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Deirdre KeatingMy day off normally falls on a midweek and they are often two days off together, which is great as you are able to return to work fairly well rested. My ideal day only happens once in a blue moon like this one but what's seldom is wonderful.

I'm senior management in Dromoland Castle Hotel & Resort, Co. Clare. As an American guest once said to me “What a wonderful office to go each day” and I have to say I agree. When you drive through the gates of Dromoland Castle and drive along the meandering mile long driveway to the main castle you know you have entered another world and somewhere very special indeed. On the left you usually catch a few golfers revelling in their sport of choice. You can see the joy as they play the 18 hole course. There is always some sort of wild life to make you smile, be it a few bunny rabbits or late at night our deer often will appear as you drive along. In the midst, the 16th century castle stands tall and proud overlooking Lake Dromoland and you realise you are in the business of making dreams come true every single day - yes indeed there are worse offices in which to work. But this is about my day off right!

My day normally begins with reaching for every hotel manager’s lifeline - the iPhone and I check the night report to see how everything went after I left the previous night. All in order, nothing to worry about, as usual when you’re lucky enough to have competent staff both by day and by night. Then you check the budget and yes everything seems to be posted from the night before and you often think about month end and how the bottom line is looking.

Right let the day begin! I share a house with “a work from home salesman” who seeks daily deals for hotels. I walk down the stairs for my coffee, I hear the cheerful chatter of my friend of 10 years - speaking a client I'm assuming.

I boil the kettle make a nice CUP of coffee and I mean China cup, saucer and spoon I'm old school and coffee never tastes as good from any other sort of cup. In this day and age my friends laugh at me and tell me “It's five star Dee that has you that way” and they get the same answer as always “I drank my coffee that way long before I worked at the castle”. I'm Looking forward to a session at the gym & pool without clock watching, I swim most days and I absolutely love it. It’s good for the body and mind. Most major decisions I concluded too while doing my laps.

I start off on the treadmill onto the rowing machine followed by some sit-ups and weights, onto the pool to finish it off with 40 laps! On a pool only visit I normally do 60-80 laps at a minimum, my personal best 110. Sauna/steam room and nice relaxing Jacuzzi top it all off. But I don't kill myself as I have a bit of a workout to do when I reach my friends in west Clare later, where we have arranged to take the Currach out off the loop (Loop Head peninsula).

I’m starving now so I call a few friends to see who has a window for brunch. As it happens everyone is busy so I head home and have brunch with my housemate. The menu can vary and energy levels are low so it's quick and easy - fresh fruit, porridge, coconut water or coffee. I change, jeans jumper and my sketchers and away I go.

After an hour’s drive I arrive at the pier. The guys are there waiting. One guy, two ladies including me. It takes all our might to get the Currach off the slipway and on to the water. The exterior is so delicately covered and waterproofed merely by cotton cloth covered in tar, that the least little bump and before you know it, will let some water in making it a harder pull.

My position is in the stern so I set the pace. At the bow that person is responsible for steering. Life jackets on (it's surprising how many can't swim living by the sea their whole lives) and away we go. Each time I go out something will trigger a memory that you won't forget, this time we are blessed with a sunny day and as we leave the Shannon estuary and enter the wild Atlantic Ocean the sun glistens off the bluey/ green waters and I know how lucky I am to call this spot HOME!

The Current is strong but we have the wind at our back so it's not bad on the way out but we all know we’ll pay on the way back. We stop for a well-deserved gulp of water and we sit and look at the cliffs at loop head lighthouse where the puffins are sitting on the ledges singing their song! We must look like a little dot to the tourists above looking down – or else we look insane in our little boat. So let's head for the shore lads it's going to be a tough pull in. We take our time, we’re not training, it's for pleasure today but to make progress you inevitable have to put all your might into it. We reach the slipway and I’m happy to see some guys that spotted us coming in and decided to come down to mount the boat back onto the trailer for us. Being from west Clare, there is always a helping hand nearby to help out, a parish filled with good neighbours.

We stand and chat for a while, catch our breath and everyone disperses to get back to their day and their job at hand.

I'm just about to drive away when I see a familiar boat on the horizon. It's my friend Mickie and his son James out fishing. I wait to say hello, my hello turned into 2 large lobsters and a shopping bag of crab claws - jackpot!! Dinner is sorted and I know just the bottle of Chardonnay that needs to be chilled to accompany this feast.

So I pop my head in the door of the homestead where my bachelor uncle sits at the kitchen table with the tea and of course the cigarette in the hand. His first question “Are you staying the night?” And the guilt kicks in as I answer no. I know I don't spend enough time at home with the folks. Mum dashes through the door as per usual, she is washing windows or weeding our beautiful garden and only a mother smiles at you like she can, overjoyed to see me. I smell the brown bread in the oven as well as scones. We sit and chat and enjoy the fruits of my mother’s hard work and of course I'm not allowed to leave the house without a brown bread loaf and scones that could feed half of Ennis

Mam and I take a small walk so I can check out the stock. See I'm a farmer’s daughter and I never seemed to have lost the gra! As I peer among the cattle I think of how much my bother has accomplished with the farm since he returned from a 12 year spell in Chicago just a few short yrs ago.

Jump in the car and away I go off to Tipperary town. I arrive just in the knick of time - it's milking time! My better half is a dairy farmer. I better help out, quicker we start, quicker we get finished for the evening.

Done and dusted in no time! It's a beautiful evening and I have a surprise for supper, I'm scoring extra brownie points here with his favourite food. I get the lobster into the pot, same with crab claws, and as I cook, I sneak a glass of that Chardonnay that has been resting in the freezer (yes suitably chilled I think to myself).

I get on with setting the table out the front of the house, my favourite spot in his house. A fair distance from the road, on a height, surrounded by magnificent trees, birds chirping and the odd hedgehog roaming around. I prepare some garlic butter for the lobster, and white wine, shallot and garlic cream sauce for the crab claws, all accompanied by a Mediterranean salad with feta and olives (our favourite). I serve up and we munch to our hearts content, finish the wine between us and after my active day I'm feeling all the 

effects of the few glasses so away to bed. Tomorrow's another day and the 6.15am milking is looming as is a day of preparation before its time to return to the castle for another week.

Deirdre Keating, is the Assistant Manager at  Dromoland Castle Hotel and Country Estate Newmarket-on-Fergus, Co. Clare


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