Charles and Camilla in familiar surrounds for dinner with President
After a day of touring a theatre, a school, a university and the thoroughly fascinating topography of the Burren, Prince Charles and Camilla found themselves in the familiar surrounds of a castle last night.
The royal couple rounded off the first day of their four-day visit to Ireland by hosting an intimate dinner for about a dozen guests, including President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina, at Lough Cutra Castle estate near Gort in south Galway.
The stunning castle has a fascinating history which would give any of the properties of the Windsors a run for their money - it's likely that St Patrick passed through Lough Cultra on his travels, and a church on the estate was sacked by the Danes in the 9th century.
And in the 18th century, famous architect John Nash, who was involved in the construction of Buckingham Palace, was employed to design the gothic-style castle.
President Higgins and his wife Sabina, who was wearing a smart pink dress (the dinner wasn't black-tie), arrived at the Galway estate shortly after 8pm. They were greeted by Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall in the tiled hallway in front of a roaring fire in what was a grand but relaxed end to the first day of the royal visit.
It wasn't the first meeting between the Prince of Wales and Michael D - the two men are understood to have built up a friendly rapport in recent years having met on the State visit to Britain in 2014, and again at the moving Gallipoli centenary commemorations in Turkey last month.
That warmth was on display as the quartet posed for photographs in the ornate Gough room overlooking the lake shore as the sun set.
As it was a private dinner, it's not known who was on the guest list, except for the Tánaiste Joan Burton, who was representing the Government and who had accompanied the Duchess of Cornwall on several of her engagements in Galway earlier in the day.
While visiting the Claddagh National School during the afternoon, the Tánaiste said, "Prince Charles and Camilla are clearly very happy to be in Ireland, and they've been having warm and positive engagements with everyone they've met. It's a strong confirmation of the friendly ties between the UK and Ireland."
The dozen or so guests sat down to a three-course dinner of blanched Highgrove asparagus with hollandaise sauce; pan-seared fillet of halibut with crushed jersey royal potatoes, spinach and a lemon cream sauce; and natural yoghurt panna cotta with poached Highgrove rhubarb.
And this repast (modest by standards of 10-course banquets often faced by royal visitors) was washed down with Chassagne-Montrachet Blanchots 2012, Chateau La Grave A Pomerol 2003, and a tipple with a name familiar to Prince Charles, Highgrove Champagne Brut Rose, an organic bubbly from the couple's own private residence, Highgrove estate.
Prince Charles and Camilla stayed in Lough Cutra last night.