Get the Royal Treatment in Ireland
Probably like many little girls, I have had a fascination with castles and country estates that has stayed with me for a lifetime. My first stay in such royal surroundings was the wonderful Castle Sababurg about a 45-minute drive from Kassel, Germany, in Brothers Grimm territory. It is widely believed the brothers were inspired by Sababurg, using it as the model for the castle in Sleeping Beauty, and I believe it. Sadly, it has recently closed.
When our daughter was young, we stayed in a delightful luxury family hotel, Woolley Grange near Bath in England. One huge benefit was the on-site nanny to watch over children so parents could enjoy a quiet gourmet dinner. And one of my all-time favorite memories was a stay in the English Lake District at Farlam Hall Country House Hotel, a beautiful Relais & Chateaux manor home with resident cats Gin & Tonic and amazing dinner service.
On a more recent trip to Ireland, we loved our visits to Ashford Castle (pictured at top), Dromoland, and Ard na Sidhe. Read on.
Ashford Castle | Cong, Mayo
I can’t even think of enough adjectives to describe Ashford Castle. Dating from 1228, this property did indeed start out as a castle. In the mid-1800s it was owned by Sir Benjamin Guinness. In 2013, the property was rescued from receivership by the Red Carnation luxury hotel group. They bought it for less than half of its previous sale price and then proceeded to invest somewhere between $50-70 million in renovating the hotel and estate.
What you have is an incredible property, perfect in every way. Accommodations include totally modern electronics (such as US electrical outlets, heated bathroom floors and one-touch controls for everything in the room), along with elegant fabric-covered walls, canopy beds, and a staff that makes you feel like you are their only guest.
We had an amazing experience while here. The scenery, gardens, excellent food and our Hawk Walk experience in the woods of the estate were all outstanding.
Dromoland | Newmarket-On-Fergus, Clare
Dromoland, which is really a manor home as opposed to a castle, was nevertheless a charming experience. You feel very much like you are living in a Downton Abbey world. I half expected to see Mr. Barrow come around the corner, except this staff is much nicer. Servers in tailcoats at dinner, high tea, formally attired staff coming into the drawing-room to light a late afternoon fire, a chatty carriage-driver sporting a bowler and a vintage horse-drawn buggy, impressive gardens and, of course, impeccable service.
Since we are iPrefer members, we did get a nice upgrade to a very spacious room. The décor was befitting the setting, and we felt like royal guests.
Ard na Sidhe Country House | Killorglin, Kerry
As a jumping-off point for the Ring of Kerry, we stayed at the lovely Ard na Sidhe Country House on Caragh Lake. Ard na Sidhe translates to “Hill of the Fairies” and was the dream home of Lady Gordon who built it to her specifications in 1913. Restored by its current German owners in 2011, today it’s a luxury 18-bed manor home on 32 acres of gardens and, of course, the beautiful lake.
We arrived in plenty of time to unwind in the living room turned lounge, and enjoy a gourmet dinner in elegant style on their custom Wedgewood china. I loved the lake view from our stately, comfortable, cozy room.