At Glin Castle, the legends stretch back eight centuries, and are by turns bloody, lusty, and downright farcical. In 1569, Thomas FitzGerald, the 15th Knight of Glin, was captured by rivals and beheaded in Limerick. Two centuries later, the 24th Knight, the so-called “Knight of the Ladies,” stashed a mistress in each of the estate’s three Gothic outbuildings and fathered numerous illegitimate children. And then there’s John Fraunceis Eyre, 25th Knight of Glin, better known as “The Cracked Knight”—best known for the time he rode his horse upstairs to the bedroom when it was time to turn in for the night.
“The poor fellow, he fell off his horse a few times, and banged his head, so he was a bit… off,” Dominic West says. We’re standing in a light-drenched foyer at the base of that very staircase, which somehow survived the knight’s abuse. West loves all these legends, but holds the Cracked Knight especially dear. “It’s just the most romantic thing,” he says. “The whole thing is a kind of fantasy.”
West is English, not Irish, and is best known for a pair of characters who are American—Jimmy McNulty, the hard-drinking, self-destructive Baltimore homicide cop on HBO’s The Wire; and Noah Solloway, the New York novelist and feckless adulterer on Showtime’s The Affair. A splendid, centuries-old castle in Ireland is not the first place you’d expect to find him.
But thanks to a serendipitous set of circumstances, the actor has become the de facto lord of Glin Castle—guardian not only of its stories, but also of the entire estate itself, a 20,000-square-foot Georgian mansion looming over the Shannon River in County Limerick near Ireland’s west coast. Credit for this goes West’s wife, Catherine Fitzgerald. She’s a respected landscape architect in London—and the eldest daughter of Desmond FitzGerald, the 29th Knight of Glin. She grew up in the castle and for the past decade, she, West, and their four children have returned here to spend nearly all of their holidays.