Gatsby glamour – in Ireland

When the final credits roll on the Great Gatsby you will most likely be thinking one thing: “They really had style in the Twenties”. They did. They have it now, too. You just need to know where to look.

Decadent dinner at Ballyfin provided by Ballyfin Hotel
Decadent dinner at Ballyfin provided by Ballyfin Hotel

Baz Luhrmann rarely shies away from glamor. Strictly Ballroom, Moulin Rouge, Romeo + Juliet – he even managed to mould scenes of decadence from the desert dust in Australia.

This time, for the Australian director, F Scott Fitzgerald’s most elegant character is his subject. Just two minutes of a trailer can tell you that Fitzgerald and Luhrmann is a marriage made in heaven – the roaring Twenties have never looked better.

Still, there’s no reason that DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire and Carey Mulligan should have all the fun.

Lasting style

Lisnavagh House, on the borders of counties Carlow and Wicklow, is the kind of place that would have suited Gatsby to a tee. Even before you’ve set foot indoors, the ivy-covered portico has worked its period charm. Inside, you realise this is the real deal. Dressing tables are decked with mahogany mirrors and delicate perfume vials. Sitting rooms are gently jammed with Belle Époque elegance and a frosted bottle of Moët reclines in wooden champagne bucket.

Host and owner Emily Bunbury understands the attraction of reliving Gatsby glamour in such surrounds:

“Roaring fires; dinner by candlelight for up to 40 guests or 20 guests around a grand mahogany table; cocktails; nostalgic surroundings; manicured lawns; Victorian pleasure grounds; romanticism; many aspects of Lisnavagh House have been brought into the 21st century however sometimes there is a feeling that time has stood still...”

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Size doesn't matter

“And I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy.” The Great Gastby, F Scott Fitzgerald

It’s here that we would have to disagree with Mr Gatsby. Small parties are fine. Small parties are perfect, in fact. You just need the right guests.

And the right setting.

Croms from your table

Few people know Crom Castle better than its manager, Noel Johnston.

According to the man himself, this historic property on the edge of Fermanagh's Upper Lough Erne is perfect for a party of up to 80 guests. That would keep Gatsby happy at least.

For something a little more intimate, let’s venture to Crom’s West Wing. Ensconced in a quaint corner of the lakeside pile, the West Wing is an evocative apartment space with beautifully wallpapered halls, four-poster beds and immaculately upholstered antique furniture. In this part of the castle, a bathroom feels more like a speakeasy than a powder room and a frosted champagne bottle cools itself on a mahogany table.

As you warm yourself by the white marble fireplace frieze, you get the impression that one night wouldn’t suffice for a party here. You may need to make a weekend of it.

Post party

Noel is only too aware that a Gatsby-style get together can result in some tired eyes. Should a late night turn into a difficult morning, he suggests a cure of… boating?

“You haven’t been to Crom if you haven’t been on the lake. We have a boat here that takes 12 to 14 people. Hop on, and just explore the lakes at your ease and leisure. There’s nothing better than lapping water and a sprinkling of verdant islands to clear you head. Trust me…”

Feeding your inner Gatsby

Fancy having your own Gatsby-style experience? Here’s more perfect period properties with that touch of glamour:

Lisheen Castle, County Tipperary

Chandeliers hang from daintily decorated ceilings, awesome sash windows let in the Tipperary landscape and bathrooms are dappled with Grecian statuary. Could this be Ireland’s most beautifully decorated castle?

Ballyvolane House, County Cork

The dining room here is made for grand meals. Also, the hosts’ home-grown fruit goes into their Rhubarb cocktails. How’s that for decadent?

Lismore Castle

Close links to Fred Astaire and JFK add intrigue to this castle looming over the Blackwater River in a particularly lush slice of County Waterford. Recent visitors have commented that “Lismore Castle vacations are the stuff that dreams are made of”. Personal butlers, chauffeurs and ghillies add an extra whiff of extravagance.

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