The Best Hotels in Ireland

Being able to live it up in an Irish castle or stately home is one of the draws for visitors – and Irish hotels come in all styles. Check into a hotel like Adare Manor in Co Limerick, or Ireland’s Dromoland Castle in Co Clare for turrets, elegant rooms and manicured grounds. Foodies will love Ballymaloe House in East Cork, while the trendy roof bar at the Marker Hotel in Dublin is the best place for Irish summer evening cocktails.

Kenmare, Co. Kerry, V93 X3XY, Ireland
If a hotel has a swank spa that administers treatments using ultra-expensive (and effective) Sisley products, it’s probably something special. And if those treatments come in a Victorian manse overlooking the placid waters of Kenmare Bay in Southwestern Ireland’s Ring of Kerry, it’s yet more likely to engage even the jaded traveler’s predilections for plush resorts. Kenmare Manor, a turn-of-the-19th-century stone building backed by patchwork hills and forests, looks like something out of a storybook. But it’s more than attractive: At SÁMAS spa, the treatments, which are indeed high-caliber, come with views of the misty woods (from the pool) and the bay and mountains (from the relaxation room). Staff are attentive to even tiny details, like buttery Irish shortbread at turndown. Breakfasts of smoked salmon and eggs and flaky scones are served by smartly dressed waiters rather than set out at a buffet. The hotel’s restaurant is known as one of the best in the country for wild-mushroom risotto and Kerry lamb loin with eucalyptus-flavored peas.
Adare, Co. Limerick
With its lanes of thatched-roof, old-Irish bungalows fronted by flowering gardens, lovely little Adare is beloved by a certain subset of Irish grannies as the prettiest village in Ireland. It’s easy to see why: An hour south of Shannon Airport on the river Maigue, the town has charm to spare (although it’s quite touristy these days). Adare’s crown jewel is east of the town center, where the 19th-century Adare Manor lies with its pergola-covered stone walls, turrets, and gables on 840 acres of manicured gardens and wild woodlands.

Designed in grand Gothic Revival style and completed in 1862, the manor took 30 years to build—and provided valuable industry for villagers during the potato famine years. Inside, it’s a castle with some quirks: 365 stained-glass windows and 52 chimneys, for instance, for each day and week of the year. Rooms have four-poster or carved-mahogany beds, sitting areas, and semi-chintzy drapes.
Ballyfin, Co. Laois
For people who lament that they weren’t born into Downton Abbey–style gentility, Ballyfin, which opened in 2010 after nearly a decade-long restoration, is a fast track to 1820s-era refinement from the moment guests pull up to the front drive. A team of butlers and maids line up on the stone estate’s front steps to unload bags and whisk visitors into the lobby, and from there the Ballyfin experience is a dreamy blur: drinking tea out of antique china while wrapped in an Irish-wool blanket by the fire; being lulled to sleep during a massage in the basement spa; soaking in a clawfoot tub and surveying the meticulously sourced antiques in one of 15 rooms.

Guests are basically lords or ladies for a night or two at this neoclassical home an hour west of Dublin in the county of Laois (pronounced “Leash”). For those who bore of pure leisure, there’s a stone tower to climb, horses to ride, 600 acres to explore, and a lake to walk laps around or row through. The pricey room rates can (almost) be rationalized by the inclusive evening champagne receptions, fancy three-course dinners, snacks, picnic lunches, and Irish breakfasts.
Lougheask Demesne, Lough Eske, Co. Donegal, Ireland
While some castle hotels can feel a bit dusty—with all those heavy curtains and canopy beds—the Lough Eske Castle Hotel feels more airy and contemporary than you’d expect from a 150-year-old castle. Located near Donegal Town in the northern part of Ireland, it’s the only five-star hotel in Donegal County. And while the Elizabethan manor house was once at the center of a farm, today it’s fronted by a formal rose garden and surrounded by 43 acres of forest on the banks of Lough Eske, a 900-acre lake.

The hotel has a glass greenhouse-style spa, an indoor pool with views of the grounds, and a restaurant, Cedars Grill, which serves fresh-from-the-sea oysters and filets of Irish beef. But best of all is the lovely, generous staff: Concierges in particular quickly arrive at a first-name basis with guests as they arrange outings and grant even somewhat-annoying requests. And since all guests do here is spa, stroll, and feast, the only real challenge is deciphering the staff’s thick Northern Irish accents.
Parknasilla, Sneem, Co. Kerry, V93 EK71, Ireland
A former railway hotel that first opened in 1895, this 500-acre property on Kenmare Bay hosted Charles de Gaulle and Irish hero Eamon de Valera in its heyday. Those two would be surprised at Parknasilla Resort’s current iteration, which feels somewhat American, at least in a smattering of villas and lodges with open plans and oversize suburban-home-style furniture. The rooms in the main house are more traditionally Irish, with dark-wood beds, antique china and Waterford Crystal vases and lamps, and brocade-upholstered armchairs. They’re a bit old-fashioned, but there’s something comforting about that—as there is in the obliging staff, a group with the easy, effective air of seasoned experts. They’re particularly accommodating for families, and spacious villas make the hotel a good place for vacations with young kids or a bunch of cousins; there’s even a special spa menu for kids.

Willow trees surround the hotel and 12-hole golf course; the hotel’s name comes from the Irish phrase Pairc na Saileac, which means “field of willow trees.”
Middle Road, Dysert, Ardmore, Co. Waterford, P36 DK38, Ireland
In some ways, the Cliff House Hotel is just a resting place for people looking to eat in its highly regarded Michelin-starred restaurant, but the hotel’s loft-style bedrooms are also among the most modern and stylish anywhere in this country. (Plus, each room has a terrace or veranda, and even the rain-forest showers have sea views.) The House Restaurant, though, is a highlight, and it’s unusual in Ireland because Dutch chef Martijn Kajuiter prepares food that is highly wrought, inventive, and beautifully plated—but also deliciously unpretentious. That sense of unfussiness might have something to do with the dining room itself, which is neither too stark nor too clubby, and edged by a glass wall overlooking the calm blue waters of the Celtic Sea. The hotel overlooks Ardmore Bay, 140 miles south of Dublin, and the spa’s impressive yoga program, indoor infinity pool, stone outdoor baths, and Jacuzzi can help guests counterbalance any evening’s indulgences.
Newmarket, Newmarket on Fergus, Co. Clare, Ireland
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.
Glaslough, Co. Monaghan
Quirky is the word for Castle Leslie Estate in Monaghan—near the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland—where rooms are arranged at the end of higgledy-piggledy corridors and long flights of stairs. The winding layout and overstuffed armchairs in the lobby make the vine-swathed, 19th-century castle feel like a family residence—and it feels even more homey when you see the castle’s nonagenarian owner, Sir John Leslie, Fourth Baronet (or Sir Jack to guests), chatting with visitors in his pajamas around midday.

There are a thousand acres to explore, three lakes to row around, forests to get lost in, streams to follow, and horse trails to trot along (starting in the equestrian center and livery near the main house). So at the end of the day there’s nothing left to do but sit by the fire and engage Sir Jack in a long chat. Rooms are scattered throughout the estate: in the castle, of course, but also in the former hunting lodge, stable mews, and village cottages.
Shanagarry, Midleton, Co. Cork, Ireland
Myrtle Allen is Ireland’s answer to Alice Waters: The centenarian chef has lobbied the Irish parliament for better food policies, earned some Michelin stars, and, 50 years ago, opened a restaurant called the Yeats Room in the town of Shanagarry, an hour east of Cork City. She eventually added bedrooms upstairs and called it Ballymaloe House, and her sous-chef-turned-daughter-in-law, Darina Allen—who has written canonical Irish cookbooks and helped lead Ireland’s Slow Food movement—tacked on the Ballymaloe Cookery School and farm two miles from the main house.

This is thus the seat of Ireland’s food royalty, and it shows. The restaurant spins flavorful dinners out of whatever comes in from the farm or East Cork’s fishing boats, and the cookery school has become known the world over for teaching expert and novice chefs to make pizzas, ferment pickles, cook baby food, and grow fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Even without all that, the ivy-fronted house—and cabins and cottages on the farm’s grounds—make for a simple, pleasant country retreat.
Ashford Castle Estate, Leaf Island, Cong, Co. Mayo, F31 CA48, Ireland
What trip to Ireland is complete without a stay in a castle hotel? Ashford fulfills even the wildest castle fantasies with its crenellated towers, medieval-looking canopy beds, and esteemed falconry program that lets guests explore its 350 woodland acres with birds of prey on their arms. An hour north of Galway on the Cong River with views of Lough Corrib, Ireland’s second-largest lake, Ashford Castle is so straight-from-a-fairytale that it’s a favorite wedding locale: Pierce Brosnan, for one, so loved the castle’s lake views and wood-paneled drawing rooms that he held his wedding reception here in 2001. (Other celebrity guests range from Oscar Wilde to Brad Pitt to Princess Grace of Monaco.)

First built by Anglo Normans in the 13th century, the castle’s current look owes mostly to the Guinness family, who overhauled the site in the 1800s. It’s been a hotel since the 1930s and is currently undergoing renovations including updates to the nine-hole golf course.
31 Leeson Close
Ask someone who’s stayed at Number 31, a downtown Dublin house-hotel, what it’s like and he or she likely won’t get past the breakfast: the pears poached in vanilla syrup, Wexford strawberries, eggs scrambled with smoked salmon from the west coast, and slices of zesty cranberry loaf. Such homey food served in a sunlit dining room is part of what makes Number 31 feel less like a hotel and more like the pied-à-terre you’ve always dreamed of. Comfortable rooms and unobtrusive staff add to the urban townhouse vibe; the hotel owners, Noel and Deirdre Comer, manage to be warm and welcoming while also leaving guests to make themselves at home around the peat fire in the sunken lounge.

A wild garden separates the hotel’s two buildings, a Georgian terrace house and the coach house, and the overall modernist-meets-classic design owes to architect Sam Stephenson, who lived in the house as he renovated it in the 1950s. Number 31 is a favorite of Dublin insiders, from artists to architects to the designer John Rocha.
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