In honour of Patrick’s Day, Ciara McDonnell showcases Ireland’s finest, once in a lifetime, five-star hotel experiences
When the rich and famous come to Ireland, they stay at Ballyfin, and it’s easy to see why. Richard E Grant loved it so much that he volunteered to be their PR manager after staying with them – and he’s not alone. Celebrities aside, Ballyfin is booked up months in advance, with people journeying from all over the world to experience its hospitality. Suites are individually decorated with names like The Butler and The Sir Christopher Coote and boast bathrooms larger than most sitting rooms and marble fireplaces and the deepest pile carpets. Staying here is about the whole experience; the complimentary in room bars are restocked daily, and there is a complimentary laundry service for those who think that there is nothing worse than leaving a hotel with dirty clothes. Bathrooms are stocked to the hilt with Voya seaweed products and handmade soaps from Sally Miller collection based in West Cork. The food is top notch and locally sourced, with much of the menu sourced from the kitchen garden, all served with nothing short of glamour, from staff who make it your mission to feel like royalty for the duration of your stay.
The staff at Sheen Falls wants to know your name. The whole ethos at this luxury Kenmare hotel is that by the end of your stay, you will feel like part of the Sheen Falls family, and even the most travel weary and cynical amongst us fall under its spell.
Despite its extremely luxurious surroundings, this hotel really comes into its own when catering to families.
With a huge amount to do on site, from cycling around the grounds on the hotel’s complimentary bicycles to tennis, croquet and even falconry, children will be well entertained during their stay.
Kids can dine from the regular menu or for one that has been specially created with children in mind, and includes sensible options like roast chicken and spaghetti bolognese along with melon and Serrano ham, should your smallies have gourmet taste, and during school holidays, the hotel offers supervised movies and board games for children from 6.30pm to 9.30pm each evening.
If you love your dog a little bit more than anything else in the world, then consider a pet-cation at Ashford Castle, where your pets are welcomed in true VIP style. The hotel is extremely fancy, with panelled walls and princess-soft beds, not to mention an in-house ‘cinema rooms’, showing movies every night, and onsite activities like falconry and horse riding, but we’re here to talk about your dog, right?
Prior to arrival, you will fill out a ‘pet preference’ form, which will alert the staff at Ashford castle to your dog’s likes, dislikes and general demeanour. Then, for €40 per night, your pooch will receive their own comfy bed, fluffy towel, food and water bowl.
For the duration of your stay, the dog can avail of dog sitting and walking services while their owner enjoys the full complement of dining facilities at the hotel, and lest they feel left out, a turn down treat will be left in the pet bed come nightfall.
As the baby sister of ultra gorgeous The Europe, Ard Na Sidhe strives to live up to its familial reputation. Built in 1913, this Elizabethan style country house boasts 18 luxury bedrooms in a remote and peaceful spot on the shores of Caragh Lake in Killorglin, County Kerry. Expect old school attention to detail in everything from the heavy drapery to the ever-present turf fire in the living room.
The food here is fabulous, focusing on traditional dishes with a modern flair, and their afternoon tea is renowned as one of the best in the business.
Fishing folk will adore the extra touch of free fishing rods by the house, but if relaxing by the fire is more up your street, we can highly recommend that too.
If you’ve had enough of the daily toil and commotion of city life, and crave a break that will take you away from the bustle of an urban base, then consider a trip to the Inis Meain Hotel & Suites. Opened in 2007 by husband and wife team Marie-Thérèse and Ruairí de Blacam, a visit here offers an extremely intimate experience, facilitated by a small but expert team.
The restaurant serves a four-course meal to a maximum of 16 guests each night at 8pm, its menu changing depending on the food available each day.
There are five private suites, each with an expanse of glass revealing panoramic views of the island and sea.
Every morning, a breakfast basket of fresh coffee, eggs and pastries is delivered to each suite, and each afternoon a hotpot lunch is delivered, designed to be taken while exploring the island.
Surrounded by 330 acres of lush hillside, Dromoland Castle has recently received a €20 million refurbishment and is at the top of its game when it comes to the fanciness stakes.
Rooms are uniquely decorated with specially commissioned fabrics and soft furnishings, as well as extremely soft slippers and bathrobes and the now essential in-room Nespresso machine.
Food in the restaurant is served under cloches with aplomb and onsite archery lessons are a must. The renovation took place over four years, and has been tastefully done, upgrading everything that may have appeared a little tired and likely to tarnish the hotel’s five star reputation. Consider this for a special occasion, and be sure to indulge in the spa – it is worth every penny.
There is nothing quite like checking in to The Shelbourne in Dublin. Overlooking St Stephen’s Green in the heart of the city centre, it’s marble-clad foyer acts as a hub for the great and the glamorous who are taking a break from shopping or deal-brokering and offers a fantastic opportunity for people watching.
Rooms are spacious and gorgeous, with super comfy beds and great bathrooms. Book into the onsite hair salon for a blow dry before a day exploring the city and be sure to take a cocktail at The Horseshow Bar before dinner – it’s one of Dublin’s fanciest institutions.