The hotel is only about ten minutes drive from the Shannon airport, so it's in an ideal location if you have an early flight out or late flight in. We were staying in Dingle bay which meant we would've had to allow about 4 hours to get there. Not a fun drive. We stayed there the night before my sister had to fly back and liked it so much we stayed on another 2 nights. My friend and I were both exhausted from all the touring around and I was fighting off a bad cold, so I could rest while she enjoyed the high speed internet (a rarity in Ireland), the several shops and restaurants across the road as well as the infamous Bunratty Castle and Durty Nelly's pub, two ancient relics that have withstood the test of time.
The hotel is gorgeous and the grounds are well manicured. The staff are friendly and extremely accommodating. When we told them we wanted to stay longer they informed us of a 3 night stay discount, which made the decision all the easier. We also took advantage of the hotel's spa. All guests can access the pool (you must wear a swimming cap and they sell them at the counter for 2.50 euro), the dry and Eucalyptus steam room and jacuzzi. I went for an hour long Javanese massage which worked miracles on my swollen legs an ankles (a travel hazard for me).
Though everything is aesthetically pleasing, I will agree that the bar service and food isn't the best. People were friendly, but you did sit with an empty glass for quite a while and at night it becomes not so much a meat market, but more a slaughter house of drunken locals looking to pick up on some holiday travelers' action. They're harmless, but one was too touchy feely while the other leans in so far you want to just rip your shirt open and say "here, have a good long look why don't you". I don't know about you, but I'd expect the staff to step in at some point or least make sure my glass is full...
We had the breakfast once. It was traditional Irish and tasty except for the eggs that seemed like they were made from powder...
If you're looking for good quality food and atmosphere then go across the street to Durty Nelly's (I'll write about them next), The Creamery or the Cafe in the shops across from the Creamery. If you are looking for good accommodations near the airport that have services to help you decompress, then the Bunratty hotel is a great spot.
It's well equipped to juggle busloads of tourists while hosting a wedding and taking in the lone travelers looking for a bit of peace and rejuvenation. They get my highest marks for that.
The only real disappointment was from our second stay there. We booked the hotel for the last two nights of our stay, thinking we'd explore Bunratty castle, take care of all our souvenir shopping and get in one last spa session. They even offered us a continuation of the extended stay discount for booking before we checked out the first time, but when we arrived to check in, we were told we only had a room with two twin beds, not the same quality as before We didn't realize we'd been given a free upgrade on the first arrival. On our part, we didn't think to say we'd have a third person with us. Know this; they only have 10 rooms in the entire hotel that offer two double beds in the room. These are considered Jr. Suites. We ended up in a room with 3 twin beds that is clearly designed as a kids room with small TV and bathroom (with no vent/fan)and unlike the Jr. suite, Wifi isn't available in the room. We thought it might since there was a sign in the room saying so. Wifi is (for the most part) only available in the lobby area. Very nice lobby with over stuffed chairs and couches and a fire place though. The door on our room wouldn't shut to lock either. By the time we discovered it. One of the girls was trying to sleep, so we informed them at the desk before heading off to dinner. The hotel was completely booked as it was a bank holiday weekend and they were hosting a wedding. The only other option was to move to another triple twin room, so we opted to hold out and let them fix it in the morning.
So, we kind of went from feasting at the king's table to being relegated to the kiddie table, which was disappointing, but overall our experience was good and the staff were genuine and helpful. I'd still recommend it and I'll plan to stay there again upon arrival and departure of my next trip out there.
My advice would be to be very clear about what type of room you want and if you must have internet access in your room then call them to confirm ahead.
PS, if you do have an early flight and have a rental car then fill up the tank the night before. The gas station down the street (there's only one) wasn't open when we passed it at 7am and the only next option I know of is BallyShannon by the airport.
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