Ireland’s Dromoland Castle Is the Ultimate Fairytale Getaway

A trip to Dromoland Castle includes falconry, tarot card cocktails and a genealogist.

Morgan Halberg

It’s no exaggeration to say that arriving at Dromoland Castle feels like stepping into an Irish fairytale. The full experience starts immediately upon reaching the front gate of the lush green estate, as guests are greeted by traditional Irish bagpipers for true VIP treatment. The storybook atmosphere only continues as those lucky enough to travel to the luxurious hotel are chauffeured along the winding drive through the verdant landscape, up to the main entrance of the limestone castle.

The grounds and exterior architecture are stunning to a point of appearing almost photoshopped, and the quintessential Irish castle aesthetic only grows upon stepping foot inside the main reception area, as visitors take in the stone walls, velvet upholstery, glittering chandeliers and many a cozy fireplace. It’s formal yet welcoming, and part of the appeal is surely that it gives the feeling of staying not in a stuffy hotel, but in your own private castle.

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Dromoland is also surprisingly easy to reach; it’s located in County Clare, and despite the ultra-private, secluded atmosphere, it’s just a two-and-a-half hour drive from Dublin, which makes it ideal for a two-part trip to visit both the capital as well as the countryside.

Now that you’re surely convinced that you must book a journey to the Emerald Isle to live your best castle life, keep reading to discover everything you need to know about Dromoland.

A very regal entry.

Dromoland dates back to the 16th century. 

The historic Irish castle was long the ancestral home of the O’Briens, and stayed in the family for generations. It was first transformed into a luxury hotel in the 1960s, and subsequently received a lavish $20 million renovation and restoration in 2019. Even though Dromoland, which is part of Preferred Hotels, is no longer a private home, it hasn’t lost any of its old-world elegance, and the interiors still pay homage to the O’Brien family, including a plethora of stoic portraits of the former inhabitants.

If you’re a history buff, you can hear all about the castle’s lineage during a tour with Dromoland’s personal historian, Jane O’Brien—and yes, we very much recommend asking her about her last name. You can also go for a more personalized route and book time with the hotel’s resident genealogist, to find out *all* about your roots.

Suits of armor are crucial, of course.

Dromoland has all the modern luxuries you’d expect of a five-star hotel, including amenities like an indoor swimming pool, sauna, spa and gym, but still retains its historic charm thanks to thoughtful details including original artwork, oak accents, intricately carved woodwork, stained-glass windows, stone walls and even two knights’ armor displays that guests encounter upon entering the lobby.

The rooms are absolute perfect.

All the sumptuous rooms are unique. 

The rooms at Dromoland are elegant and traditional, yet warm and inviting, continuing in the vein of staying in a wonderfully extravagant private home. The hotel is composed of just 97 uniquely-designed accommodations, including suites, staterooms, deluxe rooms and Queen Anne rooms, with rates starting at approximately $350 a night in the low season. Much like the public spaces, all of the rooms combine the castle’s signature old-world sophistication and charm with modern comforts, and are filled with plush velvet fabrics, lime-washed furniture and patterned drapery. The suites are configured with separate living areas and bedrooms, and many feature classic tartan carpeting in a contemporary color palette. No two suites are the same, and not just when it comes to the furnishings; they’re also entirely different layouts, ranging from a traditional one-bedroom to a whimsical duplex.

During my recent stay at Dromoland, I was booked into the Sir Lucius Suite, and to be perfectly honest, was rather devastated when I had to leave the dreamy abode behind. The suite featured a separate living room with two velvet couches, a desk and glamorous drapery, as well as a massive bedroom and a bathroom the size of a studio apartment with potentially the most perfect soaking tub I’ve ever seen.

The Earl of Thomond restaurant.

Indulge in a special dining experience at the Earl of Thomond.

Dromoland’s famed Earl of Thomond restaurant offers guests an authentic, formal but still unpretentious dining experience, with dishes like roast partridge, pan-fried cod and scallops, all in a regal atmosphere complete with a plethora of sparkling chandeliers and custom Venetian silk claret wallpaper. The indulgent tasting menu is worth the splurge, and vino enthusiasts will appreciate the thoughtful wine pairings, courtesy of a very knowledgable sommelier. If you want a more casual meal, stop by The Gallery for a quick lunch and coffee, or partake in the traditional Irish afternoon tea.

Order a tarot card-inspired cocktail here.

And, of course, let’s not forget about the drinks. The hotel’s Cocktail Bar is located in what was once the O’Brien family’s personal library; the elegant octagon-shaped room features gold-accented red walls, drapery and pillows, as well as an ornate fireplace and carved wood furnishings. While there’s an extensive list including several kinds of wine, beer, whiskey and gin, the tarot card-inspired signature cocktails are a definite highlight, and are a theatrical experience themselves.

Yes, this is real life!

Try your hand at falconry, golf or clay shooting. 

Don’t be intimidated by the sheer size of the sprawling 450-acre estate, as guests have access to private golf carts to explore the grounds, though taking a stroll by foot is also *highly* recommended. The aforementioned pool, sauna and spa are nice, but those pale in comparison to the plethora of activities throughout the estate.

Golf enthusiasts are sure to enjoy the award-winning 18-hole course, but trying your hand at falconry is a must, because watching the bird majestically fly through the air, only to delicately land on your gloved arm is nothing short of magical. If you can’t get enough, book time at the Falconry School, where you can also become acquainted with the castle’s array of falcons, hawks and owls. If birds aren’t your things, don’t fret, as there are plenty of other traditional activities, including clay shooting, archery, fishing and horseback riding.

Stormy, yes, but still beautiful.

Explore the countryside, including a foraging experience. 

While you could easily occupy yourself staying put at Dromoland throughout your stay, you won’t regret heading out into the stunning Irish countryside in County Clare, with its endless rolling green hills, picturesque cliffs and coastal views. County Clare, which is located on the west coast of Ireland, is surrounded by water on nearly all sides, so a trip to the sea is necessary. It was on the windy side during my visit, but walking down the rocks towards the water was so worth it—make sure to bring proper footwear, since it does get quite slippery. Depending on the season, consider a foraging excursion to really get to know the landscape, whether via seaweed foraging by the water or seeking out herbs, vegetables and berries by heading into the wooded areas and farmland.

Burren Perfumery.

A whiskey experience is essential, as is a visit to a special perfumery. 

No trip to Ireland is complete without a taste of whiskey, and Dromoland works with J.J. Corry, a local whiskey blender in the region. J.J. Corry is located on founder Louise McGuane’s family farm, and the experience is as much about history as it is the whiskey (the two are inextricably linked, of course); a 17th century farmhouse is now home to a tasting room, and there’s also a Bonded Rackhouse filled with aging casks of whiskey. It’s faithful to the whiskey tradition in the region, but with a modern twist.

If you’re exploring County Clare, then you should also make time for a visit to the Burren Perfumery, an idyllic compound filled with adorable stone cottages. Burren creates aromatic Irish perfumes, creams, skincare and more, and every single product is entirely natural and made on site, so that they can control the entire process.

It’s not just a perfume shop, as there’s also a small eatery and teahouse as well as an herb garden. Burren also holds workshops, for those interested in learning more about the operations. “People often say it’s like an oasis here,” owner Sadie Chowen told Observer. “The cream and perfumes are obviously beautiful, but they like coming here, as well.” It’s a unique, one-of-a-kind experience with truly special products; the perfumery doesn’t offer wholesale nor work with any warehouses, so if you want a genuinely authentic, one-of-a-kind keepsake from your trip (or if you’re on the hunt for a gift to bring home), then this is an absolute must.

Famous faces have flocked to Dromoland for years.

Dromoland has long welcomed an exclusive list of celebrities inside the castle, including multiple U.S. presidents, European royalty and many a Hollywood name. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have both stayed at the Irish castle, as have King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia of Spain. Jack Nicholson, Brooke Shields, Nelson Mandela and Pierce Brosnan have all visited Dromoland in the past, though perhaps the top celeb moment at Dromoland was back in the 1960s, when John Lennon and George Harrison chose to spend Easter at the historic hotel. The two Beatles decided to take the swords from suits of armor they found around the castle, and engaged in a friendly, photo-worthy sword fight in front of the picturesque estate. While helping yourself to any suits of armor and their accessories isn’t exactly condoned for guests at Dromoland, there’s no denying that the ensuing photoshoot was nothing short of iconic.

 


*The stay at this hotel was courtesy of Dromoland Castle. The views and opinions expressed are the journalist’s own.*  Ireland’s Dromoland Castle Is the Ultimate Fairytale Getaway