Duchess For A Day: A Luxury Stay At Dromoland Castle (Ireland)
The minute I booked my mostly last-minute Ireland road trip, my imagination was captured by the idea of staying in a castle while there. Visions of parapets and stone walls, cozy furnishings and beautifully-kept grounds danced through my head. And let me tell you, Dromoland Castle did not let me down!
For centuries, Dromoland (located in Co. Clare) was the ancient ancestral seat of the O’Brien family, who are direct descendants of the 11th century Celtic Kings of Thomond (including Donough O’Brien in the early 11th century, a son of the famous Brian Boru). The castle has been rebuilt a few times, and the current castle seems to date to the 1700s, and was converted into a luxury hotel in the 1960s.
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My TL;dr review of Dromoland Castle
You can look at reviews, photos, rooms available, and book on Booking.com or on TripAdvisor. You can also look (and book) through their website directly…I believe the suites and staterooms definitely need to be booked through their website direct.
I’ll go into a lot more detail below on my stay, the castle, grounds, my room, service, food and drink options, activities, and more…with LOTS of pictures to help you better understand what you’re getting. But in case you’re short on time, here’s the TL;dr version…
- I loved my stay here, and wish I’d had just a bit more time (two nights would have been perfect). The castle is very cool and definitely feels like a real castle (vs. just a manor house). The grounds are beautiful and sprawling, perfect for a morning jog, afternoon bike ride, of after-dinner stroll.
- My room was nice and cozy, nothing super fancy or luxury but definitely comfortable. The service was very welcoming, and bed was comfortable.
- Restaurant options and food overall was a little mixed, but generally very positive. I didn’t try the Earl of Thomond for dinner (definitely need reservations ahead!), and had a basic but delicious salad and excellent dessert, with amazing cocktails (which were diminished slightly by the €25+ price point!).
- The afternoon tea was lovely, and I’d definitely do it again. Delicious scones, good pastry and sandwiches, and a beautiful atmosphere. This was the one place the service was off a bit, but perhaps there was something going on.
- There are several types of activities you can try here, from golf and spa to archery, fishing, clay shooting, and falconry. I wish I’d had time to do falconry!
- I didn’t have a chance to try the spa, and you definitely need to book ahead of time if you want an appointment. The reviews I read on massages were very mixed (some amazing, some very meh).
But if you’d like more info and—most importantly, photos—read on!
Dromoland is located in Co. Clare, an easy drive from Shannon airport and with easy access to the Cliffs of Moher (overrated with better alternatives, which I’ve discussed here and here), Galway, the Wild Atlantic Way, and the Aran Islands, among other things.
As I started to look at the idea of splurging and staying in a castle in Ireland, Dromoland definitely hit the list immediately, but I did consider some others. Here are a few that were strong contenders based on the areas I was visiting:
- Adare Manor – quite expensive but gets rave reviews
- Ballyseede Castle – in Kerry, much more affordable (though feels less…castle-like?)
- Ballynahinch Castle – in Galway, more affordable, feels a bit more manor house than castle
Other Ireland adventures to plan your trip!
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Arrival & welcome
I turned off the main road and onto the lovely winding drive, enjoying the meandering path up and around the castle. The minute I pulled up to the entrance, a gentleman welcomed me and took my luggage, to have it delivered to my room.
He got my car valet sorted out and then guided me to the front desk, where a lady warmly welcomed me again and got me checked in, then called down to the Earl of Thomond restaurant asking to shift my afternoon tea reservation back by 20 minutes so I could get settled and freshen up.
She also checked on spa appointments, but they were already booked up…if you’re hoping to get into the spa, definitely book well ahead of time!
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The entrance to the castle is a somewhat eclectic and bizarre mix of styles, but somehow it all works and feels luxe. I particularly love those suits of armor.
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They whisked me away to my room, which was located in the left-hand building in the second photo below, which faces the main entrance. I was a little obsessed with this kind of mini-castle with ivy and lantern…
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The rooms at Dromoland
I was planning my trip fairly last-minute (less than a month ahead), so room availability was limited. This is one of the reasons I ended up at Dromoland vs. Adare, as they only had the most basic room available and relative to the cost, the Adare room didn’t look like much.
Dromoland Castle has several types of rooms, ranging from the simpler Deluxe and Queen Annes, to larger staterooms and special suites. I had booked a Queen Anne Courtyard room based on what was available on the only date I could make work.
The room is beautiful and very comfortable, with a fussy traditional decor that I think a lot of the castles and manor houses will have (in contrast with the more modern-yet-traditional luxury comfort of Ardmore’s Cliff House Hotel). It feels very nice though wouldn’t say the room itself shouts “luxury”. I appreciated the Nespresso setup for actual good coffee whenever I wanted it!
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They do come around and do turndown service in the evening, with a little treat and note. Overall I found the service at Dromoland very good (especially the welcome), with one somewhat baffling exception, which I’ll mention briefly toward the end (and which was not a dealbreaker by any stretch of the imagination).
The room overall was great, and the only weirdness I had was that the armoire closet has lights inside which turn on when the doors are open. But mine wouldn’t turn off for some reason. The front desk assured me they would eventually when I left them alone, but they never did and it made sleep difficult…thank goodness for my blackout mask!
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The castle itself
Get ready for LOTS of pics, because this was definitely my favorite part of my stay. One of the highlights of staying in an Ireland castle hotel is…STARING at your beautiful castle hotel from every angle possible.
In addition to the entrance view, I particularly loved this angle—at all times of day, but especially early evening as the sun was starting to set. This side of the castle (which is to the right around the corner from the entrance) is a little cocktail seating area, and if you go in the door you’ll find yourself at the bar and restaurants.
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Don’t forget the castle at night!
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The gorgeous grounds of Dromoland Castle
And then there’s the land itself, which is a huge part of the experience. The castle stands guard over 450 acres of land, which is criss-crossed with winding paths for walking or biking (bikes are complimentary for hotel guests).
If you really want to immerse yourself in the location, they offer a twice-weekly walking tour focused on the history of the castle and its family (the O’Briens), given by a direct descendent (and you can book a private one as well, if you like).
I spent a ton of time walking off the carb stupor from my afternoon tea scone-palooza by trying to explore every nook and cranny of the grounds.
I circled the main little lake and zig-zagged through the golf course greens (keep your wits about you), enjoyed the hushed solitude of the woods, and got up as high as possible to look back at the castle.
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Within the woods there is a little lily pond with a small statue, and then this Temple of Mercury, which was giving me serious Pride & Prejudice vibes. Half expected a sopping wet Matthew MacFayden to pop around the corner to surprise me with a declaration of ardent admiration.
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And then there’s the Walled Garden, which is quite extensive and an interesting amalgamation of styles. You can find the entrance (a medieval-feeling heavy door) tucked into the all behind the Fig Tree Restaurant.
Upon entering you’ll find a lovely little English garden with a burbling pond…and tulips the size of a small child’s head (see photo at the beginning of the post).
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As you explore different areas of the Walled Garden, you’ll happen upon little delightful design elements or whimsical touches (like the little fairy garden tucked into one corner). Overall this was a pleasant way to while away 15-30 minutes before getting ready for dinner.
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The castle interiors
I don’t have much to say here except that I really enjoyed the eclectic mixture of styles and decor throughout the castle. This staircase/lantern/stained glass window combo was a favorite, as well as the quirky giant chess set outside.
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The food & drink options at Dromoland
I had been on the fence about booking ahead of time at Earl of Thomond (the fancy restaurant at Dromoland), partly because of semi-mixed recent reviews, partly because a prix fixe menu is challenging with my dietary restrictions, but mostly because I was gorging myself on scones, sandwiches, and pastries at a 3pm afternoon tea.
Instead I decided to just see where my heart (and stomach) took me. I wandered down to The Gallery and found myself a cozy nook to order dinner, people watch, and read my Kindle. For reference, it was the armchair on the right in the first photo below.
Still feeling the carbs of my afternoon tea, I ordered a salad with chicken, and they brought me delicious traditional brown bread and butter as well. Then I couldn’t resist the warm Bramley apple crumble with housemade brown bread ice cream. I also ordered one of the fancy cocktails from the bar, more on that in a sec.
Note, I did inquire about a reservation at Earl of Thomond for that night when I arrived, just to see…they were booked up (even for just a single person), so if you want to go there, definitely book ahead.
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My seat in The Gallery had a view of the…other part of the Gallery? I think they might all be of a piece, but this room sits right outside the Cocktail Bar, and has some comfy seating, tables, and a crackling fire.
There was live music starting at 9pm, a great guitarist/singer combo that was very enjoyable. You can experience the music in this room as well as in the Cocktail Bar or hallway where I was sitting.
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But I really wanted to experience the Cocktail Bar itself, so after eating and listening to music for a bit, I snagged a small table inside the bar area.
I had tried The Temperance at dinner, a delicious gin cocktail that’s a take on a gin sour. I’m trying to remember what the second drink was, maybe The World? But it was yummy as well.
The cocktails were great and their menu is innovative…but I have to just state that 25 per cocktail (plus 15% VAT) is INSANE. The rest of the food prices were about what I’d expected at a hotel like this, but the cocktail costs seemed way out of whack.
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And then there’s the breakfast spread, which is impressive! The breakfast buffet was included in my room cost, and it’s got a lot to offer. From pastries and brown bread and scones (ALL THE CARBS) to fresh yogurt and granola parfaits, to different local cheeses, fruit, and more, you’ll be spoiled for choice.
Their hot menu (which is an extra cost) looked delicious as well, but I don’t usually eat a big breakfast and wanted to gorge on more soft, fluffy scones. The waitress (who was delightful!) strongly recommended the French toast, which she said is her fave by far.
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Fancy afternoon tea at Dromoland Castle
Ever since trying afternoon tea in London, this has been an experience I like to seek out when I’m in the right type of spot. As soon as I booked my stay at Dromoland, I grabbed a booking for their afternoon tea as well.
They do offer a champagne afternoon tea as well as the regular (I believe it’s around €65 vs. €45 for the regular). I’m not the biggest champagne fan, so went with the regular, because I’m really here for the scones!
From my first sips of steaming fragrant wild cherry Ceylon tea to the fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth scones, to the passion fruit mousse, I loved my afternoon tea experience and would do it again.
The only weird thing was that it was 45 minutes of being seated at my table before I got anything except water, and no one really explained why (they told me about 20 minutes in that my food was almost ready, then avoided me for another 20+ minutes). I should have just spoken up and begged for a scone to tide me over, since I hadn’t eaten all day 🙂
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The variety of activities available
One thing that is awesome at Dromoland, and which I didn’t get to take advantage of due to my short stay, is the plethora of cool activities on offer. Of course you have the spa and their championship golf course, which are fairly standard at luxury hotels like this, though this seems like a unique setting for golf.
But then depending on what sounds fun, you can try your hand at archery, fishing, clay shooting, falconry, and more. I would have enjoyed trying falconry with a little more time. And they have the standard things like a fitness center, swimming pool, and all the walking trails mentioned above.
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So while I was here for less than 24 hours, you can tell that I loved my stay at Dromoland! If you’re thinking about how you can splurge and stay in a castle in Ireland, this is definitely one to look at!
Other unique luxury hotels and resorts you’ll love:
- A Review of Ardmore’s Gorgeous Cliff House Hotel on Ireland’s South Coast
- Review: A Stay At Cancun’s Luxury LeBlanc Resort
- Stayin at the Cozy Craigellachie Hotel in Aberdeenshire, Scotland
- Review: The Beautiful Tensing Pen Resort In Negril, Jamaica
- Review: The Gorgeous “Hotel Unique” In Fethiye, Turkey
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