We all have things we’d like to cross off a list, but enough about the weekly shop. What we have here isn’t so much a wish list as a realistic bucket list. True, we might not be able to tick them off one after the other in a short period of time, but with careful planning (and budgeting) there’s a good chance you’ll get from one to ten soon enough. Classic, classy and distinctly Irish – get your red pens out and prepare to strike a line!
BUTLER HOUSE, KILKENNY
Dating back to the 18th century, Butler House was restored by Kilkenny Design in the early 1970s and then acquired by Kilkenny Civic Trust in the late ‘80s. Latterly, the property has been developed into a lavish yet cost-conscious guest house/boutique hotel (about 14 rooms) that is ideal for anyone that wants a touch of extravagance to return to after a day investigating what the beautiful city of Kilkenny has to offer. True to form, the intuitive design aesthetic is excellent, the atmosphere stylish.
Further details: www.butler.ie
ADARE MANOR, CO LIMERICK
Talk about a sight for sore eyes – this Neo-Gothic property rests in 840 acres, and if the interior is striking (we’ll get to that in a second) the outside is grandiose. Between manicured gardens and wide-ranging parklands, there is plenty to do and see. Inside, meanwhile, are impressive rooms, sumptuous suites, and (what else but stately?) staterooms. The hotel’s Michelin star Oak Room (the only starred restaurant in Co Limerick) uses sustainably farmed meats and game as well as foraged plants and herbs. And the wine? The restaurant’s list is overseen by Jurica Gojevic, winner of the Michelin Sommelier Award 2020. In other words? You. Are. Sorted.
Further details: www.adaremanor.com
ASHFORD CASTLE, CO MAYO
Seriously – Ashford Castle has to have the most impressive entrance drive to its doors that you have ever seen. It is no surprise, then, that following a splurge of a refurbishment programme, the property still retains an extraordinary sense of personality and indulgence. Its awards are also exceptional – they include Ireland’s first Forbes Travel Guide five-star, Travel + Leisure’s No. 1 Resort Hotel UK/Ireland, and a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World. In other words? Prepare yourself for the very, very best.
Further details: www.ashfordcastle.com
PARK HOTEL, CO KERRY
Consistency isn’t necessarily a pre-requisite for anything these days, but you can’t deny that of the many areas Park Kenmare get totally right it is reliability and attention to detail. Not only that, but its dependability has garnered so many awards and plaudits it has become not an albatross around its neck (as it might be for other hotels) but rather a badge of honour. Factor in a full complement of activities that unwind (an in-situ cinema, spa, lap pool) and motivate (mountain walks), as well as a dining room that is second to none and you have an experience that is as unique as it is unforgettable.
Further details: www.parkkenmare.com
THE MERRION, DUBLIN
Located opposite Government Buildings, in the heart and soul of Georgian Dublin, The Merrion Hotel is a classic throwback to times past, yet it has survived and thrived through many decades. It has continued to hold its place in the hearts of residents and visitors alike with an elegant mixture of design (the use of Irish textiles and antiques to reference the original décor and architecture) and features (state-of-the-art technology, two restaurants, two bars, a lush spa/swimming pool). Our advice? You must, you really must.
Further details: www.merrionhotel.com
BALLYNAHINCH CASTLE, CO GALWAY
With a salmon fishery on its 700-acre estate and with a backdrop of the 12 Bens Mountain range, Ballynahinch Castle – a multi-nominee in those all-important glossy magazines – has the kind of vibe that immediately draws the tension out of you as soon as you set eyes on it. Located along the Wild Atlantic Way, and tantalisingly close to the charms of Roundstone and Clifden, you can choose your own level of exertion here: from warming your bones by log fires to trail and hill walking, it’s up to you. Oh – did we mention its award-winning Owenmore Restaurant and Fisherman’s Pub? A mistake soon rectified!
Further details: www.ballynahinch-castle.com
CASTLE LESLIE, CO MONAGHAN
What started as a labour of love about 20 years ago has gradually transformed – via a continued restoration programme and substantial investment – into one of Europe’s finest luxury destination properties. Pretty much equidistant between Belfast and Dublin, and nestled in an estate of over 1,000 acres, what we have here is lashings of authenticity and buckets of hospitality. The estate offers a range of accommodation options, from the castle itself to the Lodge and the Old Stable Mews. If you’re a history enthusiast and a lover of Antiques Roadshow – coupled with a smidgen of eccentricity – then you need look no further.
Further details: www.castleleslie.com
DROMOLAND CASTLE, CO CLARE
One of the most famous baronial castles in Ireland, Dromoland Castle is enveloped by over 450 acres of the kind of scenery you’d usually see as full-blown special effects in a Lord of the Rings movie. The interior, meanwhile, is straight out of an antiques catalogue yet it (obviously) has as many contemporaneous facilities as you can imagine. The words ‘lavish’ and ‘luxury’ are too often used far too much when it comes to describing certain types of accommodation, but this posh place with a down-to-earth heart is worth every single letter.
Further details: www.dromoland.ie
THE SHELBOURNE, DUBLIN
An institution? A national treasure? The best of food? The best of rooms? Iconic lounges and restaurants, and the rinkiest, dinkiest bar-as-much-as-a-snug we have ever seen in a hotel of this significance? Pull up a seat and relax into this place. Located slap-bang in the centre of Dublin (Grafton Street is a few minutes stroll away; St Stephen’s Green is its front garden), the Shelbourne is – and hopefully always will be – Irish history and culture writ large. For the love of all that’s divine – they even have a shoe-shining service!
Further details: www.theshelbourne.ie
LOUGH ESKE CASTLE, CO DONEGAL
This exquisite hotel has awards oozing out of every corner: from being named as Ireland’s Castle Wedding Venue of the Year 2020 to being placed in Condé Nast’s Top Ten Luxury Hotels in Ireland in 2018 and 2019, Lough Eske takes some beating. With a lengthy history that is rooted in power-hungry landowners, the castle as we see it today was built in 1861. Over the past 10 years, however, it has clocked up an enviable reputation in every area: from deluxe rooms, heavenly spa and superb restaurant to the level of service that is as exemplary as it is subtle.
Further details: www.lougheskecastlehotel.com
WRITTEN BY TONY CLAYTON-LEA