Dromoland Castle – Newmarket-on-Fergus, Clare, Ireland

Magnificent Microcosm of History

Splendid ancestral home to one of the few native Gaelic families of royal blood, Dromoland Castle was built in 1543 by the O’Briens, barons of Inchiquin, direct descendants of the High King Brian Bora, valiant leader of a victory over the Danes in 1014. Today the eighteenth Baron of Inchiquin still lives on the grounds (but with 370 acres, don’t expect to see him in the breakfast room or during afternoon tea). Imposing from outside, inside this massive pile is surprisingly intimate—a scrapbook of Irish history where the exemplary service demanded by the O’Briens still prevails.

The grand elegance of Dromoland is most evident in the theatrical setting of its high-ceilinged dining room. House specialties such as Dromoland Estate venison with fig chutney give new sophistication to local cuisine. One could conceivably never leave the grounds, if not for the enticing vicinity of the fabled Ballybunion Golf Course, 70 miles away, and Lalhinch, the “St. Andrew’s of Ireland” only 35 miles away. Dromoland’s own 18-hole golf course serves nicely as a backyard alterna­tive, and an on-site luxury spa, horseback riding, and shooting will placate nongolfers.

One must-do day trip is the half-hour drive to the nearby Cliffs of Moher, one of Ireland’s most dramatically beautiful natural attrac­tions. Rising majestically up out of the Atlantic 700 to 1,220 feet, these dark walls of moss-covered limestone stretch for 5 miles between Hag’s Head and O’Brien’s Tower.

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