Standing on the land that has been the home of the O’Conors, Kings of Connacht, for 1,500 years, this 45-room Victorian Italianate mansion on the edge of Castlerea town may seem a little daunting on arrival, but it’s magic - and the warmly hospitable owners, Pyers and Marguerite O’Conor-Nash, clearly relish sharing their rich and varied history with guests, who are welcome to browse through their fascinating archive.
Amazing heirlooms include a copy of the last Brehon Law judgment (handed down about 1580), and also Carolan’s Harp.
Everything is on a huge scale: reception rooms are all very spacious, with beautiful fireplaces, lovely old furnishings and many interesting historic details, while bedrooms have massive four poster and half tester beds and bathrooms to match.
The dining room is particularly impressive, with a massive fireplace and portraits of past owners looking (for the most part benevolently) down on a long and richly decorated table set up with a wonderful Mason's Ironstone service. It makes a magnificent setting for dinner - which is all the more enjoyable because Marguerite’s style is good home cooking and she resists any temptation to fancy her food up to match the surroundings: what you can expect here is a delicious dinner party style meal, based on the best seasonal ingredients. Breakfast is served in this magnificent room too and, if there are only a few guests, Marguerite sets up a slightly smaller table overlooking the garden which makes for a more informal atmosphere.
Alternatively, if guests prefer a more casual meal, there is a very pleasant newer dining room at the back of the house - more like a restaurant, with several much smaller tables than in the main dining room, it has a cosy and relaxed 'country kitchen' ambience and makes a change for guests who are staying several nights. The food is different too, with a number of simpler dishes offered rather than a full dinner menu.
In the evening, the book-lined library is a snug place to chat beside a crackling log fire, before heading up to one of the beautiful bedrooms for a restful night's sleep.
Despite the grandeur, there is a wonderfully warm and homely atmosphere at Clonalis House, which is set amid peaceful parklands and is well-placed for exploring some areas tnat deserve to be better known - counties Roscommon and Longford, for example - and the nearer parts of Galway, Mayo and Sligo. And, of course, it is very handy to Ireland West Airport at Knock, which is fast becoming an airport of choice for visitors wishing to avoid the hassle of larger airports.
Clonalis House makes a lovely venue for small weddings. In addition to accommodation in the main house, several very attractive and comfortably furnished self-catering cottages are also offered, in the courtyard.