Staying at Dromoland Castle Hotel & Country Estate in Newmarket-on-Fergus in County Clare, Ireland is what dreams are made of; an authentic castle dating to 1543, a championship 18-hole golf course, a dreamy new spa, and an excellent restaurant.
When I think of Ireland, I think of rolling green hills, immaculate golf courses, and of course, castles, so when I was planning a trip to Ireland, I knew that I had to experience Dromoland Castle Hotel & Country Estate, which truly has it all.
Until 1962, Dromoland Castle Hotel & Country Estate was the ancestral home of the O'Brien clan, the Barons of Inchiquin, which trace their royal bloodlines to Brian Boru, the High King of Ireland in the 11th century. Since opening as a hotel in 1963, the 98- room and suite Dromoland Castle Hotel & Country Estate has continued to win awards for excellence, and having stayed at Dromoland in September 2007 with Edward F. Nesta, I know why it remains one of the favorites of luxury travelers.
Located only 12 km (7.5 miles) from Shannon Airport along picturesque winding roads, we were impressed from the minute that we entered the gates and the gothic-style grey stone castle with red tinged ivy climbing along the dark blue limestone walls came into view. Nestled on 410-parklike acres, Dromoland is everything that you would expect, and then so much more. Service began curbside where Aidan warmly greeted us and escorted us up the stairs to reception where two coats of armor on either side of the room stood proudly reminding us that we were indeed in a castle.
Moments later we were whisked away to our enormous, sumptuously appointed room where the beautifully dressed king bed with teal and wheat plaid opulent covering, teal bed skirt, and a plush velvet throw with polka dots, and multiple pillows gently beckoned to our travel-weary bodies. Soaring high ceilings, beige and cream wallpaper with cream polka dots, and floor to ceiling teal and wheat plaid window treatments framed the two large windows. Nightstands were on either side of the bed with silver lamps and cream lampshades, and a large upholstered chest was placed at the foot of the bed. A bureau was placed opposite the bed with a large HD-Flat Philips television placed above it, that was "technology central" as the Full Digital Interactive television system incorporated Movies on demand, Music on demand, High Speed Internet through the television, Laptop Connectivity as well as hotel information. Another important feature for international guests is that there are 110-volt converters in all of the bedrooms.
In a sitting area, two comfortable chairs upholstered with plush teal, wheat, and mushroom polka dots on mushroom velvet with decorative pillows flanked a square coffee table with a silver three ball lamp with silver shade, that featured a selection of magazines, an assortment of fruit attractively set on an art glass plate, a box of chocolates, and a crystal Dromoland Castle decanter with Celtic Crossing Liqueur, a delectable Irish spirit, and two glasses.
A vase of white lilies graced the desk with a large mirror and upholstered chair that was the perfect place to write a postcard to send to envious friends or to use as a vanity table. Inside the armoire there was a safe, as well as an iron and ironing board.
The large teal and ivory tiled bathroom featured a heated floor, double sinks, combination tub and shower, vanity mirror, hair dryer, scale, a stool, and a plethora of Moulton Brown amenities.
However, not wanting to miss a moment of our Dromoland experience, we decided to forego a nap after our night flight from the United States to Ireland and to have breakfast instead. Breakfast in the attractive The Earl of Thomond Restaurant was the perfect introduction to Irish cuisine with a full Irish breakfast and many of the local Irish cheeses including Gubbeen, which is like an Edam cheese with washed rind and is gentle to pungent depending on the age; Milleens, a soft, washed rind cheese made in South West Ireland; Durrus, an unpasteurized semi-soft Irish farmhouse cheese made from raw milk that was mild and creamy from West Cork; Adrahan, a semi-soft cheese with a pungent aroma from County Cork; and Wicklow Blue, a soft blue-veined creamy cheese. As cheese lovers, we thought that we had found paradise.
After breakfast, we strolled through the castle soaking in the historic ambience and the many inviting rooms that welcomed guests to come in and relax, and made ourselves at home in the Drawing Room in front of a blazing fire even though the weather was quite mild, as the ambience was picture perfect for a castle. Befitting its stature, the portraits on the castle walls have great historical significance and we thoroughly enjoyed our "gallery visit" reading about the O'Brien portraits in "The Portraits of Dromoland" book.
We used the Business Center located off the reception area next to the gift shop, which was so convenient to have a quick check of our email before taking a walk outside. The gardens are remarkable, and we toured the "secret" gardens behind the wall, which include flowers, as well as Executive Chef David McCann's herb, and vegetable gardens, fruit trees, and even a greenhouse. Walking among the rose gardens with their perfume lingering in the air was a heady experience, and here we had our first glimpse of palm trees, fig trees, and fuchsias, which was definitely a surprise to see them growing in Ireland. Nasturtiums lined a long reflecting pool filled with white water lilies, and an old stone bench set at one end of the pool provided us with the perfect place to sit and relax for a few moments. Sculpture and old stone pieces throughout the gardens added to the overall charm.
Dromoland has a championship 18-hole, par-72 golf course, and as one would expect, the Golf & Country Club has an excellent bar called the Green Room Bar, and The Fig Tree Restaurant which features brasserie dining. We had a casual lunch at the Green Room Bar joined by friends, David and Marie Butt who live nearby, followed by a session on the putting green where we practiced our putting techniques.
Edward and Debra Practicing their Putting
Since we wanted to see the property, we borrowed a golf cart and had a lovely drive around the golf course and the castle grounds, immaculately groomed and providing stunning vistas of the countryside with rolled bundles of hay in the fields.
Continuing our "to the manor born" experience, we had late afternoon massages at The Spa at Dromoland Castle, which opened in July 2007, and features Anne Sémonin and Voya, organic seaweed products. Timed beautifully, the massages were the perfect pampering we needed before a late night dinner.
Dinner at The Earl of Thomond Restaurant was exquisite, from the formal fine dining atmosphere to the spectacular cuisine of Executive Chef David McCann. A few of our selections included Terrine of Foie Gras Paysanne, Baby Figs and Beetroot; Gin and Lime Sorbet; and Crispy Pave of Organic Irish Salmon, Potato Rosti, Organic Leaves, Cucumber, and Tarragon Sauce.
After dinner we adjourned to the Cocktail Bar in the former Library, where the atmosphere was celebratory with guests toasting anniversaries and birthdays. Listening to Kate on guitar and having an Irish whiskey, provided the perfect ending to the evening.
Passing by a chess table on the way to our room proved too tempting to resist, and we decided that we were up for the challenge, and played an enjoyable game of chess before retiring.
Finally in our room, I took in all the attractive details including the beautifully turned-down bed with signature Dromoland Castle gentlemen and ladies slippers in custom bags, fluffy robes, and of course, the signature navy box of chocolates to ensure sweet dreams. Edward and I had a last nightcap of the Celtic Crossing Liqueur before drifting off to sleep.
Please read other articles on Dromoland Castle Hotel & Country Estate in the Restaurants and Spas sections, and Chefs' Recipes where Executive Chef David McCann shares his delicious vision of a taste of Ireland.
Dromoland Castle Hotel & Country Estate
County Clare, Ireland
Toll Free: +1-800-346-7007 (United States and Canada)
Please read other articles on Ireland in the Destination, Hotels and Resorts, Restaurants, Chefs' Recipes, Spas, Liquor Cabinet: Celtic Crossing Liqueur, Boru Vodka, Knappoque Irish Whiskey, Fashion, and Adventures sections.
For information on Ireland, please visit the website: Discover Ireland, www.DiscoverIreland.com or call them at +1-800-223-6470. For driving directions in Ireland, visit www.aaireland.com.
For information on Aer Lingus, please visit the website: Aer Lingus, www.AerLingus.com.
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