High summer holidays are in full swing, and while many feeds are filled with the diamond-like sparkle of Mediterranean waters, the green shores of Ireland continue to enchant travelers from around the world. With its lush beauty, unique culture, and old-world charm, Ireland proves to be a bucket list destination time and again.
“The greenery of Ireland shines in the summer sun and on clear days the coastal route is truly sublime,” says Michelle Maguire, CEO of Ireland’s Blue Book, an organization formed in 1974 with 11 founding members to ensure the economic well-being of some of Ireland’s most historic properties.
“Ireland’s extensive history fascinates me every day,” Maguire continues. “You can walk anywhere and stumble across a 12th-century castle or a three-thousand-year-old settlement like Brú na Bóinne.”
Although if this summer season doesn’t bring you to the shores of the Emerald Isle, Maguire touts fall as equally spellbinding.
“Ireland evolves in the fall, becoming a place of magic and mystery. With the weather cooling and the autumnal fog rolling in, Ireland’s scenery becomes all the more dramatic,” she says. “Standing atop a cliff with blustering winds and crashing waves, you can see how the writers throughout the ages have been inspired.” She also adds that festivals such as Bram Stoker Festival play into the season’s mood, as do the cozy fires that warm up Irish pubs.
If Ireland is on your travel hit list consider these properties which have been selected for their attention to aesthetics. Whether it’s through thoughtful interior design or landmark architecture, they are sure to ensconce you in the luck of the Irish at every turn.
Spread across 450 acres and only 15 minutes from Shannon Airport, Dromoland Castle is Ireland’s answer to Versailles. Indeed, the design of its gardens is directly based on Louis XIV’s palatial masterpiece, but this property has its own history which dates back to the 6th century when it was the home to direct descendants of one of the last kings of Ireland, Brian Boru.
While steeped in architectural splendor and flanked by a spectacular landscape, Dromoland Castle is central to a plethora of activities both on and off the property. From golf, horseback riding, and falconry (all available onsite), it’s a stone’s throw from Irish wonders such as the dramatic 1,553-mile route along Ireland’s west coast dubbed the Wild Atlantic Way, small fishing villages to enjoy a local catch, two UNESCO World Heritage sites (the Cliffs of Moher, and the moon-ish, limestone landscape of the Burren National Park formed 320 million years ago), and Bunratty Castle, built in 1425 and the most complete and authentic medieval fortress in Ireland.
That is all to say this hotel, which is a collection of suites and staterooms, also possesses all the spoils one would imagine from a world-class spa featuring Dr. Barbara Sturm products and dining options which range from an extravagant high tea, to lakeside picnics, and, of course, luxurious fine dining at its Earl of Thurmond restaurant.
It was in 2017 that this historic castle was renovated into what is now one of the top castle properties in the world, keeping alive the architectural excellence of the Neo-Gothic masterpiece.
The renovation elevated the property to the standards of contemporary luxury while retaining the integral details of its original architectural heritage. It’s an example of the rare ‘Calendar House’ design which features 365 leaded windows, 52 ornate chimneys, 7 stone pillars, and 4 towers which represent the days, weeks, number of days in a week, and number of seasons experienced in a calendar year. It also embodies the spirit of medieval churches seen most prominently in the property’s arched windows which are carved with intricate designs while exteriors are accented with gargoyles.
Set upon a vast 842 acres, this restoration pivoted the property into what it is today–a beacon of excellence best exampled by the presence of its Michelin Star restaurant, the first in County Limerick, which set the stage for heightened gastronomical experiences in the area.
Adare Manor is a collection of 104 guest rooms that pay homage to the vision of the property’s founder, the 2nd Earl of Dunraven, who built the castle over the course of 30 years and employed the most skilled and talented local craftspeople and artisans to erect this ode to excellence. As such, each room is individually designed with details such as mahogany furniture, grand fireplaces, rich textiles, and original oil paintings and etchings from the 19th century.
With easy access to all the sites of Ireland’s West Coast and the charming splendor of Adare Village amid which the castle lives, the property also features Ireland’s only 111SKIN spa, archery, clay pigeon shooting, a cinema, and a state of the art fitness center called Padel Club to help guests focus on a wellness experience should they desire.
The Ballyfin Hotel is described as the most lavish Regency mansion in Ireland, although there are many who would go a step further and call it the most luxurious hotel in the country.
Built in the 1820s for a gentleman called Sir Charles Coote, two famed Irish architects of the time, Sir Richard and William Morrison, were appointed to oversee its design. Between the time it was built and when it was opened as a hotel in 2011, Ballyfin spanned various iterations; it was first the country house of the Cootes family for 100 years before they sold it to the Patrician Brothers who ran it as a school.
For all the grandeur of this property, which lives on 614 acres, it is a place of utmost exclusivity as it only has 20 bedrooms and one private one-bedroom cottage. As such, it offers its guests the an unrivaled sense of privacy as well as a break from the fast-paced world outside its borders.
After a 9-year restoration during which every part of the house was renovated to its original splendor, from the intricate inlaid floors to the gilding and stucco ceilings to the stonework, the interior design was accomplished through a mixture of elements both local and international led by London’s Colin Orchard. Rich wallpapers and textiles set the backdrop while walls were adorned with a respectable collection of Irish art. Chandeliers were brought from France, antiques were gathered from around the world, and mirrors by Thomas Chippendale gave the property glimmering finishing touches, making this an historical renovation of the most intricate variety.
Dublin’s The Westbury Hotel is the seat of the Ireland-based luxury international boutique hotel brand, The Doyle Collection, and as such it’s the collection’s crown jewel property. A family-run brand that spans 70 years, the personal touch for which the collection is known can be felt through every inch of the space as it’s the founder’s daughter, Bernie Gallagher, who designs every inch of the interiors across the brand.
The Westbury is no different and this property is a reflection of the Doyle family’s high standards of hospitality and design. Situated amongst an area of Dublin known as the Creative Quarter, which is home to museums, galleries, and design centers, The Westbury exists as a reflection of its surroundings and has garnered the reputation of being home to one of Ireland’s most rich hotel art collections featuring work by Sir John Lavery and Louis le Brocquy.
The hotel is within steps of the city’s best shops and restaurants, including the famed Grafton Street, Dublin’s Trinity College, the National Gallery, Abbey Theater, and The National Museum as well as foodie destinations such as Sheridan’s Cheese and Cocoa Atelier. While The Westbury lives amidst so much activity, the hotel takes pride in offering a calm respite from city life through a home-like experience.
Gallagher accomplishes this through the use of a palette of creams and taupes to set a restful vibe in each of The Westbury’s 176 rooms and 29 suites which are finished with furnishings from brands such as George Smith and Blanc d’Ivoire.
To truly experience the luxury of The Westbury, opt to check into the newly-remodeled P.V. Doyle Suite which has been the place where Heads of State and Hollywood’s elite–think, Audrey Hepburn, Marlon Brando, David Bowie, and Pavarotti–have chosen to stay while in Dublin. Featuring a spacious master bedroom, living room, and dining area, it also has its own private fitness and wellbeing space and dedicated butler and concierge service. As to be expected, art takes center stage in this suite and includes a tapestry by renowned 20th-century Irish artist, Louis Le Brocquy, titled Sol Y Sombra, as well as pieces by Nano Reid, Tim Goulding, Patrick Scott, Michael Kane, and Le Brocquy’s widow, Anne Madden.