Ashford Castle in Cong, Co. Mayo, is one of Ireland's best known and most popular castle hotels. (Judy Enright photo)
Change is inevitable but there are few places where change is more obvious to the frequent visitor than Ireland. Attractions, hotels, and restaurants you visit and enjoy this year, could very well have changed hands or be gone by the next time you visit. But there are still some “old faithfuls” that have stood the test of time and seem as though they will be around forever.
One such old faithful is Dromoland Castle Hotel, which celebrated 50 years of service to the public in 2013.
Dromoland is in Newmarket-on-Fergus, Co. Clare, close to Shannon Airport, and it is such a fun place to stay with lots of activities on site, including a spa, leisure center, golf, falconry, fishing, estate walks, trails, and much more on 450 acres.
Meals there have always been outstanding and, if you love them as much as most guests do, you can take home the “Dromoland Castle Cookbook” that was released as part of the hotel’s 50th anniversary celebration. Chef David McCann, who was responsible for the entire book, including photography, said, “In-house and local production 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.”
The food and accommodation writer Georgina Campbell said McCann’s cookbook offered “not only a fine range of modern classic recipes…but also some insights into life behind the scenes at the Castle.”
Dromoland’s management and staff celebrated the 50th anniversary in varied ways. In addition to publishing the cookbook, the hotel commissioned its own tartan plaid, branded a special Dromoland Blond Ale, and two young bartenders who were there at the time - Niall and James - created a 50th anniversary cocktail with apricot brandy, elderflower liqueur, lychee liqueur, and champagne.
Another milestone – albeit in July 2012 - was bringing back into the Dromoland family the former Clare Inn, which once belonged with the castle but had been sold some years before.
A massive three-year, six-million Euro renovation project was launched at the Inn in 2013 and, when we visited, much had already been updated and improved. Halls were painted and the lobby was brightened with a fresh coat of light-colored paint. There were new furnishings, too, and the Inn’s name was changed from the Clare Inn to The Inn at Dromoland.
Lunch is offered in Shannigan’s Pub at the Inn and breakfasts are available in Deerfield’s Restaurant where the walls are decorated with lovely photographs of Ireland.
The Inn shares gardeners and groundskeepers with the 5-star Dromoland Castle nearby and, with 151 available rooms and a function room that overlooks the manicured grounds, we can imagine that the Inn would be the perfect venue for a wedding.
There are a number of different wedding packages available there. For more information, contact the Inn (theinnatdromoland.ie)
And for those concerned about Covid-19, which has affected Ireland and its tourist industry as well as the rest of the world, Dromoland has taken extensive measures to protect the staff and guests. The dining room and bar have been reorganized to provide more space between guests.
There are hand sanitizers, gloves, masks, paper towels, and disinfectant located throughout the hotel. Updated advice from Irish health agencies and the government is constantly shared with employees to clarify procedures and policies and mitigate risks associated with the pandemic.
Signs throughout the hotel detail Covid-19 prevention measures, good hand and respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette. There is also increased cleaning of public areas and the frequently touched surfaces (such as door handles, elevator buttons and the reception desk) using effective disinfecting products on all surfaces.
Management noted that “We will no longer to be able to shake our guests’ hands on arrival, but hope you enjoy the warmth of the welcome you receive.” Guests are asked to follow the health authority and government guidelines regarding personal hygiene and Covid-19.
The Inn at Dromoland is a perfect spot for someone flying in or out of Shannon Airport and it’s also a great base for exploring nearby attractions, such as the Cliffs of Moher, which are less than an hour away. Galway is about an hour and Limerick is only half an hour from the Inn.
Having been a guest there, I definitely recommend the inn. The food was excellent, the room was bright and clean, and The Inn is far more affordable than Dromoland Castle, while still allowing guests to enjoy some of the castle’s facilities. It 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. Visit dromoland.ie for more information on the castle hotel.
Lough Rynn Castle Hotel in Co. Leitrim. (Judy Enright photo)
And if you’re intrigued by the tales of lords and ladies who once ruled and rode through the hills and valleys of Ireland, be sure to book a stop at Ashford Castle in Co. Mayo and Lough Rynn in Co. Laois for more castle adventures.
There are other castle hotels in Ireland, too, but your choice obviously depends on your travel budget.
Don’t think for a minute that there’s nothing to do in Ireland just because summer has passed. Even though the weather may have cooled down a bit, there are still many fun festivals, walking weekends, water sports, and other events to be enjoyed.
Be sure to visit travel sites on the internet for the best deals on air and ground travel and see Tourism Ireland’s excellent website – discoverireland.com – for updates on the latest happenings all over the island.