Where to Stay (and What to Do) in Ireland

Ireland's luxury scene has been generating plenty of buzz lately. Take a look at some recent hotel developments--and some suggestions on what to do in two very different cities.

Earlier this month, the Trump Organization purchased the Atlantic Ocean-fronting Doonbeg Golf Club in County Clare. The acquisition marks the 16th golf club in the Trump Portfolio and the first Trump Hotel Collection property in Ireland. The club, which will be renamed the Trump International Golf Links, Ireland, takes up more than 400 acres along the Atlantic Ocean and includes an 18-hole championship golf links course. The Lodge at Doonbeg has 218 hotel suites, a spa and several restaurants—all of which will be managed directly by the Trump Hotel Collection. 

Meanwhile, the historic Ashford Castle in County Mayo is undergoing a renovation now that it's part of the Red Carnation Hotels collection. Eight guestrooms in the Victorian and East Wings have completed their renovations, and we hear that each room is individually decorated with antique furniture to preserve the sense of history. The second stage of the refurbishment is now underway and the castle is closed until March 14. This stage will include a new indoor pool, a new spa, a screening room, new kitchens, new windows and a new roof.

For those seeking something a bit more urban, there are plenty of things to do in Belfast, Northern Ireland—especially for girlfriends looking for a fun getaway. (Think prime shopping and dining opportunities.) Or, for a different type of getaway, consider spending a day in Galway, famous for its festivals (the annual July arts festival reportedly attracts 165,000 people each year) and top-notch comfort food.

And stargazers will want to head to County Kerry, where the skies recently received official recognition from the International Dark-Sky Association. The U.S.-based organisation designated the area as an International Dark Sky Reserve, the first in Ireland and one of only seven in the world. The new Kerry International Dark Sky Reserve was also awarded “gold tier” status, the first time it has been awarded in the northern hemisphere. It is designated only for particularly clear and bright night skies, with easily visible phenomena such as the aurora, the Milky Way and meteors.