Adare , County Limerick
Tel: 353 61 605200
In "a classic Irish village," with cottages that look "straight from the guidebooks," this gargoyle-bedecked 1832 manor "evokes a time when castles were the hallmarks of society." Individually styled rooms are decorated with lush fabrics and have marble bathrooms. The wood-paneled Oakroom restaurant overlooks the River Maigue and serves tian of crab and scallion "Courteous staff are helpful with directions."
Cong , County Mayo
Tel: 353 94 954 6003
This 13th-century castleonce a Guinness family homehas "idyllic, expansive" grounds with manicured gardens near the River Cong. While guest rooms "could use some renovation," public areas are "out of a museum." Dinners of County Mayo lamb and shellfish at George V require a jacket and tie and are "phenomenal and plentiful." Nearby Lough Corrib has fine salmon- and trout-fishing, while on-site falconry is "an unexpected highlight."
Tel: 353 95 31006
This 250-year-old crenellated hotel has an "authentic feel," with guest rooms decorated in period colors overlooking the Owenmore River and "fly fishermen casting their lines." Along with "breathtaking views of the river," Owenmore Restaurant serves up fish that were swimming that morning, while the pub records anglers' catches in ledgers dating to 1920. "The staff, housekeeping, and restaurant personnel were so experienced."
Navan , County Meath
Tel: 353 46 9030900
Designed in 1750 by Richard Castle, the architect who created Dublin's Parliament Building, Bellinter House was for centuries a sprawling estate and more recently a convent. Now this meticulously restored Palladian-style gem, on 12 green acres a 45-minute drive north of Dublin, has opened as a country house hotel with a hip twist. Cowhide covers the original pitch pine flooring, and tasteful embellishments, such as the modern artworks and the white paper bull's-head wall sconce, give a contemporary feel to this house of vast proportions. The 37 rooms couldn't be more comfortable, and there's ample diversion with two pools (one indoors), a screening room, a terrific restaurant, and walks along the River Boyne. The combined effect is a welcome as warm as the peat fires that burn in the public rooms.
Thomas Prior House
Tel: 353 1 668 1111
It was only a matter of time before Ryanair's business model came to be applied to hotels. Rooms at Bewley's are advertised from €59 (around $85) but creep up inexorably as the bookings roll in. Then come the add-ons: breakfast at €9.50; parking at €8; use of gym (a cab ride away) at €9.50. The rooms are basic, too—think single pillows; tiny, 12-inch tube TVs; a bare minimum of towels; and soap dispensers rather than individual bath products. Topping it all off, it's far from a city-center location. So why recommend it? It's the economy, stupid. Despite the add-ons, Bewley's has priced this product perfectly, offering real value for customers wishing to use the hotel as a base and little more. But there is more. The central staircase descends through an atrium-cum-conservatory into a hugely useful meeting area—where big, old leather seats sprawl about in the glow of (surprisingly) complimentary Wi-Fi. Cream and brown tones and a cheery mix of watercolors shore up a room that is bustling and invariably manages to throw up a free table. Last, but not least, there's the building itself. Bewley's is a refurb of Thomas Prior House—originally a Masonic girls' school, and a Victorian treasure that makes the neighboring Four Seasons Dublin look like Lego.—Pól Ó Conghaile
59–62 Drury St.
Tel: 363 1 670 4000
You can't fault the location of the comfortable, efficient four-star Brooks Hotel. A stone's throw from St. Stephen's Green, and a quick skip from funky Fade Street, it's in the thick of all things Dublin. Its 98 rooms are compact, laid out on six floors, and decorated in classic contemporary style: muted floral wallpaper; blond wood; peachy fabrics on the headboard, desk chair, and chest. A bottle of San Pellegrino and a pastry are left by housekeeping—as is a pillow menu, to be returned to reception by 6 pm. Downstairs, a small lobby leads to the Jasmine Bar and Francesca's Restaurant, tidily styled contemporary spaces emphasizing cocktails and a mix of Irish and international cuisine, respectively. Both are linked by a lounge area where the breakfast buffet is served (this gets busy between 10 and 11 am on weekends, and service of cooked breakfasts can be slow). The lower ground floor squirrels away an oak-panelled residents' lounge, replete with newspapers, vintage bookshelves, rotator dial phone, and a case of reading glasses. As you'd expect of a hotel doing brisk corporate business, Wi-Fi is complimentary. All told, it's a tidy proposition boosted by long-serving staff (in particular Conor, the concierge so beloved of John McKenna's Bridgestone Guide). Shame it looks out on a multistory parking lot.—Pól Ó Conghaile
68 Wellington Quay
Tel: 353 1 407 0800
The one hotel everyone's heard of, because it's part-owned by Bono and The Edge. For some time, however, the Clarence has been doing something U2 would not contemplate: resting on its laurels. When it opened in 1996—raising Dublin-hysteria to a new high—couture hotelier Grace Leo-Andrieu ran the show, but she's long gone, and it shows. The sensitively understated Arts and Crafts/Shaker styling—with American oak, Portland stone, and Italian limestone—still looks good, as does the more boldly colored decor in the 49 bedrooms. Many of these rooms are cramped and loud, however (the racket from Temple Bar outside can be overwhelming). Also, and unforgivably at these rates, service can falter, veering madly from friendly-polite all the way down to rude. Change could be afoot—permission was recently granted for a Norman Foster–designed refurbishment, which provides for a complete gutting of the Art Deco building and four Georgian houses alongside. The transformation, if it goes ahead, will extend the hotel to 114 rooms and 28 suites. In the meantime, a few draws remain: the Tea Room restaurant, the cozy Octagon Bar, and the Study, a residents-only librarylike lounge, are cool spaces; children are especially cared for; and there's a miniature spa and fitness room, too.—Kate Sekules; updated by Pól Ó Conghaile
Ardmore , County Waterford
Tel: 353 24 87 800
The finest attribute of this verdant, untamed bit of Ireland is indubitably the coast, and the reinvented Cliff House Hotel, a plinth of angular slate and glass hanging off a dramatic lip of Ardmore Bay, wisely sits back and lets it be the focal point. Each of the 39 rooms balances the colossal view with a deftly crafted coziness manifested in stand-alone bathtubs, linen and glass headboards by local artists, Paul Theroux and Dr. Seuss hardcovers on a shelf, swank tartan easy chairs, and a silver tea tray a phone call away. If the service in the bar can be a bit awkward, the Restaurant, with rising star Dutch chef Martijn Kajuiter at the helm, turns out dreamy interpretations of Irish dishes, like a ballotine of Clare Island salmon. In the morning, borrow a pair of Wellies from the hallway and go for an hour-long wander along the nearly deserted cliffs.
Newmarket-on-Fergus , County Clare
Tel: 353 61 368144
At the end of a curved drive past a walled garden and lake, this 16th-century castle has paneled corridors, tasseled drapes, and coats of armor that create an "old-world feel." Rooms showcase Empire furnishings and Canovas wallpaper. The formal oak dining room serves "fresh, delicious" local seafood and meat dishes to harp strains; even the casual pub presents club sandwiches on china. Staff "do everything to fulfill your needs."
Eastmoreland Place, off Upper Baggot Street
Tel: 353 1 660 3000
Although hidden away on a quiet lane, this chic 44-room Victorian is getting a lot of attention as the hotel of the moment. On the outside it's stately and buttoned-up, but the sexy interior mixes deep reds and purples, lime-green, and grays with chrome-studded walls. The elevator lined in red leather is a truly decadent touch. Autumn-hued guest rooms feature all manner of heavenly beds—some over-the-top rococo in style, others upholstered like James Bond's Aston Martin. There's also a lengthy pillow menu, iPods, complimentary wireless, and under-floor heating in the bathrooms; all very hip and hi-tech, but without compromising on luxury. The flashy Dylan Bar, with a double-sided mirrored fireplace and fiber-optic lighting, has created a real buzz among the city's party crowd, as has the Irish cuisine in the elegant all-white Still restaurant. Service is friendly throughout, with experienced young staff who get right on any request—from tracking down a restaurant whose name you can't remember to organizing a perfectly timed shopping trip by taxi on your way to the airport. Style without great service doesn't score five stars, and they know it.
109 St. Stephen's Green
Tel: 353 1 478 7000
As chic as it is elite—designer Terence Conran wouldn't have it any other way—the 139-room Fitzwilliam hotel has a split personality in terms of view, so be clear what you'd prefer when booking. Out front, deluxe rooms look out onto the greenery, lake, and general tranquility (if you don't count quacking ducks) of St. Stephen's Green; out back, executive rooms flank a courtyard garden. Conran's design is baronial moderne, with a lobby defined by purple carpets, Barcelona sandstone, and a black-and-white tiled catwalk leading to a contemporary "keep" containing the hotel bar, the Inn on the Green. The style-fest continues here, with young execs and hotel guests shooting the breeze with friendly barmen over a lovely pewter counter, and in the laid-back Citron restaurant, a lively, lemon-and-lime-colored bistro on the mezzanine level (the fine dining option is Kevin Thornton's eponymous, Michelin-starred restaurant). Upstairs, the Fitzwilliam's bedrooms have been refurbished but remain the epitome of good taste. American walnut, Paul Smith fabrics, and purple satin headboards define a design environment in which everything is specced, right down to the apples in the hallways. For the big splurge, a slick two-bedroom penthouse is the city's most expensive suite, decorated with red leather furnishings, black wooden floors, and a grand piano (rock stars at Dublin's O2 venue are regular guests). A leather wall retracts to reveal an enormous plasma screen: Blofeld, eat your heart out.—Gail Harrington; updated by Pól Ó Conghaile
Tel: 353 1 665 4000
Fax: 353 1 665 4099
Stranded in the Royal Dublin Society Showgrounds out in upscale but boring Ballsbridge, the 197-room Four Seasons Dublin occupies a purpose-built faux Edwardian red-brick manor house. It's a monument to Dublin's Celtic Tiger upgrade and one of the two swankiest places to stay in the city (the other is the Merrion), but Leopold Bloom simply wouldn't understand it. Sure, the odd clue that you're in Ireland is discernible—the Celtic seaweed treatments in the excellent spa, for instance—but really, this could be anywhere. If that bothers you, stay away. Otherwise, wallow. The service is as meticulously detailed as ever; every possible in-room comfort is provided, including special kids' amenities (baby toiletries, bedtime milk and cookies), and there's a 46-foot indoor lap pool. The two restaurants and various lounges face inward over a courtyard garden, as do about a quarter of the bedrooms, so speak up if you want to see the outside world. Since it opened in 2001, the place has been doing very nicely, thank you, particularly the ICE bar with its ostentatious crowd. Draw your own conclusions about the desirability of service and functionality versus character and centrality.—Kate Sekules; updated by Pól Ó Conghaile
Galway , County Galway
Tel: 353 91 865200
Sometimes a hotel tells the story of a city's evolution better than any palace or public monument. This is surely the case with The G, a surprise for this increasingly arty port town, whose lodgings are given to candlewick bed-spreads and pastel color schemes. The G's glamour is completely local: Mad milliner Philip Treacy, a hometown boy, designed this 101-room stunner. The hotel overlooks a busy access road, but the noise is forgotten once you enter the ground floor's funky public rooms: The taupe-colored Grand Salon features a mass of glass Tom Dixon lamps hung from the ceiling; the bubblegum-colored Pink Salon has a swirly psychedelic carpet. The G isn't just eye candy, though: The rooms are wonderfully comfortable, butlers tend to your every need, and the extensive room service menu is from its excellent Italian-Irish restaurant. The ESPA spa is one of Ireland's best, and central Galway is a 15-minute walk away.
Cong , County Mayo
Tel: 353 94 954 5400
On a ten-acre site overlooking the gorgeous Lough Corrib, this 112-year-old lodge (formerly the home of the gamekeeper for next-door Ashford Castle) has been transformed into a hip combination of country house and design hotel. The lodge itself contains the reception area as well as the restaurant and bar, while the 50 modern rooms and suites are arranged around a rear courtyard. The cavernous rooms combine practical layouts with bold furniture, floral-print wallpaper, padded leather headboards, and imaginative lighting; the rain showers are sublime. The communal areas in the lodge are even more daring, with acres of sleek wooden floors, velvet couches, and a slightly kitsch use of red and black. Wooden shelves in the hallway containing books, board games, and Wellington boots lend a homey touch. The upstairs restaurant, Salt, offers stunning views of the Lisloughrey Quay and food to match. The service is laid-back but intuitive; this is an impressive operation, let down only by the inadequate spa.
Doonbeg , County Clare
Tel: 353 65 9055624
What appears to be an aristocrat's stately nineteenth-century seaside manor was in fact built in 2006 by the developers of South Carolina's Kiawah Island and designed entirely by Americans. But what is very real about Doonbeg (and all that really matters) is its stunning setting on a remote whitecapped bay in west County Clare, the perfection of its every detail, and staff who are easily among the most welcoming in Ireland. Accommodations are in one- to four-bedroom suites with high ceilings, gas fireplaces, kitchens, and sumptuous beds. The centerpiece of the resort is the Greg Norman–designed course mowed through the rolling marram grass dunes, but there are many diversions for nongolfers, too, including dolphin watching, hiking the nearby cliffs, treatments in the superb spa, and the simple pleasure of sipping tea or a Guinness and staring out at the windswept sea.
Upper Merrion Street
Tel: 353 1 603 0600
Though the Merrion opened in 1997, it feels like the oldest hotel in town—not least due to the Georgian wing it has retained. In a city of spotty service, the staff here does a good impression of having had decades of practice, and the look of the place is weathering beautifully—with one caveat. The pricier rooms and suites in the main house are so much more charming than those in the contemporary Garden Wing. The former have high ceilings with picture rails and moldings, gracious proportions, cornflower-blue walls, taupe carpets, and (sometimes) fireplaces. The Garden Wing rooms reverse the color scheme, with dark blue carpets and beige walls; though perfectly comfortable and offering pretty views of the 18th-century landscaped gardens, they're boxy and bland. Still, all 123 rooms have individually controlled AC, satellite, and cable TV loaded with PlayStation games, plus Carrera marble bathrooms with separate power showers (none of which you can take for granted in Dublin), and, of course, the great location off Merrion Square. The Tethra Spa, with its Roman-style colonnaded pool, is tops, though rust stains and a steam room with a bockety old door signal an area now in need of an upgrade. Dining options include Patrick Guilbaud's two-Michelin-starred restaurant (the best in town), and kids are well catered for, from the room-service Pooh Bear and Barbie crockery to minirobes for the pool.
10 Fleet Street
Tel: 353 1 643 7000
Such was the demand for the Morgan hotel's 66 rooms, the Temple Bar property decided to expand in 2005, adding 40 new deluxe bedrooms, plus 15 long-stay apartments, in an annex called Home@The Morgan. The contrast does no favors to the old standard rooms, whose beechwood beds, yellow walls, and red carpeting are looking distinctly faded, though the original deluxes and junior suites still look spiffy—they're cream from floor to ceiling, with a single splash of color in the headboards of the Ligne Roset beds. That said, the new rooms are the ones to book: They add a little Baroque to the mix, with gilt-framed Louis XV headboards and closets clad in mirrors etched with flowers. In addition, the Morgan Bar, with its sprawling tan-leather couches and cherry red chairs, has grown, and there's a new tapas bar-restaurant. The expansion didn't run to a new spa, though guests can get in-room massages and aromatherapy treatments. For a hotel so central to Temple Bar, the double-glazing does a good job of dampening the noise, but as a package, the Morgan is mixed.—Gail Harrington; updated by Pól Ó Conghaile
Tel: 353 1 887 2400
You'll find the 138-room Morrison, one of the hippest hotels in Dublin, on the north bank of the River Liffey, just across the water from the all-singing, all-dancing Temple Bar. While some hotels would sit back and bask in the glory of their success, this is the kind of place that prefers to keep one step ahead of the crowd, which should also give you an idea of the kind of clientele it's after. So, it's out with the John Rocha–designed minimal interiors and in with a more eclectic decor, mixing antique pieces with funky lamps, colorful artwork, and sexy sunken tubs with leather head- and footrests. There are Apple Macs (admit it, they look better) in the recently upgraded rooms, and iPod docking stations available to all guests (if they're not in your room, reception will provide). The hotel's restaurant, Halo, has been given a similar makeover (and a new chef), with antiques and velvet seating taking off some of the sheen and adding a little warmth to what was previously an overly formal, modern space. Staff here are young but have clearly been put through their paces, providing polished, professional service. Down in the basement, serenity has ousted socializing—you can get all of that just over the Liffey—with the closure of Lobo nightclub. All told, the once novel newcomer is now a firmly paid-up member of Dublin's five-star fraternity.—Gail Harrington; updated by Pól Ó Conghaile
Thomastown , County Kilkenny
Tel: 353 56 777 3000
At this 18th-century estate, there's "enough to fill 24 hours of every day, no problem," given the championship golf course, equestrian center, and health club on its 1,500-acre grounds. Rooms are unique, with an eclectic mix of antiques and hand-embroidered fabrics. Two-bedroom Rose Garden Lodges were renovated in 2010. Contemporary Irish fare at Lady Helen includes ham hock and gherkin terrine.
31 Leeson Close
Lower Leeson Street
Tel: 353 1 676 5011
A brass knocker and polished numerals are the only indication that a guesthouse exists down this inconspicuous laneway. But what a guesthouse—Number 31 marries a handsome Georgian town house with a mews overhauled in 1958 by Dublin's original starchitect, Sam Stephenson. Linked by a delightful urban garden, the properties offer 21 rooms and are as individual as their heritages. At the Fitzwilliam Place end, aubergine and espresso tones complement restored plasterwork and high Georgian ceilings. In the mews, modernist design is typified by a sunken lounge built around a large fireplace. In Stephenson's day, this was one of Dublin's great society secrets (former Irish Prime Minister Charles Haughey "nurtured" his illicit affair with gossip columnist Terry Keane in what is today room 14), and current owner Noel Comer is hugely enthusiastic about continuing the legacy. The result is surprisingly informal, especially at breakfast, when Comer presides over guests gathered on communal benches on a mezzanine level. It's a trade-off, of course—Number 31 comes without an elevator, on-site parking, or other hotel standards (when we were there, one enterprising guest had left a handwritten "do not disturb" sign outside his room); and inevitably, the staff are not as personable as the host. If you prefer not to see the strings, it may not be for you. If you like a labor of love, on the other hand, you'll feel right at home.—Pól Ó Conghaile
Cavan , County Cavan
Tel: 353 49 437 7700
At first glance, this comely country house appears not to have changed in the 300 years it has stood on this site. Its presence, however, is a bit of trompe l'oeil: Behind the facade is a bright, thoroughly modern lobby and a newly constructed wing. The focus here is on health and relaxation, centered around the 40,000-square-foot state-of-the-art spa, including a stimulating menthol aromatherapy chamber. The 150 rooms in the new wing are compact, comfortable, and handsomely appointed in natural woods, while the eight in the original house are gloriously large, quiet, and decorated with a tastefully restrained hand. An 18-hole championship golf course is set to open next year; until then, guests can get their fill of Ireland's green on the resort's four miles of walking trails.
Enniskerry , County Wicklow
Tel: 353 1 274 8888
Ritz-Carlton's first foray into Ireland is stunningly set at the foot of the Wicklow Mountains near Dublin, in its own corner of the 1,000-acre Powerscourt Estate. The brand-new building contains a grand Georgian-style lobby, complete with fireplaces and sofas in the Sugar Loaf Lounge, where jazz bands and harp players set the mood. The 200 rooms are traditional but not stuffy, with feather-topped beds and bedside touch panels that control lighting and air-conditioning; many have floor-to-ceiling windows. The service is friendly and well intentioned, but some of the foreign-born staff lack a complete command of English. Although the breakfast buffet is excellent, with a wide selection of fresh berries, creamy yogurt, and locally smoked mackerel, the hotel's other dining choices are the rather unappetizing McGills, attached to the hotel, and a Gordon Ramsay restaurant that disappoints with its fussy menu and lack of atmosphere. When not strolling around the resort's ten acres, guests will want to explore the rest of the Powerscourt estate and the delightful nearby village of Enniskerry, or go on scenic mountain drives.
27 St. Stephen's Green
Tel: 353 1 663 4500
Fax: 353 1 661 6006
Dublin tends to cherish its in jokes, eccentrics, and landmarks, so when the Shelbourne closed for extensive renovations in 2005, the whole town sulked. This, after all, was the hotel, first opened in 1824, where the Irish Constitution was drafted in 1922; it's also the place Peter O'Toole took a famous champagne bath. Would the redo undo the legend? Anything but. The spring 2007 reopening represents more of a restrained restoration than a reinvention: The classic Horseshoe Bar is still there, draped in burgundy wall coverings, as is the Lord Mayor's Lounge, where waitresses wearing strings of pearls pour afternoon tea. But now there's also the Saddle Room, where you can down Galway oysters or tackle a roasted rack of Wicklow lamb. The 265 guest rooms forgo any playful updates for a textbook redesign: An airy, Georgian palette (butter yellow and rose) is brought back to earth by boxy Italian cherrywood credenzas. But the marble bathrooms, contemporary landscapes by Irish artists, and handmade shoe box in each closet (put in your stilettos, and they'll come back polished) add some flair.
Donegal Town , County Donegal
Tel: 353 74 972 5100
Many castles have been spoiled by bland hotel makeovers, so it is a relief to find that the new luxury brand Solís has done a stylish upgrade of this magnificent building, which dates from the fifteenth century and is surrounded by 43 woodland acres. The atmosphere is informal (you park your car, but a doorman will help with luggage) and the interiors lavish without being intimidating. A high number of friendly Irish staff are on hand to offer swift assistance. Most of the hotel's 96 rooms and suites are in a fine new addition to the rear of the hotel, enjoying views of quiet gardens. Rooms are large but cozy, done in oatmeal hues and dark wood with huge beds, thick carpets, and coffee-table books illustrating the fast-disappearing culture of the Gaeltacht; one can enjoy reading these while drinking organic Brazilian coffee. Despite a few early teething problems—room thermostats were set too high, and the food in the restaurant failed to match its sumptuous surroundings—there is still much to look forward to here: The wonderfully atmospheric Gallery Bar, with its soaring ceilings, and the comfortable reading rooms are reason enough for a visit.
At College Green
Tel: 353 1 645 1000
This 19th-century building, a former branch of Allied Irish Bank, has been restored and extended to create a 163-room hotel near Grafton Street and Trinity College. The old banking hall, with soaring ceilings, ornate marble columns, and a first-floor Atrium Lounge in which afternoon tea is to die for (and accordingly priced), is a truly magnificent space. The banking counter has been moved to a downstairs vault and repurposed as the trendy Mint Bar, where you can order—with the words "daylight robbery" ringing in your ears—a $650 Minted cocktail (a vanilla and chocolate concoction that includes a 200-year-old cognac and liquid gold). Despite the grand surroundings, however, service is friendly and down-to-earth. Don't expect the period features to extend to the bedrooms—this is the global Westin brand, after all—which are plush (rich mahogany furnishings, crisp white linens) yet bland. The Westin makes a big deal about its trademark Heavenly Beds, and rightly so—you'll sleep like a baby, even without an exorbitantly priced cocktail.—Gail Harrington; updated by Pól Ó Conghaile