour in the summer (45 minutes, every two hours). You can buy a ticket in the Heritage Centre and the tour sets off from there, with a shuttle bus taking you to the castle itself. It’s well worth it – the castle lies in ruin, but your guide will take you through each room, telling you how it would have looked in its heyday.
You’ll step into the old dining room and see how the shape of the windows changed according to the wealth and status of the seated guests – the windows were more basic at the ‘poorer’ end of the table, with the grander Fleur-de-lis archways positioned by the richest diners. You’ll also get to go into the dungeon, a tiny room that held 20 prisoners at a time, and walk up the stumble steps, each one a different height to trip up invaders who would charge the castle.
Afternoon tea and window shopping
One of Ireland’s most luxurious hotels is right in the village of Adare. But you don’t have to be staying there to pay it a visit – book in for lunch or afternoon tea at Adare Manor and you can see it all yourself. You need to have a restaurant reservation to enter the grounds, but the walk from the village entrance gate up to the manor itself is lovely, following the tree lined avenue past the edge of the golf course and archery range.
Afternoon tea is something of an institution at Adare Manor, served in the super swish Gallery, with vaulted ceilings, carved wood panelled walls and stained glass windows. Inspired by the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles, it's one of the longest rooms in Ireland (and often compared to the dining room of Hogwarts in Harry Potter). Each tier arrives with dainty sandwiches, pastries and warm scones with clotted cream and jam, and there’s a little twist to the traditional flavours – think caviar in the smoked salmon sandwiches, or Baileys in the chocolate eclairs.
Before you leave, check out the neatly manicured maze to the front of the manor, as well as the giant teddy bear that stands at the edge of the putting green – it’s the largest bronze sculpture in Ireland.
When you get back to the village, have a browse around the shops and boutiques that line the edge of Main Street. There are traditional craft shops like Adare Cottage, where you can pick up Belleek Pottery and Aran knitwear, as well as more modern boutiques like Isobel. Don’t miss Aoife’s Cottage, the flagship store of young designer Aoife McNamara. It may look traditional from the outside, but the floor inside is bright pink, with her linen dresses and unique tailored jackets lining the walls. She also stocks pieces from local artists and quirky ceramics.
Just off Main Street, the Draíocht Art Gallery and Shop is a bright and spacious place to browse local artwork, from oil paintings to wood turned furniture. But there are also plenty of pieces that will fit on the bus home, from art prints and candles to colourful acrylic jewellery.
A few doors down, you’ll find the Adare Courthouse, which officially shut down in 2009 but reopened as Aunty Lena’s Bar in 2018. There are some interesting historical elements inside, like the old prison cell with the original bronze keys and handcuffs displayed at the door. But upstairs, there’s a little museum dedicated to the history of the building and the village, complete with a mock-up of the judge’s podium.
Before you leave, call into the Trinitarian Monastery next to the Heritage Centre – it was destroyed during the reign of Henry VIII, but restored in the 19th century. Its panelled arched ceiling and giant stained glass windows are quite remarkable.
Where to eat in Adare
If you need a pick me up as soon as you arrive, head to Ponaire Lorge, a coffee shop and chocolatier just opposite the Heritage Centre. They roast the coffee beans themselves, and you can pick up a few truffles or some homemade fudge to go alongside your flat white. There are some tables outside, too.
If afternoon tea isn’t your jam, book in for lunch at Adare Manor’s Carriage House. With giant gable windows overlooking the putting green and a mosaic tiled floor, it feels like a stylish country club. You can keep things light with a superfood salad, but a popular choice is the flat iron steak sandwich, served with confit garlic mayo and a big bowl of fries on the side.
For a casual café vibe, head to Stacpoole Coffee House, where you’ll get stuff like soup and a sandwich or a plate of twice cooked potato skins. They do a great vegan burger, too. The space at the front of the shop sells local artwork, with the dining area at the back – you walk through a floral archway to get to the café.
It’s only open Thursday to Sunday, but if your visit coincides with the opening hours of 1826 Adare, you’re in for a treat. Set within one of the thatched cottages, the restaurant has a rustic, homely feel inside, with whitewashed walls and low ceilings. The food is classic with a French twist – think chicken liver toast or pan-fried halibut with mussels on the side. They do a great late Sunday lunch, served from 3pm.