On a hawk walk through the forest trails and open meadows of the Dromoland Castle grounds, Mike, the resident falconer, explained the history of falconry and enticed our Harris hawk companion to alight on my outstretched arm for a morsel of food.
That was just one of many fun, immersive experiences. Sean, who guides walking and pony-and-trap (horse-drawn buggy) tours around the 450-acre estate, related stories about the original owner, 11th-century Irish king, Brian Boru and his descendants and their places in Irish history; and in the centuries-old walled gardens, head gardener Dorothea pointed out plantings that attract specific species of butterflies and stone niches that once held bee hives.
Located in the County Clare countryside, just 10 minutes from Shannon International Airport, the castle-hotel’s 99 guest rooms and public areas, updated with fast wi-fi, built-in voltage converters and other amenities, retain their historic decor and feel. A championship golf course, spa and fitness center complement activities such as fishing, clay pigeon shooting, archery and croquet. My favorite rituals though, were the posh afternoon tea and listening to Irish ballads at the fireplace-warmed bar. Geri Bain
Address: Newmarket-on-Fergus, County Clare, Ireland
Price: 2017 rack rates from $283 for a double room including breakfast and VAT