Photo courtesy of Dromoland Castle Hotel & Country Estate
Dromoland Castle Hotel & Country Estate
Among the best of Ireland’s castle hotels for its ambience and location—convenient to the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren’s dreamy landscapes in county Clare—the 1830s-era Dromoland Castle was the home of the O’Brien family, who descended from Ireland’s heroic high king Brian Boru.
That royal air has drawn the likes of George Bush and Bono to this hotel. Or maybe they came for the suits of armor in the lobby, the elegant rooms overlooking a lake, and the 18-hole parkland golf course. They may have also come for a falconry program helmed by handsome falconer-cum-surfer Dave Atkinson: his peregrine falcon, Bruce, dives at 200 miles an hour to land lightly on guests’ gloved hands during walks through the property. Excellent clay-pigeon shooting and hunting bring some Irish families back every year. And one can’t forget the live music on property: wistful harp performances take place in the evenings in the Earl of Thomond restaurant, and traditional Irish music happens in the hotel’s cozy, antique-filled bar. Perhaps there is no one reason this hotel remains an Irish icon after more than 50 years in business, but it’s nice to see continual renovations keep the place comfortable and modern.
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Dromoland’s 410 wooded acres might make it feel remote, but it’s just a 20-minute drive from Shannon Airport and Limerick city, and an hour from Galway. It’s also a few minutes from Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, which, while touristy, is set up for children to enjoy.
Need to Know
Rooms: 99 rooms, 14 suites. From $320. Check-in: 3 p.m.; check-out: noon. Dining options: Jackets are required in the Earl of Thomond restaurant, a formal place for hearty post-hunt meals of pork steak paired with pork belly. The ample breakfast of breads, fruits, and hot dishes keeps guests full enough so they might need just a spot of tea in late afternoon in one of the reception rooms. Spa and gym details: The full-service Spa at Dromoland does a good job with mani-pedis, massages, makeup, and facials that use Voya’s seaweed-based products and are known as some of the best in Ireland. The well-equipped gym is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the week and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends.
Who’s it for: Those craving equal parts fresh air, castle grandeur, and cozy quiet time, with some golf perhaps. Our favorite rooms: Ask for an upgrade to a deluxe room with a lake view; the Queen Anne rooms are particularly lovely. Save a seat: Those dining in the restaurant and planning an after-dinner drink should ask their waiter to reserve a space at the bar; with the live music as a draw, it can fill up fast.