County Clare, Ireland
WHERE IS IT? Less than 20 minutes from Shannon airport, this majestic castle property is surrounded by 450 acres of manicured gardens, a 6,824 yard, 18-hole championship golf course and country club. Within a short drive is the Burren Food Trail, the Cliffs of Moher, and the cities of Limerick and Galway.
Once the home of the royal Gaelic O’Brien family, the castle boasts regal interiors graced with gilt-framed paintings of its former residents and warmed by crackling fireplaces. Guests are welcomed into gorgeous drawing rooms where traditional afternoon tea is served daily.
ROOM FACILITIES: Designers respected the historic nature of the castle while updating the interiors with more contemporary fabrics and furnishings. Plump duvets coat the oversized beds, some with four-poster frames, stacked high with oversized pillows. Bedside power and USB ports were certainly never around centuries ago, and American power outlets by the desks are appreciated. Wireless Internet access is free and speedy throughout the castle while modern cabinets house Nespresso machines, hot water kettles, minibars, flat-screen cable TVs, CD/DVD players, and robes and slippers. Many rooms add sofa beds popular with the multigenerational families that stay here. All bathrooms have rainfall showers and deep soaking tubs except for two, which have even larger shower areas fit for royalty. They are stocked with towel warmers and Asprey Purple Water toiletries. RESTAURANTS AND BARS: Earl of Thomond serves elegant a la carte breakfasts and dinners on the finest china and starched white linens. Service is perfected by tuxedoed staffers, and the gourmet dishes by executive chef David McCann incorporate local produce and ingredients. The toasted Irish brown bread is delicious, and special menus for gluten-free and vegetarian diners are extensive. The evening hours encourage jackets for gentlemen, but guests can always forego the more formal attire to dine in The Gallery on light meals throughout the day. Fig Tree at the country club offers casual fare while afternoon tea and a lively cocktail bar are popular later in the day. Live music and bartenders that double as showmen are the norm. LEISURE FACILITIES: Recreation is yet another of Dromoland’s strong suits with complimentary biking, boating, tennis and swimming among the choices. Each day a complimentary activity is open to guests including archery, falconry lessons, pony rides or clay target shooting among others. A lavish spa offers massage and beauty treatments using Elemis products. BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES: Meeting space for as many as 450 is available, but more common are social events like weddings and reunions. The hotel specializes in unique experiences such as the regal horse and hound welcome for special events where dozens of lively hounds and uniformed horsemen usher guests down the tree-lined driveway to the castle.
VERDICT: Everyone leaves this castle feeling like royalty, and its reputation for the finest service is well deserved.