Who doesn’t want to be a princess for a day? To be able to experience a little bit of luxury and indulgence… To be given the royal treatment, to feel special at least once in a while?
As a mother of two I do have this longing from time to time, a hope that just for a little while I can break away and be looked after and be carefree. It’s a rare thing to get these days but when it does happen it’s the sweetest thing, don’t you think?
But I am not just a mother, I am also a travel blogger. And luckily for me, travel blogging can be very rewarding. You get to see things and experience places in a very different way. Opportunities may open up that would normally be out of reach. If you are lucky you may get the chance of experiencing a very different way of travelling.
A Stay Like no Other at Dromoland Castle
When I went to Ireland just a couple of weeks ago to tour the Wild Atlantic Way with Fáilte Ireland, I was lucky to be invited to stay at a real castle. Not just a hotel that looked like a castle, but the real deal, with all the trimmings, pomp and glory. To say that I was ecstatic when I saw Dromoland Castle featured on the itinerary would be an understatement. I realised immediately that this would be my opportunity this year to feel like a princess, if only for a couple of days.
Dromoland Castle has a long history of hospitality. When you decide to stay here you have a good chance of sleeping in a bed that was once occupied by a world-renown celebrity. The long list of famous people who have stayed at Dromoland Castle include Jack Nicholson, Brooke Shields, Bono, Nelson Mandela, and George W. Bush. It is the rural Irish setting that attracts most visitors, spiced with a generous dosage of luxury and indulgence. One of those places where you don’t have to worry about anything at all, since everything has been taken care of already.
But before the castle became a hotel it was indeed a castle, the home of a succession of noble Irish families. In 1962, it was sold to an American businessman who has since converted the historic buildings into a first-class luxury hotel. Dromoland is popular in particular with European and US-American guests.
A Welcome Fit For a Queen
Our visit to Dromoland began with a long driveway that took us past golf courses, forests and parklands, capturing our imaginations the minute we passed through the entrance gate. When our bus then pulled up in front of the Gothic Revival style buildings we were told to have our cameras ready. It was not just the impressive castle that was keen to greet us with its royal presence — think turrets and castellations, grey stone covered in red ivy, lead-glass windows, and a show-stopper entrance.
It was indeed the warm and friendly reception we received by the staff. A dozen members of staff stood ready to welcome us to Dromoland Castle. While our luggage was taken care of, we sipped champagne in front of the big steps, taking in our new royal surroundings. A traditional bagpiper was in attendance, providing the perfect soundtrack for our arrival and setting the tone for the next couple of days.
Inside, we were handed our room keys and shown to our rooms. Indeed, the castle was so big, our group had been distributed all over the hotel. Finding your room without help was like trying to find your bearings in a maze. Sturdy double-winged pointed doors, fragrant flower bouquets in vases, thick curtains, knight armours, and gilded picture frames — everything fitted together and worked as part of the castle experience, before we had even settled into our rooms.
The Comfort of a Stately Home
We had received a lot of attention on our arrival, so it was a blessing to just close the door behind me and shut out the noise and the activity outside. My room was huge and came with two double beds, it was easy to get lost in the plush surroundings. For the first couple of minutes I just looked around the room to figure out how the lights worked.
To my delight, I found different international wall sockets; no need to use an adapter at this hotel. There was also a bathtub which I knew I would put to good use. A TV, minibar, and everything else that you would expect from a 5-star hotel. But what I loved most was the personal welcome card, the sweet treats, and the wealth of information laid out for guests.
Comfort in a hotel is more than just a cosy hotel room. If a hotel manages to make you feel at home in all areas of the building, even the public ones, then it has achieved true hospitality. At Dromoland Castle, I found several of these places where it felt so easy to just sink into the plush sofas in front of a lively fire, whiskey in hand, a book in the other. A slowing down in comfortable surroundings; rooms that were decorated in style and with nice personal touches.
And you want food and drink to match. At Dromoland Castle, rest assured that this also is being taken care of. Dining and breakfasts in the stately dining room of the Earl of Thomond brought back memories from TV shows and movies like Downtown Abbey, The Crown and Titanic. An army of waiters serving delicious treats under glittering chandeliers with carefully selected wines from around the world. And there were also cocktails in the drawing room, from where you could even see horse-drawn carriages travelling down the driveway.
Royal Pursuits in a Rural Setting
A rural setting calls for outdoor pursuits. Meet the in-house falconer and spend some time with the majestic birds of prey who will land on your glove in no time at all. I can assure you that making acquaintance with a real falcon will make your heart leap — in a good way. Explore other royal countryside activities like clay shooting, fishing or archery. Or just rent a couple of bicycles or hop into a pony and trap ride to explore the estate grounds and beyond.
More interesting in relaxation or pampering? Easily done! The hot tub outside my window looked superb, but there are of course also various spa treatments you could avail of.
There was not enough time to take it all in. For our small group, Dromoland was a base from which to explore the surrounding countryside of County Clare. From here, we discovered the wild and untamed beauty of the Irish Atlantic coast. The dramatic Cliffs of Kilkee, for example, or the lighthouse at the tip of Loop Head Peninsula.
A Fairytale Dream Come True
My stay at Dromoland Castle will be in my heart forever.
It was not just the luxury of the stay but more importantly the warmth and generosity of the people working here. Where else would you get an impromptu Frank-Sinatra style serenade by the bartender just before closing time? Just for fun, and in the intimate setting of a corner room stuffed with porcelain dogs, deer-horned rabbit trophies and ugly head mugs?
This is what sets a place like Dromoland apart from other luxury hotels. And this is why I would return over and over again, this time with husband in tow, for a romantic getaway in the Irish countryside.
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