Whether you’ve been to Ireland multiple times or this is your first visit, you need to stay in a castle. Located in County Clare, along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, Dromoland Castle Hotel is a quintessential setting for those wishing to experience the Emerald Isle as royalty did many years ago. The family palace of the Dromoland O’Brien’s, Kings of Thomond can trace their heritage to the High King of Ireland. This five-star castle is a grand way to explore the surrounding Cliffs of Moher or the mysterious Burren, or you may spend your time filled with non-stop activity on property, the choice is yours.
Of the 98 rooms in this castle hotel, you are bound to find one to your liking. If you have a chance to stay in the Earl of Thomond Suite, as I did, you’ll be waltzing around your two-story room like Cinderella. There might even be a horse and carriage out front – no joke! Built into the original castle walls, the windows of our hotel room looked out to the championship golf course and the lake beyond. In the evening, after a day of exploring the 400 acres of castle grounds, you can soak in the circular whirlpool tub, or let the waterfall shower pour down on you like a fresh Irish rain (only much warmer!)
If you are traveling from the states, your hairdryer or electronics will work fine here, as the hotel has American electrical outlet converters. I was also pleased that this old castle offered 21st-century luxuries such as high-speed internet and in-room safe, as well as plush robes in the wardrobe. There will be antiques and chandeliers dating back to the 5th century, as the castle was built in 1835. The owners have done a wonderful job of blending the old with the new.
Take time for a stroll through the grounds with a self-guided walk, go horseback riding in a nearby village, take a dip in the indoor swimming pool, or enjoy the sculpture garden. If the weather turns, as it will in Ireland, schedule a spa treatment for yourself. Or make a reservation in the dining room for Mrs. Whites Afternoon Tea. The Irish have mastered the art of tea and this is the ideal setting for a spot of tea. The staff at the hotel are excellent, always attentive, but never obtrusive.
Dining in Ireland is another pleasurable pastime. There are a variety of restaurant options on property, from casual pub fare to gourmet dining at The Earl of Thomond Restaurant. All of my restaurant experiences in Ireland reminded me of California in that the restaurants really make it their business to partner with local purveyors; be it the fishmonger or the local cheesemaker. Order the cheese plate for dessert in the Earl of Thomond, and if you like fresh fish, this is the place to get it. On the menu that evening it featured local salmon and they are on a first-name basis with their fisherman.
Breakfast is another elegant affair in the morning. I’m not sure what I miss most, the full Irish breakfast or simply the wonderful, rich breads. You’ll want to pack formal attire for dinner at the restaurant, but pack your stretchy pants with the flexible waistband for your morning meals.
Hotel rates range from $250. to $1,985 per night during high season for the Presidential Suite. Check the website for current pricing and specials. Dromoland Castle is a member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts, a collection of independent hotels. Compare reviews and rates at TripAdvisor.
Review by Nancy D. Brown, Bay Area Travel Writer and unique experience seeker. I was a guest of Dromoland Castle. All photos courtesy of Nancy D. Brown.