A gorgeous coastline, amazing nightlife, dramatic landscapes, and first-class golfing are just a few of the things that make Ireland an incredible travel destination. The luxury hotels around the country, from Dublin to County Mayo, are worth a visit alone. However, for every traveler with a sky-high budget, there are many more looking to extract the best bang for their buck. That’s where we come in. Whether you’re looking to splurge on the best of the best, or searching for luxury with a side of value, here are five luxurious Ireland hotels and their cheaper, but similar, alternatives.
1. The Classic Dublin Pick: The Merrion Hotel
With a prestigious location just across the road from Dublin’s Government Buildings, The Merrion Hotel is arguably the city’s most exclusive luxury property. It sits in four 18th-century Georgian townhouses, and interiors have classic details such as chandeliers, gilded mirrors, and fireplaces. Filled with an array of opulent features, like a gorgeous Roman-style indoor pool and a two-Michelin star restaurant, the hotel still manages to feel intimate and private. During the day, guests can relax in the on-site spa, and come evening, they can head to the lively Cellar Bar. A tour of the hotel’s impressive private Irish art collection is another reason to stay in.
The Alternative: Schoolhouse Hotel
If the Schoolhouse Hotel can’t match The Merrion for sheer luxury, it can at least hold its own in terms of reputation. A great value that combines historic features with cozy boutique vibes, this property is an evocative, literary-influenced spot in the capital (each of the classic rooms are named after famous Irish writers). The building housed a school from 1859 through 1969, and underwent a renovation in 1997, which updated the decor while keeping many of the original features intact. Highlights here include a vibrant neighborhood bar and a leafy, quiet location in Ballsbridge, well within walking distance of Dublin’s major sights. Overall, it’s a great affordable pick that makes up for its lack of amenities with historic charm.
2. The Dublin Boutique Pick: Number 31
Formerly the home of Dublin’s famous modernist architect, Sam Stephenson, Number 31 is now a stylish boutique hotel close to the city center’s shopping and dining district. Balancing contemporary design with grand Georgian features, the hotel is architecturally stunning. While undoubtedly stylish, the property manages to give off a cozy, welcoming vibe that can be soaked up in public spaces like the sunken living room or the serene courtyard garden. In keeping with the history of the building, the period-style rooms feature elements of modernist decor, and some have terraces with views over the city streets. While the hotel has no restaurant, pool, or elevators, its full Irish breakfast spread is decadent and guests rave about the excellent personalized service.
The Alternative: The Dean
An upscale boutique choice, The Dean is all about lively nights and Instagram-worthy style. Located on Harcourt Street, the heart of Dublin’s bar scene, the hotel makes a great base for visitors looking to have a good time. Prices for the chic, modern rooms (picture parquet floors, Smeg fridges, and modern art) are competitive, and while the smallest Mod Pod can feel a bit cramped, you get a whole lot of designer decor for your money. Going for hip rather than historic, the hotel’s trio of entertainment venues (a booming basement club, a lobby bar with live DJs, and a rooftop restaurant-slash-bar) will appeal to guests looking to embrace the spirit of the city -- and who don’t mind making use of the complimentary earplugs in every room.
3. The Coastal Pick: Cliff House Hotel
If the thought of beautiful room views over Ardmore Bay sounds appealing, then a stay at the Cliff House Hotel is well worth the high price tag. Set on a picturesque cliff, this luxury hotel maximizes its stunning location. The spacious rooms -- many of which come with private balconies -- offer a serene sanctuary to enjoy the vistas. Aside from its prime position, the property -- billed as Ireland’s only five-star seaside hotel -- attracts foodies with its one Michelin-starred restaurant as well as guests looking for high-end rest and relaxation, thanks to its beautiful, indoor glass-walled infinity pool that overlooks the bay.
The Alternative: Inchydoney Island Lodge & Spa
While the Inchydoney Island Lodge & Spa lacks a Michelin-starred restaurant, it more than makes up for it with its spa facilities and stunning location on a small island off the West Cork coast. The scenic hotel has 67 rooms, each of which has a private balcony offering great views of the water -- particularly from the higher levels. While the Cliff House Hotel is a slightly slicker, more luxurious property, Inchydoney Island Lodge & Spa offers great service and heaps of amenities geared toward a seaside adventure. That includes its own saltwater pool, a full spa with a sauna and thalassotherapy treatments, and hotel-arranged activities, including kayaking, surf lessons, and whale-watching.
4. The Castle Pick: Ashford Castle
There are plenty of enchanting castle hotels in Ireland, and Ashford Castle is one of the finest options. Built in the 13th century, the castle sits atop a 350-acre estate filled with manicured lawns, lush gardens, forest paths, and a huge lake. Beyond the grand exterior towers and turrets, the interior is just as impressive, boasting opulent details like rich wood paneling and beautiful chandeliers. Numerous celebrities have stayed here over the years, enjoying the sumptuous rooms that go big on old-fashioned grandeur without skimping on modern tech amenities. Other features include a beautiful spa with a small pool, a range of countryside sports (think falconry, clay pigeon shooting, and archery), a formal dining room, and a the Dungeon Pub. Prices are high, but Ashford Castle is a bucket-list spot.
The Alternative: Ballyseede Castle
Built in the 16th century, Ballyseede Castle is a decadent castle hotel located in a peaceful, secluded area within beautiful grounds. Perhaps it doesn’t have quite the same level of beauty as Ashford Castle, but there’s no shortage of wow factor here, from the elegant rooms that feature a mix of antiques and modern elements to the public areas that house stunning original design details. With 23 rooms, it’s also more intimate than Ashford Castle, with a sense of romance as well as family appeal characterized by the two friendly resident dogs that roam the property. There’s also a cozy bar and outstanding restaurant that's popular among guests and locals. Overall, few castle hotels offer the upscale luxury of Ballyseede Castle at such a great value.
5. The Golfing Pick: Adare Manor
Situated in a Neo-Gothic manor house, the 62-room Adare Manor is set on a sprawling estate on the banks of the River Maigue. The 18-hole championship course lures golfers, while the peaceful surrounding countryside attracts visitors looking for a range of outdoor activities, like falconry, archery, and fishing. The interiors are beautiful, too, with amazing historical details that include original fireplaces, stained-glass windows, and antiques. Rooms are luxurious and elegant, traditionally decorated with dark wooden furniture and velvet armchairs. Before and after playing a round of golf (and walking through the beautiful landscaped gardens), head to the spa, steam room, two restaurants, late-night bar, and indoor pool that overlooks the river. For something more private, guests can opt for one of the manor’s self-catering villas.
The Alternative: Waterford Castle Hotel
When it comes to places to golf, it doesn’t get much better than the 18-hole course at Waterford Castle Hotel. Set on a private island that can be reached by a two-minute ferry ride, the picturesque grounds offer the perfect place to tee off. The hotel itself is a beauty, too. The facade of the restored medieval castle -- complete with turrets, arrowslits, and battlements -- evokes a sense of traveling back in time. Inside, a high-ceilinged lobby with ancient tapestries and stone arches provides a fairy-tale welcome. The hotel’s stately style also extends to the 19 rooms, each of which features traditional decor and gorgeous bathrooms with freestanding claw-foot tubs. Though the hotel feels intimate, guests can explore the wide open space of the castle grounds, where woodlands and a surrounding river are highlights.
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