Daly Destinations….What’s on in Co. Clare.
Leaving the colourful capital of Connemara behind us, we hit the road for Co. Clare otherwise known as the Banner county. We planned on a two-night stay at the ‘Inn at Dromoland’, located in the beautiful Co. Clare countryside. With views of the Shannon estuary and the Clare hills we were excited about a new abode for a couple of nights and this would mark our first experience of a hotel in the new careful covid world. We arrived to an orderly reception area where a one-way system clearly indicated entry and exit points and a hand sanitiser station has become the focal point of the lobby area where you dutifully cleanse your hands before speaking to a welcoming staff member from behind their perspex screen whilst wearing their protective face shield. The hospitality industry has changed. It’s as welcoming as ever, just behind many layers of cautious covid protection.
We opted for a double inter-connecting, family room. The connecting door was quite the novelty! This isn’t the historic grandeur of Dromoland Castle, I was lucky enough to stay there recently and it’s a dream and the rooms are heavenly. The ‘Inn at Dromoland’ is a different proposition, it’s family-friendly with rooms that are a little dated but then you’re not paying castle prices and your children can have a tantrum and you’re not completely mortified – you’re in good company, there’s other kids losing their sh&t too! I’d suggest saving the castle visit for that special occasion when you’ve managed to shake off your beloved children for a night or two!
We headed out to play tennis on the courts (there’s crazy golf there too) and our youngest enjoyed the on-site playground. There’s a good bar, ‘Shenanigans’, on-site with gastro/bar-food fare that you don’t have to have pre-bookings for so that’s handy for an off-the-cuff meal with the family and again, all safety measures have been taken. They also do that ‘baby bowl’ I mentioned in my report on Connemara – a handy addition to family dining for your youngest infants. There’s no colouring pages or crayons for the kids – again, it’s a new world where you’d have to respect the level of thought they’ve put in to these decisions even if it means the kids are momentarily disappointed.
We arranged a ‘pizza night’ later that evening with the hotel and it worked all round. Pizzas delivered to the room (with some extra sweet treats thrown in) whilst watching a movie and it proved an easy solution after a day of travel and activities.
We ventured out the following day to Bunratty Castle. I have a confession to make. I hadn’t been to Bunratty Castle before. Am I even Irish??! Between all the Irish family holidays as a child and the endless filming around the country for Ireland AM, I had never made it to Bunratty before but I was about to make up for it. The World-famous medieval banquets that would normally take place nightly are not happening during this period but you can still visit the castle that was the stronghold of the O’Brien family during the 16th and 17th centuries. I’m guessing the tour of the castle has been cut short too given the times we’re in but the Folk Park more than makes up for the lack of activity in the castle. This, for me, was the real highlight. What they’ve created is a living representation of the homes and environments of Ireland over a hundred years ago and they need to be commended for their incredible attention to detail. From the Doctor’s house where ‘his wife’ takes you through the various leaves and plants in the garden that are used for medicines and remedies (my kids have never been so quiet as they were listening to her and one of them whispered to me ‘Is she just pretending she’s the Doctor’s wife or is this real?’). You’re so immersed in it that it feels real, right down to the farmers old boots left beside his bed in the old farmhouse. There’s late Georgian dwellings and Hazelbrook house, home to the Hughes brothers who started a humble dairy business in the 1800’s that later would become HB Ice cream! The backstories are endless and intricate interiors fascinating.
There’s tea rooms, a pub and a couple of cafes on-site where you can have lunch or you can visit the original Durty Nelly’s pub (est 1620) down the road where there’s a real timeless quality and I’m guessing you’ll get a pretty good pint of the black stuff!
The Inn is just outside Ennis so it’s a perfect base to explore the Burren, the Cliffs of Moher (about 30 minutes away), Thomond Park, King Johns Castle and the Aillwee caves.
We had the pool booked for a late afternoon swim (booking being the key here – pre-book EVERYTHING, even your breakfast!) and this new booking system applies in every hotel in order for them to carefully monitor numbers. There’s a gym in the leisure centre and we booked the play Inn (a sizeable indoor play area with various sections for children of all ages) for the following morning too. We were getting the hang of this pre-booking business!
We earned our dinner after our visit to the leisure centre and Deerfield’s restaurant didn’t disappoint. Tables are well spaced out, and it wasn’t a stuffy scenario where you’re concerned your children are creating more than a little noise, more of a relaxed family feel with good food and friendly service.
As a guest of the Inn you have access to the grounds of Dromoland Castle – all 450 acres of their countryside estate and it makes for a gorgeous walk before checking out and heading home. Just be quiet when the golfers are about to take their shot!
If you’re planning a getaway to The Inn at Dromoland, use my promo code INNWITHANNA and avail of a discount and a bottle of wine for Mum & Dad.
Whatever you do, have a happy staycation!
P.S. the cover pic on this article is the Cliffs of Moher, if you haven’t seen them before you absolutely need to. This pic (from travelsavvy.com) shows them at their best!
(Note – I had the arduous job of researching the hotel and reporting back. Tough gig I know! Therefore this was a hosted stay but my review is completely my own. )