Dromoland Castle Hotel, just west of Limerick, Ireland, is a short drive from Shannon Airport. But it can be a glorious leap back in time if you let your imagination take you. And you should let it take you. It's going to a very good place.
The limestone Gothic revival castle that stands there now is a mere 170 years old, but scratch the surface and you'll find features—overmantels, caryatids and gateways—preserved from two past manors that date to the 1500s. The 410-acre estate itself harks to the eleventh century, when it was a defensive stronghold. The "remodeling," with its series of towers and battlements, perfectly bespeaks the property's long history of intrigue. The O'Brien clan—the barons of Inchiquin and the descendants of Irish king Brian Boru—disputed ownership of the land for much of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Since 1962, the castle has been a hotel and plays host to less combative dignitaries (President Bush and members of the European Union met there last summer).
An air of regality greets you as you enter the grounds. After you pass the golf course, clubhouse and a lake with rowboats, the round tower of the castle looms ahead. The great central gallery, with its exquisite joinery, working fireplace and family oil paintings, is a gathering place for tea. The 100 guest rooms (starting at $225) are substantial, many with ceilings of more than 10 feet, and are decorated with antique furniture and brocade draperies. A number of the large Italian marble bathrooms have separate tubs and showers. Ask for room 306 with its massive arched window and garden views.
The Earl of Thomond Restaurant—named for a past claimant to the property—serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, with jacket required for gentlemen at dinner. Try a starter course of delicious Galway Bay oysters followed by black sole grilled on the bone.
The golf course, recently renovated by former Jack Nicklaus associate Ron Kirby, is one of the country's best parkland layouts. The lake has rainbow and brown trout, pike and perch. Ask for Dennis, the gillie, to take you out for fly-fishing and conversation. Shooting is also available as are walking paths and a formal garden.
Dromoland is within easy access to other golf courses, such as Ballybunion, Lahinch and Greg Norman's new links course, Doonbeg.
Visit www.dromoland.ie or call 800-346-7007.