Standing at the head of island studded Cashel Bay the only thing separating Connemara’s Cashel House in Ireland and North America is the North Atlantic.

The hotel is a Relais and Chateaux and Ireland Blue Book property set in luxury and awarding winning gardens blooming over 50 acres. Sip a Guinness by a log or turf fire, but save the wine for the lovely and luxurious dinners in the atmospheric glassed in garden restaurant.  It was like dining on a verandah with no ceiling overlooking Kay's garden.

Cashel Bay, home to your
dinner at Cashel House.

Cashel Bay is the source of much of the seafood found on the restaurant’s table, and I had to try the stack of mussels, but lobsters, clams, scallops, salmon, mackerel, are also dipped out of the drink for the dining fantasia. Of course the lamb is pure Connemara, a unique breed to the area, and there is a wide variety of fresh vegetables and soups from the Cashel House’s own gardens.  Dermot keeps a keen eye over the Cashel House cookery served with an extensive wine list.

The Cashel House Restaurant
is located in the glass atrium.

Cashel House's asymmetrical gabled elevation was built in 1840 by Geoffrey Emerson who is said to have designed it for Captain Thomas Hazell.  Emerson is a great, great grandfather of the present owners. The Hazells were English landowners and were also agents for a Scottish firm buying kelp, a type of seaweed, and the old kelp store still stands by the pier opposite Doon house in the village of Cashel.  Captain Hazell and his wife celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary in 1885. The rose hedge outside the window, where the bar is now, is said to be his gift to her. Mrs. Hazell laid out a lot of the gardens and planted many flowering trees and shrubs.

Read about the Cashel House
garden plants in the library.

From 1919 to 1951 Cashel House was the home of Jim O’Mara T.D. and his family. Jim was the first official representative of Ireland in the United States, who devoted his life and talents to make Ireland a nation. Jim was a keen botanist and found happiness in Cashel House. Over the years he did a lot of work in the garden.  The three streams that flowed through the garden from the mountain behind were a delight with their banks clothed with bog plants, with spirea and osmunda ferns. O’Mara turned the orchard field into a walled garden of rare trees, azaleas, heathers, and dwarf rhododendrons, which his children named "The Secret Garden". Also planted were a double beech tree, a fire tree, and a snowdrop tree. Jim O’Mara and his wife celebrated their Golden Jubilee in April 1945 in the garden under a flowering cucryphia.

Cashel House entrance to
Relais & Chateaux luxury.

In 1952 Cashel House became the home of Lt. Col and Mrs. William Patrick Browne-Clayton, formerly of Browne's Hill in Carlow. During their time at Cashel House the Browne Clayton’s had Harold McMillan, the late British Prime Minister, stay as their guests many times. The family gave the garden the notable collection of fuchsias.

Dermot and Kay McEvilly purchased Cashel House in 1967. Total refurbishment began immediately with a fine collection of antiques added and all rooms modernized.  The house reopened in May, 1968 as the Cashel House Hotel.  When the McEvillys acquired the house, the gardens were totally overgrown. For the first one to three years and even up to today, Kay has restored with obvious joy, the entire gardens, and even added Mary’s Garden, dedicated to her sister who died in a tragic auto accident.

Lounge by a glowing peat fire.

It was in the Cashel House that the late General and madam Charles De Gaulle of France spent two weeks while on an Irish Holiday in the spring of 1969. You can sit where DeGaulle sat, deep in the shade of the gardens, as if hiding from the world.

The Cashel House has won many awards over the years, and is well known in Europe as a restful holiday spot in the Connemara, on the seacoast, and with a wonderful and acclaimed restaurant, private Atlantic Ocean beach, horse riding stables, and 50 acres of wooded walks and gardens.   Golf and fishing can be arranged locally.  The largest major town nearby is Clifton.

A gentle and sky Connemara pony.

I certainly enjoyed petting the gentle and beautiful Connemara ponies, a unique breed to this area of Ireland. (The Black Stallion — from the movies — was a Connemara pony.) They are so slim and fit looking that they appear demure. This is a real working stud farm with the stables behind the hotel.

Along the wonderful pathways you will find:

Parrotia persica, an accepted name in the RHS Horticultural Database for Persian Ironwood, indigenous to Iran, Turkey, and the Caucasus.  This is an Award of Garden Merit plant at Cashel. The wide spreading, often multi stemmed deciduous tree or shrub grows to 8 meters with flaking bark. They have small crimson flowers on bare twigs.

Gourmet dining with a garden view.

Styrax japonicus is the Japanese Snowbell or Snowflake Flower, another award winning plant in the Cashel House gardens, an elegant medium sized deciduous tree with spreading branches with finely pointed ovate leaves and bell-shaped white flowers with yellow stamens, blooming out in profusion beneath the branches.

Lirodendron tulipifera is the accepted name for the Tulip Tree or Canary Whitewood, also known as the Saddle Tree or Canoewood. The poplar tree is actually from North America and Kay's is a vigorous large tree with the leaves turning butter yellow in autumn. The 4 cm long flowers are tulip shaped, yellowish-green, and marked with orange within.

The deep shade of Kay's garden.

Acer capillipes is the name of the Snake Bark Maple, coming from Japan. The small deciduous tree has white striped branches and three lobed leaves up to 12 cm long, that turn red and yellow in autumn; the flowers are green with dropping racemes with attractive pink fruit.

Magnolia grandiflora is really the Bull Bay Great Laurel or Leaved Magnolia or Large Flowered Magnolia also known as Magnolia Loblolly, or Southern Magnolia, coming from the Old South of the USA.

The Garden Suite is filled with light and
the scent of flowers from Kay's garden.

The Drimys winteri is the Latin name for Winter’s Bark or Winter Cinnamon.

Podocarpus totara is the Mahogany Pine or Totara Pine from New Zealand.

Steartia pseudocamellia is from Japan, also known as just Camellia.

Abies alba is also known as the Christmas Tree or European Silver Fir or White Spruce that comes from Central and Southern Europe.

I was certainly surprised to learn that the desert or dry condition loving Acacia was found in Kay’s garden. Acacia melanoxylon or Australian Blackwood or Tasmanian Lightwood comes from the land down under.

Dine al fresco in Kay's garden.

I am sure if you begged Kay, she would gladly entice you with information on growing camellias, magnolias, herbs, and fruit trees. One thing is for certain, for nearly 40 years Kay has expanded in Ireland the Latin vernacular from around the world, and her green thumbs will point you to their exact location within her garden.

Across a small road is a tennis court. The nearest golf course is at Ballyconneely — an 18 hole link. There is fishing in the lakes in the Connemara; also in the area is bird watching, cycling, hill walking, deep sea fishing from Roundstone, Clifden, and Cleggan.  Cashel is a small and quiet cove village at the foot of Cashel Hill. The folks are village friendly here.

Cashel House Hotel
Cashel, County Galway
Ph: 353 (095) 31001
Fax: 353 95 31077

And to top it off you can drop in via helicopter on the Cashel House ground's own helipad.

Note: There are two Cashel towns in Ireland, Cashel House is in County Galway.

By Kriss Hammond, Editor, Jetsetters Magazine.