|Photo by Freeimages.com/Andy Stafiniak|
by Neil Hegarty, The Daily Telegraph, December 23, 2015
An insider's guide to Ireland's five-star hotels, including countryside castles, city-centre properties and stylish spa hotels, in locations including Dublin, Belfast and the west coast.
The Merrion, Dublin
This five star hotel's location is unbeatable: the Edwardian pomp of Government Buildings is just across the road, with Merrion Square, the National Gallery and National Museum, and the Grafton Street shopping district all within a few minutes’ walk. The décor is all Georgian grace and symmetry to the front, with spacious and light-filled Garden Wing to the rear, enclosing pleasant half-acre quadrangle of fountains and manicured greenery. Ireland’s largest collection of private art adorns the walls of the charming ground-floor drawing rooms; and open turf fires offer additional charm.
Read the full review: The Merrion
Sheen Falls, County Kerry
Exceptionally luxurious and well appointed, and beautifully situated beside its eponymous waterfalls, Sheen Falls Lodge is a special place to stay. It provides a secluded country-house ambience, somewhere to get away from it all. In fact, you're unlikely to want to leave its confines, even though some of County Kerry's most splendid landscapes are just beyond the hotel gates. Suites and superior rooms overlook the waterfalls, while standard rooms (still excellent and spacious) offer views over the Kenmare river. The range of restaurants offers formal and relaxed dining, and the wine cellar is the largest in Ireland, while facilities in the smart Easanna Spa include a stylish indoor swimming pool.
The Shelbourne, Dublin
The signature red-brick Victoran façade of The Shelbourne Hotel stands splendid on the northern side of St Stephen's Green. Its main bar and The Saddle Room restaurant are popular fixtures on the city's social scene and afternoon tea in the Lord Mayor's Lounge is something of a Dublin tradition. Rooms are something of a curate’s egg: all rooms are naturally very well appointed and the south-facing rooms boast splendid views across the treetops of the Green to the distant mountains.
Read the full review: The Shelbourne
Ballynahinch Castle, County Galway
Imagine a manor house on the edge of a peat-dark, salmon-rich river, surrounded by mature woodlands and with glimpses of the grey Twelve Bens mountains range beyond, and with the ocean just a few miles away: that’s Ballynahinch. Ballynahinch trademarks an unfussy combination of comfort, luxury, and warm service. The foyer and bar areas boast open fires and flagged floors; the plush drawing rooms are quiet, with daily newspapers and nary a television in sight; the dining room offers long windows overlooking the river; and the walls sport watercolours and photographs detailing several centuries of colourful Ballynahinch history.
Read the full review: Ballynahinch Castle
The Marker, Dublin
Another draw for Dublin’s emerging Docklands district, The Marker is at the forefront of Irish design – with dining and service levels to match. It trades on style. Its fussy lobby can seem a little chaotic, but its emerald-green pool area and the building’s checkerboard façade suggest that time and money has been spent on the visuals. Head chef Gareth Mullins, previously of The Merrion hotel, serves modern, sophisticated and beautifully presented Irish cuisine in the light-filled Brasserie restaurant.
Read the full review: The Marker
Ashford Castle, County Mayo
The sort of place the Queen Mother would have loved: lavish, gilded and thoroughly over-the-to Ashford Castle is a grand, castellated stone castle overlooking Loch Corrib, within a 350-acre estate once owned by the Guinness family and used in Fifties film The Quiet Man. The theatrical interiors – which now include a cosy billiards room and glamorous red velvet cinema – overlook formal gardens and a new Victorian-style greenhouse, housing a pool and spa. Activities range from fishing with a local ghillie, horse riding, and joining the Irish School of Falconry for a hawk walk, to exploring the lake with Patrick Luskin, a chatty second-generation boatman.
Read the full review: Ashford Castle
InterContinental Dublin, Dublin
Come here for luxury, style and impeccable service in spacious surroundings a 10-minute taxi ride from the city centre. The interiors are swish: look for smart furnishings and a profusion of fresh flowers – and look too for the excellent collection of Irish art hanging throughout the hotel. The tried-and-tested InterContinental service is combined with a relaxed Irish ambience. The upper rooms offer wonderful views of the distant Wicklow hills and Irish Sea, thoufh ask for a courtyard-facing room for complete quiet. Bathrooms come complete with L'Occitane toiletries and marble trim.
Read the full review: InterContinental Dublin
The Merchant Hotel, Belfast
The style is grande luxe (and then some) in the public areas, and Victorian meets the 1970s in the rooms, as if Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen and Mary Quant had gone on an acid trip then fallen out. The faint hearted may suffer panic attacks being led by a porter wearing a blue, white and black striped shirt along a lime, white and black striped carpet into a room of orange and black striped carpet, autumnal floral bedding and brown walls. The Victorian theme is continued in the bathrooms, some with freestanding baths and pedestal washbasins.
Read the full review: The Merchant Hotel
Lough Eske, County Donegal
Lough Eske has been garlanded with praise – and no wonder: this five-star hotel offers marvellous service and hospitality. And a splendid setting too: the hotel and its grounds lie on the shores of beautiful Lough Eske, surrounded by some of Donegal’s most rugged landscapes. The original castle dates back to the fourteenth century, and the castle’s history is reflected in baronial furnishings, grand sandstone staircases and acres of polished wood – with its luxurious present evident in smart public areas, modern sculptures, efficiency and smooth professionalism.
Read the full review: Lough Eske
The Westbury, Dublin
On first impressions, The Westbury Hotel feels like a modern and opulent business hotel, but there is a warmth behind the white marble floors and dark wooden panels. Portraits on the walls hint at the family who own the hotel and, while not cheap, it’s a friendly, unpretentious and cosmopolitan place to stay. There are lots of nods to locally sourced products: Irish wool carpets and crisp Irish linens. Afternoon tea, served in the Gallery, is a must – it’s become something of a Dublin institution. Dinner at the Wilde Restaurant is good for entertaining business clients beneath the Waterford crystal chandeliers.
Read the full review: The Westbury
Gregans Castle, County Clare
Lovely Gregans Castle enjoys a beautiful setting, on a shoulder of the spectacular Burren and with wonderful views across to Galway Bay. For all of its long past and present excellence – the original building is a manor house dating from the 18th century, and the hotel's combination of antique furniture and modern art are very impressive – this an unfussy, unpretentious sort of place, though without ever stinting on the luxury. It's quite small, with only 21 bedrooms in various permutations.
Read the full review: Gregans Castle
This article was written by Neil Hegarty from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.