I hope you aren’t tired of hearing about our Ireland vacation just yet, because I still have to tell you about the highlight: how we had our very own Downton Abbey experience and got to sleep in a castle in County Clare.
(I’d like to think that my mother is the Dowager Countess of Grantham, I am Lady Mary and my sister is Edith. OK, fine, she can be Lady Sybil.)
There are so many castles in Scotland and Ireland that I got overwhelmed just thinking about which of them to stay in, so I asked my friend who goes over there multiple times a year, and he gave me his top three: Ashford, Adare and Dromoland. Many of the castles don’t allow you to book online, so I reached out to all three of them for availability (and to see if there were any rooms that accommodated three people, an incessant problem we had while traveling through Europe). Dromoland was the one that got back to me. So go to Dromoland we did.
For as old as the castle is, oddly enough our room was very modern—and huge.
And staff leaves chocolates and a cute note in your room each night. How can you not love that?
Luckily, Dromoland was the one place where we had two full days and two nights to just chill out, a nice change from the fast pace of the rest of our trip. (If you travel with me, note that you won’t get a whole lot of downtime! So much to do, see, eat, photograph.)
Dromoland was first built in the 15th century and has changed hands a number of times over the past 600 years. In 1962, it was converted from a home to a luxury hotel, while preserving the architecture and history of the property.
In the 1990s, it was bought by some American investors who wanted to keep the legend alive. Two years ago, it was given a €5 million facelift, so everything throughout the hotel is updated, such as the technology, the wireless Internet, the whole nine yards.
We explored the castle’s every nook and cranny. We also got the general manager to show us into some of the other quarters, which were surprisingly different from our own.
As a travel writer and now a travel adviser, I like to see as many different levels of rooms as possible every time I visit a property. You never know when that kind of insight might come in handy.
And how cool would it be to get married here? I’m one of those hopeless romantics who would have loved nothing more than having a fairytale castle wedding. (SVV, what do you think to renewing our vows in a few years?!)
There’s even a salon and a spa on site, so you needn’t bring in outside stylists and therapists for your wedding day.
We didn’t indulge in a massage at the spa, but we did engage in a little friendly sister rivalry by way of a chess duel, Harry Potter style.
There were plenty of other activities, some complimentary and others for a fee, such as biking, archery and golf. Overall, my first stay in a castle far exceeded my greatest expectations, and I was glad we were able to make it happen as it was the one thing my mom
requested demanded when I was planning our trip. Plus, this is one of those items that has long been on my Life List and which I now finally can check off.