For an evening we lived an absolute fairytale. After a day of seeing impressive castle ruins at the Rock of Cashel and Cahir Castle, we made our way to Newmarket-on-Fergus, the home of the Dromoland Estate. The stop was a bit out-of-the-way on our journey to County Kerry, but knowing my dad’s love for castles and my mom’s desire to see castles, I knew it would be worth the stop over.
A stay at Dromoland Castle itself didn’t fit into our budget for the trip. In lieu, I booked us two rooms at the Inn at Dromoland, a less posh though absolutely suitable hotel on the same estate as the castle itself. We arrived with enough time to get ready for dinner, which I had arranged in advance at the Earl of Thomond, the restaurant at Dromoland Castle. Knowing that we wouldn’t be able to stay at the castle overnight, a dinner there seemed like a great way for us to enjoy the castle grounds and see the interiors. Upon check-in, the concierge at helped us within arranging a car to collect us from the inn and take us to the castle for dinner, which allowed all of us to enjoy the evening without worrying about driving home afterwards.
“Your ride awaits.”
My mom received the call in her room when the van pulled up, and giddily told my sister and I that our ride was waiting outside. I had already felt like I’d been transported into a scene of Beauty and the Beast at Trinity College’s library in Dublin, but the fairy tale continued in a major way for our evening at the castle.
We arrived about 45 minutes early with the expectation of grabbing a drink at the bar. The castle’s façade alone is otherworldly, with green and red ivy crawling up the stone walls. Unlike the ruins we had seen earlier, Dromoland is an active castle hotel and clearly the product of a major investment to live up to its five-star standard. Many larger tour groups providing guided tours of Ireland include a night at Dromoland Castle in the offering, and it’s easy to see why. The castle grounds are pretty spectacular, plus beyond the accommodations guests have access to a range of options on-site including falconry, fishery and archery.
We slowly made our way to the bar, admiring the interiors and pausing to soak in the sitting area near the fireplace. When we made it to the cocktail bar, there were five open seats awaiting us. Perfection. We each ordered a cocktail to start to give us time to marinate a bit in the moment and soak it all in. We all knew this was going to be our nicest dinner out in Ireland, and was our perfect opportunity to dress up a bit for the occasion. For anyone looking at going to the Earl of Thomond, dress code is upscale casual (is that a complete oxymoron?): jackets aren’t required for men though we saw many gentlemen in sport coats at the restaurant. Collared shirts and pants (no jeans) are a minimum requirement. For ladies, dresses seemed to be the de facto uniform but there were a few women in nice pants and blouses, too.
Just sitting at the bar felt like we’d been transported to another world and another time. The bartenders were carefully crafting our cocktails in front of a gorgeous bar while we looked on. The entire experience was dreamy, for lack of a better description. From the get-go this trip felt incredibly special but this evening kicked off a truly magical experience for us.
After our cocktails, we headed to the Earl of Thomond for dinner, serenaded by a pianist and a harpist while we were escorted to our table. I’ll be honest: part of me was a bit concerned that the food would be mediocre. Did they really need to put out good food when guests were going to pay to eat there regardless? Presumably most of their diners are visitors so they’re not exactly banking on local repeat business. Besides, most people would leave happy just being able to experience the space.
When the starters came out, we were all pleasantly surprised. Everything was outstanding. They clearly weren’t cutting corners in any way, and the excellent service just added to the royal treatment. Our entrees came out next, each covered with a perfectly polished metal lid. Three servers approached the table and simultaneously removed the lids to reveal our respective meals. We were all beaming so brightly that our cheeks should have been sore afterwards. Our entrees were excellent (the John Dory was the arguably best fish I had in the whole of Ireland) and the setting just added to the magic. There couldn’t have been a more perfect evening for us.
To top it off, our server came out with a gorgeous chocolate cake lit with candles to celebrate my dad’s birthday. The cake was portioned out by the staff and brought out for all of us to enjoy before we left for the night. In Cinderella fashion, our coach pulled up to the castle to whisk us back to the inn, but that entire night burned bright in our memories for the remainder of our trip.
My mom, who had no real idea of what to expect when embarking with us on this trip, sat with my sister and I before going our separate ways for the night. “I feel like a princess,” she said. Mission accomplished.
For anyone looking at visiting the castle, I really can’t recommend it enough. If staying there fits in your budget, I can imagine that there’s value there if you plan on enjoying some of the activities on offer, too. For those wanting to balance budget with experience, I felt very pleased with how we approached the night. Since we only had a single night at the Inn at Dromoland, we were really only using it for accommodation. The primary experience for our night was the dinner at the castle which was very accessible from its sister property. While I think we would have all loved staying at the castle instead, I don’t think anyone felt cheated at all in the way that we did it.
We went back to the castle the following morning to see the space in the sunshine. Snaps of the castle during the day:
Stay tuned as we continue our road trip and venture to Adare Manor and the Dingle Peninsula!
Have you stayed at Dromoland Castle or the Inn at Dromoland? How was your experience?