ONE of Ireland's most famous castles is now being tipped to host Queen Elizabeth II during her historic visit next year.
The British monarch is expected to spend at least three days in Ireland next year to mark the end of a century of fraught diplomatic ties between the two countries.
Speculation has mounted that, as well as her obligatory stay in Dublin for a state banquet hosted by President Mary McAleese, the queen will spend at least one night in another Irish location -- with Lismore Castle in Co Waterford likely to be the venue.
Fittingly, 2011 will mark the centenary of the last visit to Ireland by a ruling British monarch -- the visit of King George V to Dublin in July 1911.
Major royal visits to Ireland also took place in 1903, 1900 and 1849 -- with Queen Victoria having visited Ireland a total of four times and having publicly stated her love for the Lakes of Killarney.
Lismore Castle in west Waterford is owned by the Duke of Devonshire, a close friend of the royal family.
The 12th duke, Peregrine Cavendish, is a particularly close confidant of Prince Charles -- and in 2004, Charles and his then-fiancee, Camilla Parker-Bowles -- now the Duchess of Cornwall -- flew over to Lismore for a special weekend break to mark the Duke's birthday.
Charles asked to go hill-walking near The Vee, a famous beauty spot near Lismore that many compare to the mountains around Balmoral, the royal country retreat in Scotland.
As well as ranking as one of Ireland's most picturesque castles, Lismore is also highly regarded by gardai and British police because of its suitability for tight security.
Lismore officials are thrilled that their town is in the running for a royal visit -- and said that any visit by the queen to west Waterford would deliver a tourism bonanza.
The town councillor, Bernard Leddy, has already publicly endorsed any potential royal visit that included Lismore on its itinerary -- and stressed that the town and its environs needed the economic boost.
"I think that people need to forget the past -- this is all about doing something for the future," he said.
"I did take a lot of flak from people for suggesting this but no one can be a prisoner of history -- this is doing something for the future, for Lismore town and for the economy."
Lismore's Mayor, Orla Russell, has also said that the queen -- just like any other visitor -- would be more than welcome in the west Waterford town.
Charles's 2004 visit was marked only by minor protests from some republican groups.