Romance in stone.
Dromoland Castle’s Main Gallery.
When touring Ireland you can stay in a farmhouse, guesthouse, villa, secret hunting lodge, abbey, palace, or country manor house. But for romance you must stay in a traditional and authentic Celtic castle!
The first castles were built in England by the Normans, made of wood and earth and mostly on a motte and bailey plan, a central mound (motte), topped with a stronghold (the keep) and circled by a wall. The enclosed area was called the Bailey. While touring the Irish countryside I notice a green ziggurat covered with grass as if pushed up from the depths and into the sky. The first mottes were more defensive in nature.
Norman castles were royal military bastions. The Normans built Ireland ’s oldest castles. Superb Carrickfergus, begun in 1180, and still well preserved today, is probably the first true castle in Ireland. A garrison town was usually built next to each castle, but the castle had to be self supporting in times of a siege. Castles usually included stables, workshops, gardens, storerooms, and a chapel. Castles were the economic and administrative and social centers for the feudal society.
Relax in style in the Lower Gallery.
The end of feudalism, and not the introduction of explosives, hastened the use of castles. A few nobles still live in castles, surrounded by servants, or they are turned into luxury hotels or tourist attractions with Medieval banquets. Royalty still lives in castles in England, at Windsor.
The signature castle in Ireland is a Preferred Hotel — Dromoland, in the western side of the country. You won’t find serfs hurling rocks or spears or shooting flaming arrows or boulders catapulted onto the castle grounds. The four-hundred-year-old castle is more of a Baronial home than a castle — and it never was used as a defensive castle. You don’t need a battering ram to get in to make a reservation.
King of Thomond.
Dromoland is not just a castle, it is a large sixteenth century Gothic revival castellated multi-towered aslar (hewn and dressed stone columns laid horizontally) monument. Dromoland was the former home of the O’Brien Family, one of the great noble Irish clans, who ruled Southern Ireland. This stone splendor is set on 365 acres of its own estate in a natural amphitheatre scooped out in bygone days by the action of a glacier ice sheet and surrounded by a lake (louge) and woodlands filled with deer. The castle first opened as a hotel in 1963, and today, after many renovations, there are 75 rooms and 21 suites on four floors; function space and conference facilities can handle hundreds.
This is the most romantic place I have ever stayed in, and all the guests I talk to wish they could stay forever and role play as a baron or baroness. Because of its romantic appeal, Dromoland is a major draw as a wedding and honeymoon destination; set your Rolex to GMT so you won’t be late for your own special event!
Plush carpets regale the landed gentry’s museum quality of the castle. Vibrant paintings are the stars on vivid velvet walls. Exquisite sculpture stands testament to fine living. Luxury service is expected and received on damask dinner tables. Jetetters Magazine readers have always given the castle superior ratings.
Gourmet dining at the castle is a knightly pleasure, with many options and wonderful cuisine choices for various group sizes or for private romantic interludes.
The Castle’s signature restaurant is The Earl of Thomond Restaurant, offering a relaxed but elegant dining experience. Located on the ground floor, dinner can be enjoyed in an ambience enhanced by the soft music of the castle’s resident harpist. Enjoy breakfast, light lunch, and dinner in this wonderful setting. The bill of fare includes a large à la carte menu, a daily table d’hôte menu, and a selection of gastronomic menus.
Local game includes estate venison.
Dining at Dromoland’s Earl of Thomond Restaurant is an adventure in culinary elegant delights (with the harpist setting the romantic tone); the quality of food and service is impeccable — 5 stars! With all the deer running loose in the neighborhood, but of course venison is one of my six courses, but I am assured by John Hehir, Sales Manager of the castle, that I can not just go out and poach the king’s deer, but rather hunt clubs supply the game for the table. It is noticeable that the venison I was fortunate to indulge in was grass fed, and the tenderness needed no knave’s knife. The six course dinner winds down after round after round of fine wine (the castle has its own sommelier) from the castle’s extensive wine cellar (check out the vintage cognacs and ports), and the desserts should be considered aperitifs. Then it is off to the Cocktail Bar for more lies, libels, and legerdemain (You can not be in Ireland unless you are a ribald raconteur!).
Enjoy estate venison at the formal Earl of Thomond Restaurant.
Formerly the Castle Library, the Cocktail Bar at the top of the Main Gallery, now provides a cozy setting for pleasures of a less literary nature, unless the string of libations loosen up the lengua franca, and then of course that Irish poet in you sets the tongue loose. The bar is open from 10:30 a.m. and I think they close whenever. A log burns in the fireplace; candles are lit in the evening. I sip a Jameson Irish whiskey on the rocks as a beautiful spun gold Rapunzel-haired Irish balladeer sings and strums a guitar in the background as if she were a soundtrack to a Gothic romance novel.
Music and good cheer in the Club Lounge.
Other dining options at the castle include the Fig Tree Restaurant (at the Golf and Country Club), offering a wonderful variety of dining, from 12 noon to 10 p.m. The menu and presentation have been created for more informal dining, in contrast to the award-winning Earl of Thomond Restaurant. For guests preferring the privacy and comfort of their room or suite, the full complement of restaurant menus is offered. Room service is available from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. A reduced night menu is available from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.
I don’t have to drop the drawbridge to get to my luxury deluxe room overlooking the grounds; nearby is the 300-year-old stone Walled Garden that is used for special events, such as weddings. The romantic sleeping rooms are designed in three styles: standard, deluxe, and state (suite) rooms, and all are ensuite with TV, direct dial telephones, iron, ironing board, hairdryers, and trouser press. I look for the ironing board, and it drops down off the side of the armoire. Other room amenities include a modem jack, laundry services, room service, turn down service, and safe deposit box. The best amenity is the box of Dromoland chocolates on the polished hardwood night desk!
The rooms in the entire castle complex are spread out over several buildings. The Caste Keep itself incorporates public rooms, game rooms, and the Earl of Thomond Restaurant, Cocktail Bar, Hotel Reception, and 27 bedrooms (This is where I stayed.). The 19th century Queen Anne Court incorporates 28 bedrooms, and although I didn’t get to see them because they were occupied, I hear that they are the ultra romantic rooms overlooking an enclosed courtyard. The Moriarity Wing incorporates 24 bedrooms. The Links Rooms have 16 bedrooms. The Orchard Wood development area has 13 private golf course houses.
A Deluxe Stateroom suited for romance.
The Walled Garden is like a Renaissance painting on living display. What could be more romantic than the perfume of spring flowers blooming? Imagine, over three centuries of interludes! Everywhere I look, even out my deluxe room window, I see greenery.
My room is so serene.
The plushness of the enscouncement includes boutique spa products, lush towels on a heated rack, and a huge tub for soaking. The vintage hardware pours out the hot water. The marbled bath is a palace in its own right. So later . . .
A canopied bed for all Cupids.
The 300-year-old Walled Garden
was the Castle’s original entrance.
Slip between the sheets all warm and scented. Start a fire without using peat. The eyes flicker like candles. Think with the body and not the mind. Warm hands roam with abandonment. The soft wet lips moue. The rhythm of the night burns throughout the morning moonlight. The dew drops, the precious lily opens. The rustling wind and driving rain complete you. The spirit flies fulfilled. Rest.
I think it is beginning to rain again!
The Castle Spa invites its own indulgence in tranquil surroundings: experience the best in Swedish massage, aromatherapy, nail therapy, facials, reflexology, and a hair clinic. The castle also has its own gym and heated indoor pool.
Conferences at Dromoland Castle –
The Brian Boru Hall and Centre.
The Castle has numerous banquet rooms for dignitaries
meeting in the Brian Boru Hall, named after
the first king of Ireland.
Over the last 400 years, many historic alliances have been forged within the walls of Dromoland Castle and the tradition continues today. Many high profile EU meetings have been held at Dromoland, primarily because of its modern technological function space at the Brian Boru Conference Centre and Hall. When you chose Dromoland for your romantic wedding or banquet you can be assured of the elegance, superb ambience, and service you’d expect from one of the world’s most acclaimed luxury hotels.
All banqueting functions, product launches, themed parties etc., are held in the Brian Boru Hall, a state-of-the-art facility, with catering for groups ranging from 80 to 320 people. However, if requirements are for smaller, more intimate groups, the Drawing Room, Terrace Room, and Club Lounge are ideal venues for dinners, lunches, and meetings, utilizing the award-winning kitchens of the Earl of Thomond Room.
With its 30 foot ceilings, height adjustable staging, and freight-sized mahogany arch doors, the Brian Boru Centre is ideal for product launches, exhibitions, and vehicle unveilings.
The Dromoland Castle’s private golf course.
Dromoland offers guests a wide range of leisure pursuits, most of which can be organized in advance right at the hotel, such as golf (not only Dromoland, but nearby courses, too!), tennis, fishing right from the bank of the lake or the River Rhine that flows through the estate, shooting (clays, not the deer), archery, and boating. The beautiful gardens and secluded woodlands offer any number of opportunities for jogging, cycling, or for a leisurely stroll to the Temple of Mercury or the Hermit’s Grotto. Should your tastes extend to more adventurous pasttimes, like horse riding or deep-sea fishing, the staff can organize them on your behalf. (Click the lucky clover leaf to book your golf outing, and see Dromoland course photos.)
The castle is located in County Clare, just eight miles from Shannon Airport (SNN), making it an ideal base from which to explore the exceptional beauty of the Shannon region. American Airlines is beginning new service from the USA to Shannon in 2005, the first for the carrier since 1945! The castle is also close to the rugged magnificence of the rocky Burren that held back Cromwell’s forces ages ago, and the vibrant cities of Limerick and Galway.
Reserve a treatment at the Dromoland Spa.
Leaving Shannon Airport you will be on the road N19. Follow the signs to the N18 and continue towards Ennis for 6 miles. Exit at the Dromoland Interchange on to the R458; the golf course will be on your left hand side with the castle entrance 500 yards farther on.
Co. Clare, V95 ATD3, Ireland
— Feature by Kriss Hammond, Editor, Jetsetters Magazine. Photos courtesy of Dromoland Castle Hotel.