Happy Thursday Hidden Gem Travel community! I just saw a pop-up on my phone reminding me that I was in Ireland one year ago today. It put a huge smile on my face. Don’t you love reliving those happy days when you felt both excitement and contentment?
Last fall’s epic trip to Ireland remains one of my favorite travel memories. This week’s newsletter is a throwback to that trip, and I know will inspire you to take your perfect Ireland exploration.
Some highlights from my trip include:
- Ancient castles
- Horses, hounds, and hawks
- Delectable dining and drinking (distillery and pub) experiences
- Irish heritage
- Vibrant cities and quaint towns
- History & culture
- A Christmas Market!
There are many possible itineraries for Ireland, so each trip can be quite different and special. One of the most special experiences is staying in a historic castle. If you’d like to learn about what it’s like to stay in a castle in Ireland, read on for the scoop…
Dromoland Castle’s Star-Studded History
Dromoland Castle is one of Ireland’s finest castle hotels. It’s one of the few castle hotels that can trace its ownership back through history to Gaelic Irish families of royal heritage, and it’s been welcoming guests since the 16th century. More recent “royal” guests include Cary Grant, Nelson Mandela, Johnny Cash, Muhammad Ali, and US Presidents Clinton and Bush Sr.
Located in County Clare, Dromoland is just 8 miles from Shannon Airport, making it a perfect place from which to explore the region. The castle is convenient to the rugged landscape of the Burren, majestic Cliffs of Mohr, and the vibrant cities of Limerick and Galway.
They say first impressions count, and my approach to Dromoland was impressive. Driving up to the front of the castle was special with smartly attired staff members waiting for our arrival with glasses of champagne on silver platters. After a few sips, we had a tour of the castle with a historian and then settled into our spacious and elegantly decorated room. We were ready for the adventure to come!
💎 Hidden Gem Tip: If you’re already intrigued, you can schedule a chat with me here.
Doing & Dining at Dromoland
Year-round, you can be as active as you like at Dromoland! The 450-acre estate offers a long list of activities with the castle and glistening lake as a backdrop. World-class golf, tennis, fishing, falconry, shooting, boating, cycling, spa time, are just some of the country pursuits.
Have Irish ancestry? I can arrange an experience with a local genealogist that will enhance your experience tenfold.
After a day of Irish adventure, you’ll need to refuel. We enjoyed pre-dinner cocktails thanks to the expert mixologist in the Cocktail Bar that was once the Lord of the castle’s library. For dinner, we dined on extremely fresh fare; I opted for the mouth-watering halibut with the freshest tasting small potatoes and finely grated carrots that I’ve ever had.
Dromoland offers some valuable perks for Hidden Gem Travel’s clients. You’ll receive a room upgrade upon arrival (subject to availability), breakfast for two daily, complimentary round-trip airport transfers from Shannon International Airport as well as status as a VIP guest!
💎 Hidden Gem Tip: For more Dublin hotel options with the perks check this out: Best Of The Best Hotels and Experiences
Ashford Castle – What an Entrance!
Not to be outdone by Dromoland, our entrance at Ashford castle was truly epic. We were greeted by gorgeous horses, adorable hounds, and a melodious bagpiper as we drove onto the property, over the bridge, under huge stone gates, and to the front entrance! It was a bucket list check that I didn’t know I had on my list.
Muti-award winning and known as the oldest castle in Ireland, Ashford is a 13th century – over 800 years old – castle located 45 minutes from Galway City. Ashford Castle opened as a luxury hotel in 1939 after a rich history as the estate of Lord Ardilaun and the renowned Guinness family. It’s now owned by the Red Carnation Hotel Collection, a valued partner of Hidden Gem Travel.
While there (which wasn’t long enough), I enjoyed fine Irish cuisine, watched hawks soar on a forest walk at Ireland’s first school of falconry, and restored myself in the state-of-the-art spa. We watched a short movie about the history of renovating Ashford in the cinema while sipping champagne and munching on freshly popped popcorn. Two more of my favorite memories while inside the castle – exploring the servant tunnels and underground wine cellar as well as listening and dancing to authentic, live Irish music after dinner.
Not to be forgotten is that Ashford Castle is Ireland’s only Forbes Five-Star Hotel. The best news – Hidden Gem Travel clients get the perks here too.
Do you have Irish ancestry? If so, a trip to Ireland including customized ancestry experiences is a bucket list trip I can design for you and your family
Falconry, Fishing, Golf & Gardens
The Ashford Estate offers an extensive range of activities including Orvis fly fishing to Ireland’s first school of falconry. We played golf, walked the stunning gardens, met Irish Wolfhounds, and strolled with hawks on a Hawk Walk.
The Hawk Walk gave me the unique opportunity to fly a Harris Hawk under the careful eye of a highly trained instructor. We walked along the serene woodland pathways on the castle grounds while two hawks named Beckett and Sonora soared over our heads and onto our gloved fists. We learned all about these magnificent creatures and interacted with them in an unforgettable way. It was a cool morning, so when we finished, we enjoyed real hot chocolate with Baileys served from an antique Range Rover.
💎 Hidden Gem Tip: Make your own Wanderlist for Ireland! As a reminder, Wanderlist is an online portal where you can research, explore, and create shareable lists of destinations and experiences. Share your list with me so I can make it happen for you! Check it out here!
Adare Manor for Golf & More
While I didn’t have time to stay at Adare Manor on this trip, it’s on my list for when I return to Ireland. Adare will be hosting the 2027 Ryder Cup Tournament (golf) and has been the site of many prestigious tournaments.
This stately, historic manor is only 30 minutes from Shannon Airport in County Limerick so conveniently located. Just outside the gates is the charming village of Adare with traditional thatched cottages, antique shops, and pubs.
In addition to the golf course, I’ll be interested to check out its new wellness facility, the Padel Club. Two indoor paddle courts compliment the host of fitness/wellness classes and a gorgeous spa. A perfect vacation combination of being active and relaxing!
Inspired? If you’re thinking about a bucket list trip to Ireland, here’s the link to schedule a chat with me.
Wishing you and your family continued good health,