When we (ahem … I) started planning our celebratory weekend getaway, I knew I wanted to stay somewhere nice. In December I checked out a couple of different places that have been included on various “best hotels in Ireland” lists, but some of them were closed for the season undergoing refurbishment or were already booked up. Initially I wanted us to revisit Ashford Castle, but I waited too long to book a room and by the time I got to it, they were full for the weekend. Thankfully when I checked Dromoland Castle, they had rooms available so I booked a bed & breakfast rate straight away.
About Dromoland Castle:
The present building was completed in 1835; however, the first building constructed here seems to have been a tower house built in the 15th or early 16th century, erected by Thomas, the son of Shane Mac Anerheny. While Dromoland later became residence of eight generations of the O’Brien family, early records suggest that the area was also occupied by other local Gaelic families, such as the McInerney family during the 16th century. Other records indicate there have been at least three houses on the site at various times called Dromoland.
One of the great things about Dromoland is its location. If you’re flying into/out of Shannon Airport, it’s a quick jaunt up the motorway to Dromoland. Unlike Ashford Castle, which felt somewhat isolated, you are within a short drive of many cities and towns that are worth visiting. You approach the castle through a long, winding road that cuts through a golf course, past the hotel’s leisure center facilities (which we did not make use of since they were a ways away from the hotel proper), and then to the front of the castle. We missed the turnoff and just drove straight on to the car park and walked up with our overnight bags. Checking in was a breeze and within minutes we were in our room.
My first impressions were very positive. The room (312) was fairly large with a king size bed and overlooked the lough out front. Everything looked as if it had been remodeled within the last few years, and it was all very understated elegance. Unfortunately, over the course of our two nights there I discovered many things about the room that went a long way toward changing my initial impression. It was like peeling back what looked like a good onion only to find that it was molded on the inside. I didn’t bother complaining to the front desk because it started off being little things and by the time the full impact of what was wrong with our room hit me, we were climbing into bed and would be leaving the next morning. While I felt like the common rooms of the hotel were beautiful, the room really took away from the five star experience. As we drove away we talked about our overall impression of the hotel, and while it was certainly lovely, I don’t know that I would compare it to the elegance you find at Ashford Castle or Mt. Juliet Estate. It is a beautiful castle hotel, but we left feeling more like we’d stayed at a manor house that needed a bit of sprucing up.
The general manager of the hotel called me earlier this morning and he explained some of the hotel rooms are currently being refurbished. To apologize for our experience and to make up for the difficulties we experienced, he offered us a free return visit. That was definitely five star service. Given that he is working to make good, I don’t want to get into the specifics of what went wrong since he explained they are working to fix everything I highlighted.
I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. We really enjoyed our stay at Dromoland and I would have no qualms about recommending it to a friend who was looking to stay in the area. The public spaces are lovely, the staff was very friendly and helpful, and if the rooms are fixed up as I believe they will be, there should be nothing holding you back.