By Judy Enright
Special to the BIR
We all know change is inevitable but in few places is change more evident than in Ireland. Attractions, accommodation, and eateries you visit and enjoy one year, could very well be gone by the next. But there are some “old faithfuls” that have been around for many years, have stood the test of time, and seem as though they will be around forever.
One such “old faithful” is the 5-Star Dromoland Castle Hotel, which this year celebrated 50 years of service to the public. Dromoland is in Newmarket-on-Fergus, Co. Clare, close to Shannon Airport and a fun place to stay, with lots of activities on site, including a spa, leisure center, golf, falconry, fishing, estate walks and trails on the hotel’s 450 acres, and much more.
Meals, thanks to David McCann, executive head chef since 1995, and his staff are outstanding and if you love the meals as much as most guests do, you can take home David’s newly-released cookbook from the gift shop on the grounds. “Dromoland Castle Cookbook” was released in May this year as part of the hotel’s anniversary celebration. McCann is responsible for the entire book, including photography, and printing was done close by. In-house and local production, McCann said, “goes with my philosophy about food as well, because I believe in sourcing as much locally as possible. The cookbook was an exciting project and I enjoyed it,” he said.
The noted food and accommodation writer Georgina Campbell says McCann’s cookbook offers “not only a fine range of modern classic recipes…but also some insights into life behind the scenes at the Castle.” Wouldn’t it be a great gift to bring home after a visit?
Dromoland’s management and staff celebrated the anniversary in various ways. In addition to publishing the cookbook, the hotel commissioned its own tartan plaid, branded a special Dromoland Blond Ale, and two young bartenders there – Niall and James – created a 50th anniversary cocktail with apricot brandy, elderflower liqueur, lychee liqueur, and champagne. I tried one and can report that it was mighty tasty!
Another milestone – albeit in July 2012 – was bringing back into the Dromoland family the former Clare Inn, which once belonged to the castle but had been sold 23 years ago.
A massive three-year, six-million Euro renovation project was launched at the Inn in January, according to Mark Nolan, managing director of Dromoland. When we visited in the spring, much had already been updated and improved. Halls were painted and the lobby was brightened with a fresh coat of light paint. There were new furnishings, too, and the Inn’s name has been changed to The Inn at Dromoland.
My ground floor room was spotlessly clean with a large window overlooking part of Dromoland’s 18-hole golf course and the surrounding countryside. There was a walk-in shower with superb water pressure, which is not always the case in Ireland.
A friend and I enjoyed a very nice lunch in the Poacher’s Pub at the Inn when we arrived and a delicious breakfast the next two mornings in Deerfield’s Restaurant, the walls of which are decorated with lovely photographs of Ireland.
With 151 rooms and an updated function room that overlooks manicured grounds (Dromoland and the Inn share gardeners and groundsmen, Nolan said), we can imagine that the Inn would be the most perfect place for a wedding. According to Nolan, the Inn “is already one of the frontrunners for weddings.” In April, there were 48 weddings already booked and the staff was hoping to build on reputation and quality to increase the number to 80 or 90 in 2014.
If you are planning a wedding, note that every wedding package at the Inn includes pre-wedding consultation and complimentary wedding tasting; champagne red carpet arrival for bride and groom, and complimentary three- month membership to the Leisure Centre; complimentary accommodation for the bride and groom’s parents the night of the wedding; complimentary chair covers and table centerpieces; tea/coffee and biscuits on arrival; a personalized wedding menu, and special room rates for wedding guests.
There are a number of different packages available. For a brochure, contact the Inn (theinnatdromoland.ie) and for details on wedding packages, contact Claire Coughlan, deputy general manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Change in Attitude
I have to admit that I had a mighty negative attitude about staying at The Inn based on experience from days gone by at The Clare Inn and prior to revisiting the revamped property. But I gave it another try, under its new name and new branding, and I’m glad I did. I very much enjoyed my stay this spring. It is a perfect spot for someone flying in or out of Shannon Airport and it’s also a great base for exploring many nearby attractions, such as the Cliffs of Moher, which are less than an hour away. Galway is about an hour and Limerick a half an hour on the road.
I definitely recommend the Inn at Dromoland. The food was excellent, the room was lovely and the Inn is more affordable than Dromoland, while still welcoming guests to enjoy some of the castle’s facilities. The Inn is just a short walk, car, or coach ride from the Castle. For more information, visit theinnatdromoland.ie.
Both the Inn and castle offer seasonal specials and are currently advertising Christmas and New Year’s offers. Visit dromoland.ie for more information on the castle hotel.
We mentioned Georgina Campbell earlier in this column. She annually presents hospitality awards in various categories to restaurants and accommodations across the country.
For 2013, the Restaurant of the Year was The Greenhouse in Dublin and Chef of the Year was Ian Orr of Brown’s Restaurant in Derry. Hotel of the Year was The Granville Hotel in Waterford and Seafood Restaurant of the Year was The Oar House in Howth, Co. Dublin.
Pub of the Year was Nancy’s Bar in Ardara, Co. Donegal, and Casual Dining Restaurant of the Year was The Beach House in Buncrana, Co. Donegal.
Both the B&B of the Year and B&B Breakfast Award went to The Archways B&B in Rosslare, Co. Wexford, and Farmhouse of the Year was won by Annaharvey Farm in Tullamore, Co. Offaly. The Guesthouse Breakfast Award went to The Quay House in Clifden, Co. Galway, and owners, Paddy and Julia Foyle, were also named hosts of the year.
Country House of the Year was Carrig House, Caragh Lake, Co. Kerry and Moy House in Lahinch, Co. Clare, was Hideaway of the Year. Chosen family-friendly hotel of the year was Hotel Westport in Co. Mayo, and most Pet-Friendly Hotel was Cromleach Lodge, Lough Arrow in Co. Sligo.
There are many, many good hotels, B&Bs, restaurants and pubs in Ireland these days waiting to serve you and these are just a few.
Don’t think there’s nothing to do in Ireland in November. Even though the weather has cooled down, there are still many assorted festivals, a walking weekend (Nov. 8-10) in Thurles, Co. Tipperary, and the Rugby League World Cup on Nov. 9 in Thomond Park, Limerick City.
Be sure to visit Internet travel sites for the best deals on air and ground travel and see Tourism Ireland’s excellent website – discoverireland.com – for the latest events and happenings all over the island.