Enjoy lodgings in the east wing of a grand house in the Decies that has a history stretching back nearly a millennium
Situated on perhaps the most magnificent setting in Ireland, Dromana House is Ireland's original homestead. With 2015 marking the 800th year that Barbara Grubb and her descendants have lived in this noble Déise paradise, the decorated family is finally adding a little fanfare to a country manor escape that remains one of Ireland's unheralded national treasures.
The history book
A true kitchen-table legend, Dromana's incredible history dates back 799 years when King John granted the lands of Waterford to the FitzGerald clan. As direct descendants from that very bloodline, Grubb and her ancestors vowed to always keep a presence on the original settlement site. From the original medieval castle, the current architectural evolution sees an imposing Georgian manor and 600 acres of woodland and gardens guarding over the river Blackwater.
To the manor born
Upon my arrival, Dromana had all the hallmarks of an Irish manor: crunchy gravel driveway, green-fingered ornate gardens, along with the welcoming party of the family's gundogs all setting the tone for my weekend as a country squire. Given its history, there was an air of the Home Counties here and given its majestic riparian setting, a hint of a Schloss on the Rhine. But quick to establish the proud Waterford roots upon greeting me was Barbara Grubb herself. She is, unfathomably, the 22nd generation of her family to live on the site
The East Wing
In addition to Dromana's private quarters (home to Grubb, her husband and her mother), the estate also has two self-catering residences. While the downstairs river duplex might boast the best vistas, I was staying in Dromana's "East Wing"; an ambient, stately affair where the design brief was one of mounted antlers, candelabras and a waiting log fire. Entered through an impressive scarlet dining room, my quarters contained a kitchen, living room, two bathrooms and, following an initial count of three bedrooms, a fourth was later uncovered beneath the stairwell.
A family portrait
A must during a stay at Dromana is partaking in a tour of the family's own private residence, guided by Barbara's mother Emily Villiers-Stuart. Through banquet halls and drawing rooms, Mrs Villiers-Stuart narrates the estate's extraordinary history, largely prompted by an oil painting hall of fame honouring her descendants. Family characters are unsurprisingly copious - from Barbara Villiers, the former mistress of King Charles II, to Katherine Fitzgerald, the Countess of Desmond.
A Deice day out
With mountains, coastline and its very own Gaeltacht, Dromana's doorstep boasts the touristic microcosm of Ireland itself. I headed north of the estate to trek across the hiking haven of The Vee while south I head for some Sunday night spraoi in An Rinn. But it wasn't long until my wing at Dromana was luring me home. Níl aon tinteán mar do thinteán féin.