The concierge, Michael Byrne, used to work for American Express, covering the entire country. There may be no person who is better wired into the travel scene through Ireland than your Clontarf Castle concierge -- and he is available to you as your free, personal resource. That alone is good reason to start your Emerald Isle experience at Clontarf Castle. (I should add that every member of the staff we encountered from front desk to table service in the restaurant was first-rate and attentive to customer service -- with Mr. Byrne being one of those exceptional figures you encounter rarely in your lifetime of travel.)
We made a driving trip through the country and, working within the framework of our existing reservations, he sat down with us and reviewed our entire vacation, suggesting things to do and see and steering us away from time sinks. His suggestion to take the ferry across the Shannon versus driving through Limerick was itself worth one night's stay!
For us, the distance from downtown was both a blessing and a hassle. We made the choice with open eyes and enjoyed the almost pastoral setting. As the driver -- with it being my first excursion in our rental car driving on the right from the airport to the hotel -- I was glad that I didn't have a baptism by fire and have to make an inner city trip during those first panicked, terror-filled minutes of driving on the "wrong" side of the road. Accessibility to the city itself was a chore, however. Then again, it is not a chore for those willing to drive in or hire a cab -- but it's certainly an added expense.
Mr. Byrne also clued us into the trick to getting into Dublin from the hotel: you catch the Hop-on/Hop-off bus in the morning and ride into town (to O'Connell Street, just north of the millennium needle thing) where you can then purchase your sightseeing ticket or simply disembark and stroll through the city. Getting back to the hotel wasn't as convenient. You can take a cab or catch the bus (the hotel is at the end of the bus line and the drivers make sure you don't miss the stop, so knowing when to get off isn't trouble). The bus stop, however, is a few blocks off of O'Connell Street, so make sure you get that squared away before you leave the hotel -- as merchants and locals along O'Connell Street pointed us in several different directions until we figured out how to read the bus stop signs (something that more literate hotel guests will possibly figure out immediately for themselves...but that's not us).
In terms of accommodations, I really wasn't sure what to expect for our rooms. Would they be musty, canopy beds in cavernous, stone-walled rooms? Would they be furnished with modular furniture in bright colors? We had no idea and no expectations. I think I'd classify the decor as spartan functional -- which suited us perfectly as we enjoyed the ambiance of the facilities and spent our time outside of the rooms, so -- in our case -- we simply needed "sleep pods" where we could connect to the Internet, recharge phone and laptops, sleep comfortably, take a warm shower and not be bothered. We got all of that with bells on -- but other guests looking for something more stylish or fancy or romantic in their rooms may be disappointed if their expectations aren't adjusted beforehand.
The restaurant on the premises is a huge asset because it negates the need to travel far and wide seeking decent fare. The Irish Stew was above-average -- or maybe all of my many other encounters with the dish elsewhere ended up being unusually subpar. That was the benchmark Irish Stew for my visit and the others fell short. The wine list -- important to us since we live in France -- has good quality and good values.
This would be ideal for a special event or occasion which does not rely on proximity to downtown. Or, like us, it's a superb launching point for a long, extended visit to Ireland (particularly for those who are getting their feet wet with right-side-of-the-road driving who may not want to get off a plane and drive into the city center right off the bat). If, however, you're in Dublin for a conference or your plans include connecting with the night scene and being in the heart of the city, then a less tranquil, more centrally-located hotel or inn should be in your plans.
The hotel, through its web site, offers various packages (generally for multiple night stays) and we...
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
June 28, 2013
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Thanks very much for your review. I was so happy to read your review, it sounds like you had a really enjoyable trip to Ireland and I'm delighted the castle was a part of this. It's great that you found the staff to be so good and helpful during your stay, we pride ourselves on excellent customer service so I'm very happy that you experienced this during your time with us.
Thanks again for your feedback, we really appreciate it and would be delighted to welcome you back to the castle again in the future if you return to Ireland.
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.