Hmmm... where does one set one’s serialisation of one of PG Wodehouse’s most curious, humorous and calamitous tales? Crom Castle you say? In Ireland’s Lake District? By Jove, sounds like a jolly old place. Do lead on...
The world owes a great debt to the British sense of humour: a wincing Basil Fawlty, a smirking Blackadder, and Joanna Lumley surrounded by a fog of cigarette smoke and champagne mist.
There’s the trifling matter of that Chaucer chap, too. Shakespeare famously liked a laugh, and what would a dinner party be without the repartee of Billy Connolly or Eddie Izzard?
One name, however, must never be omitted from a roll call of Britain’s mirth makers: PG Wodehouse.
Jeeves’s perennially stiff upper lip and Bertie Wooster’s trembling bottom one have wedged themselves onto the pinnacle of Britain’s heady comedy mountain.
But before the original odd couple captured our imagination, Wodehouse’s comedy took place somewhere very special indeed: Blandings Castle.
Described rather glibly as “dysfunction junction” by Guy Andrews, writer of the upcoming BBC series Blandings, Blandings Castle is more than just a location in Wodehouse’s books and stories: it’s a character itself.
Blandings is the stage where the put-upon Lord Clarence Elmsworth (played by Timothy Spall) and his pet pig seek the most modest of holy grails: a quiet life. With regular intervention from his often-menacing sister Connie (Jennifer Saunders), her thick-headed son Freddie (Jack Farthing) and various interlopers, our heroes’ nirvana remains tantalisingly out of reach.
Historic is the word. Slink around any corner in Crom and vignettes of bygone grandeur pop out like so many quirky relatives. A conservatory packed with light and spread with huge granite flagstones; four-poster beds tall enough to stir one to vertigo; vast corridors where walls are hung with carved ships and dainty lamps.
The estate borders the glassy Upper Lough Erne, with its wooded islands peninsula and the island folly of Crichton Tower. Built in 1847 as a famine relief project, the tower is accessible by the Earl of Erne’s own boat – original owner of this impressive pile.
There’s no need to stop at the folly. Devenish Island, no more than a green tear drop, is scattered with one of Ireland’s least-mobbed monastic sites. Keep hopping; the stone figures of White Island are eerie and fascinating in equal measure. If you’d rather break a sweat, hire a canoe or kayak and paddle the place on your own steam.
The castle is not just the playground of the rich, famous and national broadcasters however. The modest public can actually rent part of the castle – the west wing to be precise or if self-catering is more your style you can rent holiday cottages in and around the Crom Demesne. If there’s a knot to be tied, Crom Castle can host the afters for you, too.
So if you want to relive your own Blandings scene, or a ‘Lord of the manor’ moment, steer your carriage to Fermanagh.
Just leave the pet pigs at home.
The Blandings premier airs on BBC One this January 13th at 18:30 GMT.