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Set your pulse racing at Dromoland Castle

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Dromoland Castle

Dromoland Castle

Lin Frazer on the Falconry walk

Lin Frazer on the Falconry walk

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Dromoland Castle

Dromoland Castle has been welcoming guests since the 16th century and it seems to be getting better at it every year.

As the ancestral home of the O'Briens of Dromoland, whose lineage dates back 1,000 years to Brian Boru, one of the last High Kings of Ireland, the hotel has got nobility and hospitality written into its DNA.

But Dromoland's amazing story as one of Ireland's most famous five-star hotels could have been oh so very different had it not been for a horse - yes a horse.

Back in the 1700s owner Sir Edward O'Brien was a well-known racehorse owner and trainer.

Perhaps rather foolishly, though, he once gambled the entire estate on a horse race. Thank God 'Sean Buis' won and saved the day otherwise the beauty of Dromoland could have been lost for ever.

The famous gee gee is still fondly remembered and is buried under the Temple of Mercury (below), 100 yards from the old entrance to the castle.

It's fair enough to say that arriving at Dromoland in Newmarket on Fergus, in County Clare, is something of an occasion in itself.

As you drive through the stately gates, gliding through a perfectly manicured 18-hole, 6,845-yard championship golf course the castle really does take your breath away when it first comes in to sight.

The building itself has the wow factor in spades. From the imposing baronial facade to the amazing interiors, you'll find a world of historic grandeur underpinned by the finest modern comforts.

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Dromoland Christmas hamper

Dromoland Christmas hamper

Dromoland Christmas hamper

With lavish decor and indulgent dining this is a place to relax and feel at home.

It's no surprise that the great and good have stayed there including celebrity guests ranging from our own Jamie Dornan to Bill Clinton, George W Bush, Nelson Mandela, Chinese President Xi Jinping, The Beatles, Muhammad Ali and Colin Farrell.

My wife and I were lucky enough to be staying in the Queen Anne Suite which has a fabulous lake view.

With a superbly comfortable bed, a large separate seating area and a bath big enough to do the backstroke in, it couldn't really have been any better.

It was tough to leave such luxurious accommodation but with 450 acres to explore we set off on one of the estate's walking trails.

Pathways criss-cross the rolling land, meandering through woodlands, around the lake and beyond the fairways - a perfect way to spend a sunny afternoon.

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Lin Frazer on the Falconry walk

Lin Frazer on the Falconry walk

Lin Frazer on the Falconry walk

A castle this grand deserves enchanting gardens and trust me they don't disappoint.

Based on designs by Andre Le Notre, who planned the Gardens at Versailles, you'll find unexpected features at every turn, from the picture-perfect lily pond and sundial, to the beautiful walled garden and dramatic yew tree gallery that dates back to 1740.

Of course there are other activities to enjoy. Archery, fishing, cycling, clay shooting and horse riding are all available for guests. For me though the hawk walk is something you will never forget.

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Dromoland Castle

Dromoland Castle

Dromoland Castle

You can't help but be bowled over when a hawk first lands on your gloved fist. During the walk you will learn how to handle and fly one of the school's Harris's Hawks.

Our instructor, Dave Atkinson, obviously loves his job and was a fount of knowledge not only about the birds but also the castle itself. He couldn't have been more helpful or informative.

No trip to Dromoland would be complete without a visit to the Earl of Thomond restaurant.

Dromoland's flagship eatery is celebrated throughout Ireland for both its elegance and its innovation and a meal here could well be the highlight of your stay.

Executive head chef David McCann mixes classical techniques with the best of Irish produce and comes up with some heavenly results.

Prepare to be amazed by exquisite local flavours, perfect wine pairings, impeccable service and a dash of Dromoland magic.

I can certainly vouch for the meal we had with the fillet of Irish Angus Beef with braised ox cheek, red onion, parsnip and savoy cabbage and Bordelaise sauce (below left) one of the best dishes I have ever been served.

Those seeking even more pampering should definitely head to the hotel spa.

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One of the spa treatment rooms

One of the spa treatment rooms

One of the spa treatment rooms

This tranquil sanctuary offers intimate and serene escapism within the 16th century castle walls.

Away from the stresses of modern life, the team of skilled therapists offer a variety of soothing and luxurious treatments.

Just like the rest of the hotel the team have introduced Covid procedures and protocols to ensure guests always feels safe and protected throughout their time in the treatment rooms or the covered outdoor Jacuzzi.

It's good to remember that if you're travelling from Northern Ireland the hotel is perfectly placed to explore the south and south west of Ireland and The Wild Atlantic Way.

You definitely won't have to go too far to experience the essence of Ireland's magic. The castle is close to both the Unesco World Heritage Cliffs of Moher and The Burren.

Meanwhile, Ireland's rich history can also be explored too, from the medieval town of Ennis to a visit to the brilliant Bunratty Castle and a stroll past the Georgian buildings of Limerick City.

You could also easily do a day trip to the magical Aran Islands and music-filled streets of Galway City or make for the coast and breathe in the purest air rushing over the Atlantic spray.

Escape to the stunning Dromoland Castle and banish those January blues with a full 24-hour stay, giving you the time to enjoy the wide range of activities available on the beautiful 450-acre estate.

You decide your check-in time and check out exactly 24 hours later as well as enjoying a 5% discount on the best available rates.

Enjoy a luxurious stay, complete with a full Irish breakfast the next morning in the impressive Earl of Thomond restaurant. The 24-Hour Castle Stay is on offer until March 2021, subject to availability from €295 per person sharing.

Alternatively stay for two nights and enjoy a complimentary dinner on one evening during your stay.

This exclusive offer includes: Two nights' accommodation, full Irish breakfast each morning and a three-course dinner in The Earl of Thomond or The Fig Tree Restaurant.

To book your stay, visit www.dromoland.ie or call (00353)61346700.

From December 18 until January 6 the hotel is fully open to all residents of the island of Ireland.

In January they are opening weekends only - Fridays and Saturdays for accommodation and Sunday until 6pm.

Can't make it to the hotel... then bring a taste of the Castle to your own home with Dromoland's selection of delicious Walled Garden treats including orange marmalade, strawberry & Prosecco preserve and their famous Dromoland brown bread.

Inside this packed hamper you will find the beautiful Dromoland Castle cookbook included, a collection of some of Executive Chef Davis McCann's favourite recipes he's known to use in the castle kitchens as well as an elegant mug, premium dish towel and monikered teddy bear.

The Dromoland Castle Gift Box 2020 (above) is available to buy for €195 online at www.dromoland.ie.

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