Dromoland Castle, Clare, Ireland

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The Beatles – according to legend, at the peak of Beatlemania they had to be smuggled out of Dromoland in laundry baskets to avoid crowds of screaming fans in 1963.

Hotel photography

Hotels are more than buildings; they are live venues that change with the seasons. The spectacular gardens of the Dromoland Castle Hotel are a testament to Irish nature, and balance cultivation and wilderness perfectly. Michelle Chaplow and the Hotel Essence team photographed the hotel in the Autumn, and Michelle fell in love with the ancient walled gardens, ponds and kaleidoscope of Autumnal hues. In her detailed blog post, she described how she “saw a whole host of scenes perfect for visual story-telling.”

On the grounds of the Dromoland estate, these beautiful 280-year-old gardens are managed by Head Gardener Dorothea Madden. Dorothea has lovingly maintained the gardens for over 30 years and is responsible for escorting guests around them, including rose-loving former First Lady Laura Bush. The gardens were originally designed in an Italian Renaissance style in the eighteenth century, as seen in the pictured long rectangular water pool and surrounding details.

Hotel Essence’s food photography captures an eye-catching selection of savoury and sweet treats in the high tea offered by the hotel. From the golf course, there are spectacular views through the woods across the lake to the castle, showing the vastness of the landscape and the distant building’s  impressive architecture. The image portfolio also shows the sharp service with a smile by proud hospitality professionals, who greet guests when they arrive for their stay.

The hotel experience

When guests pull up outside this magnificent castle turned five-star hotel, they are met with an entranceway of tall, steep stone steps, and no elevator. Instead, bellboys run up and down the steps with guests’ suitcases – all the more impressive as they never appear to be out of breath. The charming, hands-on General Manager Mark Nolan has dedicated over 30 years of his life to Dromoland, ensuring guests are treated with luxury and enjoy their stay. On the hotel’s website, they state “behind our warm Irish welcome is the belief that every guest is royalty.”

The hotel is the perfect place for family celebrations, and you can see multi-generational families around the castle. Majestic architecture permeates throughout the hotel, with quirky passageways, staircases and heavy historic doorways, making it a beautiful venue for events including weddings.

Guests can enjoy all the grounds and go on scenic walks around the estate or see the falconry in the gardens. Other activities include archery, horse riding, fishing or swimming in the hotel’s pool. Guests wishing to remain inside can indulge in the hotel’s luxurious spa and sauna. The Dromoland’s grounds are also host to an incredible 18-hole championship golf course which features a state-of-the-art practice facility for keen golfers. Over and above all of these exciting activities, the walled gardens are an unmissable highlight.

Award-winning fine dining is another of the hotel’s many perks and indulging in the magnificent afternoon tea at The Gallery is an experience not to miss. Executive Head Chef David McCann has wowed guests for over 20 years with his delicious cooking, which uses Ireland’s best ingredients. The Earl of Thomond is the hotel’s luxury Michelin star flagship restaurant, where guests can dine surrounded by glistening chandeliers and incredible views over the estate.

Hotel’s history

Dromoland Castle’s history dates all the way back to the fifth century, when it was the ancestral home of the O’Briens, the Barons of Inchiquin. The O’Briens were direct descendants of Brian Boroimhe, the only High King of Ireland in the 11th century. He was also known as “Brian Boru,” and is renowned for defeating the Danes in 1014. The 450-acre estate remained in the O’Brien family for six generations, with many disputes taking place over the ownership of the land and homes during that time.

In 1962, Donough O’Brien, the sixteenth Baron Inchiquin, sold Dromoland Castle and 350 acres of land due to difficult financial circumstances. American industrialist Bernard McDonough bought the castle in 1962 and it was quickly converted into the luxurious hotel we see today.

This luxurious heritage hotel stands proud in the Preferred Hotels Legend collection and is also a member of Historic Hotels Worldwide. The hotel has welcomed many notorious guests in its 70-year history, including former President George W. Bush, who was reportedly guarded by 7,000 police, military and private security forces during his visit for the US-EU summit held at the venue in 2004. Its guestbook also features Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela, Muhammad Ali, Bono, and The Beatles – according to legend, at the peak of Beatlemania they had to be smuggled out of Dromoland in laundry baskets to avoid crowds of screaming fans in 1963.