Lismore Castle in west Co Waterford hangs on a craggy rock, looming majestically over the small picturesque town. It dominates the landscape, creating a postcard-perfect background, a home fit for a queen.
In 1932, it became home to queen of the stage Adele Astaire, sibling of dancer Fred Astaire, upon her marriage to Lord Charles Cavendish. It was the beginning of a love affair with Ireland for the Astaire family that would last until 2010.
The duo began their stage career in New York in 1905. Johanna Austerlitz had travelled half way across America by sleeper train, from the mid-western beer-making, meat-packing city of Omaha, with her enthusiastic eight-year-old, Adele, and her quiet five-year-old, Fred.
Before the advent of television, before movies and cinema-going became the norm, live theatre, musicals and vaudeville, a type of variety act that travelled from town to town, were the main sources of public entertainment.
Adele Austerlitz showed great promise at her dance school in Omaha, so much so that her teacher advised, should she get professional training in New York, she had a chance of "making it".
There was talent in the family. Their father Fritz had come to New York in his 20s from Austria, escaping a strict military family. He was a talented singer and piano player, and had dreams of making it to stage himself. When the reality of a crowded New York City - filled to the brim with piano players - dawned cold, Fritz took a job that brought him to the mid-west and there he met Johanna.
In New York, Johanna taught the children their school lessons in the morning and in the afternoon, they took instruction in dance, singing, stage performance and piano. Fred accompanied his sister Adele to class, not because he showed any particular prowess, but because there was nothing else for him to do.
Top hat and tails
Within a year, the children had an act ready which involved Adele and Fred dancing up and down a wooden wedding cake. Adele, three years older than her brother, was taller and so their mother put Fred into a top hat, which levelled out their heights.
This top hat and tails would later become one of the most iconic looks of Fred's Hollywood image.
Around this time, Johanna decided that 'Austerlitz' had no star quality. Conscious also of an anti-German bias sweeping America, she came up with the name 'Astaire' and shortened her own name to Ann.
Ann, Adele and Fred Astaire were born.
What followed was a whirlwind of success for the children as theatre agents booked their show as part of the vaudeville circuit across the States. Adele outshone Fred in every sense, and all reviews noted her engaging personality, looks and star quality. In a later interview, Fred said Adele at this time "carried him on her back".
In 1917, the pair landed their first Broadway role, which meant they could move away from the strains of vaudeville and touring, and enjoy secure and well-paid employment.
The 1920s saw the Astaires work non-stop, forming partnerships with producers that would see a string of hit shows and finding friendship with musicians like George Gershwin, who set the iconic sounds of jazz-age 1920s America.
In shows such as For Goodness Sake and Lady Be Good they found their strength in musical comedy and Adele gained a legion of followers with her cheeky timing, fashion sense and charisma. Invited to perform in London, the Astaires were greeted by hordes of fans who gathered for autographs, the women copying Adele's 1920s bob and style. England was in love with America, going crazy for the 'Charleston', prohibition cocktails, flapper dresses and jazz. London was in love with the Astaires.
By her early 30s and after two tours of England and a number of Broadway runs, Adele was growing tired of the demands of rigorous stage life. She had been working and travelling with little respite since she was a child and she had met and fallen in love with Lord Charles Cavendish, the second son of the Duke of Devonshire, whose family home was the magnificent Chatsworth House in Derbyshire.
Art deco touches
Despite Charles' family concern at an American stage star sweeping into their family, they were married in 1932 and Adele retired, waving goodbye to the stage at the peak of her career.
It was the ending of a professional partnership between the Astaires that had lasted nearly three decades.
Adele and Charles were gifted the magnificent Lismore Castle and Adele settled into domestic life. She took to redesigning the castle, adding bathrooms and modernising the 19th-century interiors. A famous saying went that "King John built the castle, but Adele Astaire plumbed it".
To this day, the décor remains and her presence can be felt in the beautiful art deco touches throughout.
During World War II, Lismore Castle became a recuperation home for invalids, something that spurred Adele to seek out more assistance work in the war effort. She moved to London and took a job with the Red Cross, writing letters for soldiers. She often took to the dance floor and welcomed Fred, who went on tour to entertain the troops.
Her move to London was also an escape from life at Lismore which had become difficult as Charles fell into heavy alcoholism. It would eventually lead to his premature death.
Adele remained at Lismore after the war but was lonely and miserable. She remarried in 1947, and in doing so bequeathed her claim to the castle. She struck an agreement with the Cavendish family whereby she could visit for three months each year - and she did so right up until 1979.
Throughout their lives, Adele and Fred remained close. They spent her last Christmas together in Arizona, alone, sharing memories and the intimacies of their spectacular lives together.
Fred Astaire's daughter Ava was also drawn to Ireland and she moved to Co Cork permanently with her husband in 1975. They too loved the quiet country life, so different from Beverley Hills. They lived here until 2010 before returning to the US.
Adele Astaire died in January 1981 from complications of a stroke. Later that year, Fred Astaire was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute. In his acceptance speech he said: "My sister Adele was mostly responsible for me being in show business.
"She was the whole show, she really was. In all the vaudeville acts we did and comedies, Delly was the one, the shining light and I was just there."
'Adele', a bio-fictional account of the life of Adele Astaire by Nicola Cassidy is published by Poolbeg Press