On the way to Dromoland Castle in County Clare on the west coast of the Emerald Isle, the rolling hills and ruins of watchtowers signal movement through time. Via the patchy cellphone service of rural Ireland, a text message comes in from a friend in London. “It feels like it’s still the ’80s there,” he writes, and though I cannot confirm that, I understand what he means. At the entrance to the large estate, a pack of hunting dogs led by two mounted horsemen escort us to the castle. Groves of trees selected by an arboreal-minded lord centuries ago frame the perfectly maintained golf course and crystal lake.
Dromoland, a stronghold of the ancient O’Brien clan, was completed in its current form in the early 19th century. Throughout the public spaces are gold cornices, thick drapes, and panelled walls displaying paintings of those who dwelled in the castle, like the wife of the 15th baron of Dromoland, Lady Ethel, who maintained the castle for more than a decade with her iron will and personal wealth. Fans of opulent lordly houses will not be disappointed by the textured fullness of every room.
The 97 guest rooms, including 14 suites, display a dramatic historical sense while still catering to comfort and contemporary amenities. Stained glass bathes the hallways and grand staircases in colour, and from the windows at the heights of the castle, one can hear the plod of hooves or the cry of the falconer showing guests his well-maintained mews.
On the grounds, guests can enjoy the walled gardens or take a trip to the clubhouse of the world-class 18-hole golf course. The high-ceilinged dining area serves a dazzling afternoon tea, and during dinner, guests can take meals before a blazing fire in one of several drawing rooms. For those who love to be pampered physically as well as emotionally, a spa is on site as well as an indoor swimming pool.
History, luxury, and recreation unite for an experience that weaves itself easily into memory.