BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
Whether it was lecturing on Crom Castle, his Irish ancestral home, playing show tunes on Nancy and Glen Traylor’s piano at a pre-lecture dinner, or visiting nightspots like the Zebra Lounge with junior members of the Royal Oak Foundation, the charming and gregarious John Crichton (also known as the 7th Earl of Erne) recently took Chicago by storm.
Known for bringing such showstoppers to town—just a few weeks ago hosting Sally Bedell Smith, author of a just-published biography on Prince Charles that’s already topping bestseller lists—The Royal Oak Foundation hosted the Earl of Erne just last month, who in turn has invited his Chicago hosts to his beloved Corm Castle as VIP guests.
Diana Senior, President of the Chicago Chapter of Royal Oak, welcomed guests at a private ballroom filled with pastel roses and peonies, creating a late spring paradise.
The Earl related the history of Ireland’s Crom Castle, which has been in the family since 1609, inviting guests to experience the castle for themselves through his vivid storytelling and breathtaking imagery.
“At the end of the day, anyone can visit castles in the UK, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, but you’ll find that the owner is not there or only drops by for five minutes to say hello. If you are looking for a truly aristocratic experience, I will personally show you around gardens and other stately homes in the area.
“We plan this for a very small group of guests, and each night we will have drinks together in the drawing room, formal dinners in the conservatory, and from the moment you arrive, your bag is taken and unpacked for you—it’s your own Downtown Abbey experience.
“You will be urged to relax, unwind and be treated like one of the family.”
The Earl’s late father passed down to him Crom Castle, located in a nature conservation area in Northern Ireland, with rare species of butterflies, birds, moss, and fauna in abundance. The Crichtons continue to live on the property.
The present castle was built in 1830, but ruins of the ancient tower dwelling, which was owned by the Balfour family until the Crichtons purchased it in 1609, provide a romantic view.
In addition to walking tours, guests can play golf at Lough Erne golf resort, designed by Nick Faldo, be pampered at the Colbrooke Spa, or shop for Belleek china, first made in Northern Ireland in 1853.
Crom Castle is located two hours away from Ballyfin, the five-star hotel owned by Chicago’s Krehbiel family.
Among the guests at the Royal Oak evening were Sylvia Krehbiel, Tory Fessmire, Susan and Harlow Higinbotham, Carol Vance, Kate and Jed Morris, and Myriam Bransfield.
We can hardly wait for Royal Oak’s fall season to begin, and get postcards from friends who took up the Earl’s generous offer to enjoy Crom Castle.