Inspired by St. Andrews in Scotland, the all-suite Lodge at Doonbeg on the west coast of County Clare, Ireland, provides easy access to the European luxury golf and spa experience.
Opened in 2006 by the owner operators of Kiawah Island Club in South Carolina, The Lodge at Doonbeg looks like a converted baronial estate built centuries ago. The remarkable historical re-creation is the work of architect John Haley and interior designer Jacquelyn Lanham. In addition to golf on the Greg Norman-designed Doonbeg links course that predated the hotel by four years, The Lodge at Doonbeg offers onsite or nearby fly fishing, beach horseback riding, sailing, kayaking, windsurfing, bird watching and hiking, all available through the hotel’s own sightseeing department. Call this a West Ireland sports paradise.
The Lodge at Doonbeg quickly communicates to the arriving guest the intended emotion that he or she has arrived at the home of an accommodating, very affluent Irish family friend or relative. The décor highlights marble archways, dark wood beam ceilings and wall panels, and polished stone floors. There are hand-selected antiques from Ireland and around Europe throughout the public rooms and in many suite accommodations.
The resort has 64 total suites in three main categories, with 189 total bedrooms ranging from solo rooms to one-, two-, three- or four-bedroom suites, all with generous living space. The accommodations are suitable for families, and each bedroom has its own master bath with some suites adding a half bath in the living area. The full baths have walk-in rain showers, but neither tubs nor double sinks are available.
|Suite Bedrooms are spacious and come with soft furnishings.|
The best suites, affording dramatic Atlantic Ocean views, are Nos. 6, 7 and 13 located in the main lodge, with 7 considered the hotel’s top four-bedroom accommodation. Insider Tip: Nos. 18, 19 and 20 are Garden Suites adjacent to the main lodge that have a private, second-floor terrace with ocean views; yet guests are not charged a regular oceanview suite rate.
Travel advisors can get the best arrangements for their clients by either contacting the hotel’s Business Development Manager Margaret Nagle ([email protected]; 011-353-65-905-5685), or, more conveniently, North American Sales Manager Rebekah Huie ([email protected]; 843-768-5236), the resort’s U.S. representative. Nagle told us that all room rates at the lodge include full Irish breakfasts. High season runs from May through September.
Our luxurious, duplex-level, 2,300-square-foot “Leonard Suite” (No. 14) included reclaimed wood beams spanning 10-foot ceilings, and white walls with archway entrances. There was a fully equipped kitchen and dining area, a gas fireplace with stone mantel, flat-screen TV with an abundance of cable channels, and both free Wi-Fi and IDD phones with a dataport. A laid-back option was being able to sit in a bay window overlooking the helicopter pad marked by an X on the hotel lawn facing the ocean. VIP guests can transfer between the pad and Shannon International Airport, which is 40 miles away.
|The Long Room right has formal dining from awardwinning Irish Chef Wade Murphy.|
The resort’s White Horse Spa is a peaceful 3,300-square-foot sanctuary directly below the main hotel building with four private, cave-like treatment rooms. Good to know: The spa opened its Tranquility Hair & Nail Salon this January. Guests should reserve treatments when they book accommodations, but spa reservations can be made four weeks prior to arrival in high season and two weeks ahead in low season.
Make arrangements by contacting Spa Director Niamh O’Reilly ([email protected]; 011-353-65-905-5670). Signature treatments include the Burren Wilderness Massage (90 mins, $186) and the White Horses Signature Caviar Facial. The most requested masseuse is Rose Thynne, a sports therapist specializing in reflexology, and Marta Kostanowick, who trained in Poland and specializes in manicures and pedicures.
Dining in The Lodge at Doonbeg is a casual, comfortable experience. Darby’s is a pub which has casual, fireside dining with golf course views. The Long Room has formal dining from award-winning Irish Chef Wade Murphy who serves up local ingredients fresh from the sea or farm. Recommended are roasted fillet of organic salmon with sautéed spinach, beetroot, balsamic reduction; or the tasting platter of Burren Hill lamb with loin, shoulder and offal, organic spinach and eggplant puree. Try for choice window tables in the Long Room overlooking the ocean at sunset. The best contact to make either dining or golfing arrangements at The Lodge at Doonbeg is Huie. Reserve well ahead of arrival, especially in summer.
The Lodge at Doonbeg has an in-house team of drivers who quickly transfer guests within the resort, or between the hotel and the nearby town of Doonbeg, where friendly pubs abound. Shopping stops during our visit included The Burren Parfumery in nearby Carron, County Clare, for memorable fragrances derived from local wild flowers; St. Tola Cheese, producing award-winning goat cheeses on its farm in Ennistymon, Clare; and the Burren Smokehouse in Lisdoonvarna, Clare, for smoked salmon.
Golfers should ask about the lodge’s popular 54-hole Great Irish Links Challenge, played each May in tandem with nearby links course Ballybunion and Lahinch. Bring your own foursome next year and compete for the title of Great Irish Links Challenge Champions. The hotel’s golf facilities justly earned the resort the title of 2010 European Resort of the Year from the International Association of Golf Tour Operators. Celebrities periodically visiting the resort include golf champions Greg Norman, who designed the course, Stewart Cink and Padraig Harrington, and football Hall of Famer Dan Marino, among many others.
All detailed arrangements for a destination wedding at The Lodge at Doonbeg, which has a permanent wedding tent, can be made by contacting resort wedding coordinator Sylvia Wallnutt ([email protected]; 011-353-65-905-5692). Her full-service arrangements can include navigation of Ireland’s legal requirements; selection of flowers; arranging airport transfers including luxury sedans, coaches or limos; salon and spa reservations; selection of music; coordination with local church; reception space and more. The hotel’s head concierge is Deirdre Hetherington ([email protected]; 011-353-65-905-5620) and the affable general manager is Joe Russell ([email protected]; 011-353-65-905-5610). You will see Russell frequently visiting with guests in the pub, restaurants or golfing facilities during the course of your stay.
The dress code at The Lodge at Doonbeg is smart resort casual. Shorts and other golfing attire for everyone are welcome in Darby’s and elsewhere in the hotel’s public areas. Men normally wear collared shorts and sports jackets and slacks in the more formal Long Room restaurant, where denim is not appropriate. Ladies attire can include slacks, blouses and sweaters for dinner as well as evening dresses, but denim is not recommended.