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John Colclough – Ireland luxury

Article by Richard Carroll; Photography: Halina Kubalski
John Colclough speaking with the coachman at Ballyfin, a five star luxury county home located in the center of Ireland.

It all began in 1978 when John Colclough, an avid reader with a quick wit who is blessed with a rare photographic memory and enough intelligence to share with an army, began exploring the history, culture, and traditions of Ireland. Following his heart and with a profound affection for the island, Colclough explored the untrammeled backroads lined with ancient hand-designed stone fences that appear as if they were created by a master artist and designed for horse-drawn carriages. He negotiates postal lanes that carve their way past rolling grass fields with the most brilliant green on the planet, dotted with elm and lime trees, and glorious castles that appear like an astonishing vision in a landscape bordered by blankets of green and stands of leafy trees.

John Colclough has explored and researched Ireland from border to border.

Winding his way into villages, speaking with residents in Gaelic, listening to their tales and wondering what’s around the corner, he investigates haunted castles and researches the absolute best of Ireland, the preeminent accommodations, the finest chefs, creating personal connections to private estates and castles, and is able to open doors to remarkable possibilities, not available to visitors. With a great passion, Colclough affectionately appreciated the great country houses and castles of Ireland. He has traced the development of Irish architecture from medieval times to modern day, is a member of the Irish Georgian Society, a group that is helping to preserve and save the old Irish houses, castles and estates and along the way, having spent his adult years investigating Ireland’s distinguished travel destinations, launched Ireland & Britain Observed, the essence of luxury travel.

Ashford Castle in County Mayo dating to 1228, once the home of the Guiness family, is a Five-Star luxury booking. Colclough, over the years, has developed personal contacts with the Ashford.

Colclough, (pronounced colclee), was born in Wexford, located in southeast Ireland. He attended school in London to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather who were both barristers. Tired of law, John switched to art, literature, architecture, history and the magic of storytelling. In the 1980’s, Colclough inherited a 1947 Bentley by chance from an uncle who couldn’t afford to run the car and while driving around the countryside, Colclough discovered a 1949 Rolls-Royce that was being used as a chicken coop in the backyard of a farmhouse where a tree or two had also found a home among the eggs. He purchased the Rolls, collected the eggs, chased out the hens, removed the trees, and meticulously restored the vehicle. He decided the best way to utilize the cars would be to take guests on tours in the Bentley and Rolls-Royce to some of the 150 or so private homes and castles that he was personally familiar with, including those that were haunted or had a presence.

Rock of Cashel, built in the 5th century with the most impressive cluster of medieval building in Ireland. Here, St. Patrick converted the High King of Munster to Christianity.

Colclough was aware that only 20 miles from Dublin a visitor is deep in the Irish countryside where the land has remained unchanged for 500 years and the countryside has been cared for, factories and industry have not marred the land, and it is waiting to be shared with the world. He launched his luxury tours in the early 1980’s including a ghostly tour that was extremely popular. Touching the heart and refreshing the spirit, he led guests past large stones smoothed by the ceaseless rhythms of time to a renovated 12th century round tower, an ancient church with a sagging roof covered with moss and the Huntington Castle in Wexford with a moat, drawbridge, druid drinking well and a bevy of friendly spirits that bump around at night in rooms and hallways. The castle is built over a druid well that dates to A.D. 400, and ghosts or not, there are so many spirits flitting about that he found it impossible to keep guests here overnight.

John with his Bentley in the 1980’s when he was taking clients to haunted castles.

The Ghostly Tour also included a night in a 1440 Norman stronghold where there is a 12,000-volume library with many first editions of the Elizabethan poets, and on the walls, curious portraits. Each evening there is a dinner party at a private estate and here, over a glass of port wine, are where lasting memories are formed.

The Bentley and Roll-Royce are gone, but John Colclough’s luxury tours are booming as his reputation has steadily grown, expanding to Britain and Scotland, and noted as the essence of the modern Irish Renaissance man. He was a visiting lecturer at The Smithsonian and has lectured numerous times in the United States at heritage organizations, and satisfying dreams and surpassing expectations, is hosting some of the organizations, and surpassing expectations, is hosting some of the most demanding clients in the world, including Prince Michael of Greece, international celebrities and film stars. Last year 27 of his clients arrived by private jet, and one of them brought along his own horse. Colclough’s Ireland & Britain Observed has also grown on a high level expanding with two driver/guides, both who understand service and detail.

The Lismore Castle and Gardens built on the site of a 7th century Abbey, was once owned by Sir Walter Raleigh, is Gothic style with 15 bedrooms and seven acres of gorgeous gardens.The outer defensive walls believed to be the oldest in Ireland. Entire families have enjoyed the Lismore. John’s detailed history of the Lismore is a slice of Irish history.

For visitors on a time schedule there is a Half Day Walking Tour of Dublin, Hidden Ireland Day Tour, Day Tour of Gardens, golfing and architecture excursions. For gourmands, an intimate and informative evening in Dublin of traditional Irish cooking at the Alix Gardner Cookery School, renowned as the first cooking school in Ireland dating to 1979. Affable Alix Gardner, regarded among the top connoisseurs of cuisine in Ireland, has been married to John for some 40 years, and between the two this dynamic duo is an Irish treasure.

website: www.irelandandbritain.com
email: in**@ir***************.com

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10 Comments

  1. Joanna

    November 17, 2023 at 5:13 pm

    A fantastic read! Can’t wait to book my trip. Thank you for the brilliant descriptions, feel like I was there!

    Reply

  2. Ruth Shari

    November 18, 2023 at 1:07 pm

    I have always known how green the Irish countryside was supposed to be. However, these photos highlight that feature. As well, hooking up with John, an Irish authority and storyteller, would be the way to enjoy the country. I think I’d be comfortable and delighted to take one of his luxury tours. Thanks to travel journalist Richard Carroll and his capable photographer, i now know how to proceed in planning my first visit to Ireland.

    Reply

  3. Jane McC

    November 19, 2023 at 8:43 am

    We just loved this article. This is the way to see Ireland! So informative and some great tips, especially if you’ve never been there. Really loved this one.

    Reply

  4. ruth shari

    November 19, 2023 at 11:14 am

    As a world traveler who’s never been to Ireland, I was intrigued by the possibility of doing one of John M’s luxury tours. For I think of Ireland as the birthplace of poets, saints and storytellers. I’ve always known its countryside was stunning and green. The photos here are breathtaking; they are on the level of arresting cinematography. The description is rich and conveys an exuberance about being in Ireland and under the spell of John M. The article has made me reorder my priorities about the next journey: Ireland here I come! Thank you, Richard and Halina.

    Reply

  5. Thomas McCarthey

    November 20, 2023 at 11:48 am

    I just read Richard Carroll’s compelling story about luxury travel in Ireland. What an enjoyable travel piece. His vivid descriptions of John Colclough and the Emerald Isle were spot on. Photos were excellent.

    Reply

  6. Mark

    November 22, 2023 at 4:26 pm

    This was an informative and extremely interesting read, I felt as though I was there. I look forward to taking this route one day when I visit Ireland. Very well done.

    Reply

  7. John Colclough

    November 23, 2023 at 1:46 am

    I have always loved Richard Carroll’s writing!

    Reply

  8. CC

    December 10, 2023 at 12:18 am

    Enjoyed reading Richard Carroll’s article about John Colclough’s luxury tours! Can’t wait to travel to Ireland!

    Reply

  9. Bill A. Jones

    February 5, 2024 at 1:51 pm

    Another great read from the traveling boy! Ireland was on our list for future travels before, and now even more so.!

    Reply

  10. Tom Joyce

    February 23, 2024 at 4:57 am

    Thanks Raoul. Being Grandpa is Wonderful . Even better is being a Great Grandpa. Makes Life worth living. I relish time spent with mine. Loved the story on Port Hueneme a place passed by and worth exploring.and examining. These smiles you bring to us are Great and appreciated by all receiving them. Your Faith and Positive Attitude bring Joy to our Lives. I appreciate them.

    Reply

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