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Dromoland Castle Hotel

History: 
    Dromoland Castle Hotel
 in County ClareHistory: 
    Dromoland Castle Hotel
 in County Clare

History

Dromoland Castle Hotel is one of the most famous baronial castles in Ireland. It was the ancestral home of the O’Briens, Barons of Inchiquin, one of the few native Gaelic families of royal blood. They are direct descendants of Brian Boroimhe (Boru), High King of Ireland in the 11th century, renowned for his defeat of the Danes in 1014. Originally a defensive stronghold, the structure was rebuilt in the 16th century around the time that the Chief of the Clan O’Brien was forced to surrender his royalty to King Henry VIII and thus be demoted to Baron of Inchiquin and First Earl of Thomond.

The present castle was constructed in 1835, but the first building on the land dates back to the 15th or 16th century. At least three houses on the land over the years have existed and were all called Dromoland. The word "Dromoland" translates as “Hill of Litigation.” The first mention of Dromoland in any records was in the will of Murrough O’Brien in 1551. He was a Tanist, which is the traditional Gaelic system for passing down titles and lands. Murrough O’Brien had been given the title of Earl of Thomond by Henry VIII, and bequeathed the castle to his son. The land and the homes built on it, were tumultuously in the family for six generations, with several litigations taking place over who owned the land during that time.

By 1717, Sir Edward O’Brien had ownership. In 1822, he decided to rebuild, update, and renovate the main house with pictures and carvings. Neo-gothic designs were done by the Pain brothers, James and George, which were influenced by English architect John Nash. The work was completed by 1835.

Dromoland Castle was described in 1837 as “a superb edifice in the castellated style…surrounded by an extensive and richly wooded demesne.” Another admirer described it in 1855 as “built entirely of dark blue limestone, and in fine chiseled workmanship.” The cost of cutting and hauling its stone, although quarried on the estate itself, was enormous.

The castle was the birthplace and boyhood home of Sir Edward O’Brien's second son, William Smith O’Brien, M.P., who fought for the rights of oppressed Irish Catholic peasant farmers and led the Young Irelanders rebellion against the British authorities in 1848. After the forced sale of the estate’s tenanted farmlands in 1921, the leaders of the Irish Republican Army in Dublin marked Dromoland Castle for destruction. Local IRA leaders succeeded in reversing that decision, arguing that the Inchiquin lords had been fair and benevolent landlords to their tenant farmers. For more than 10 years, Dromoland was supported mainly by the personal wealth of the fifteenth baron’s widow, whose portrait hangs near the staircase in the Castle’s hall.

The castle that stands as the hotel has been preserved with little change since the 19th century. Done in the Gothic Revival style, it has turrets, a gothic porch which displays the O’Brien coat of arms, views of the lake and Thomond House, and large gardens. The interior public spaces boast classic baronial country house features, including paneled corridors graced with portraits of esteemed ancestors, radiant chandeliers, tasseled draperies, gold cornices, and priceless antique furniture. These impressive yet welcoming spaces, including the entrance gallery, lobby, drawing room, main lounge, and dramatic high-ceiling dining room, appear much as they did when Lord Inchiquin’s family was in residence. The Lord’s octagonal-shaped study, under the round tower, is now a cocktail lounge, and his library comprises a portion of the dining room.

In 1962, Donough O’Brien, the 16th Baron Inchiquin, sold Dromoland Castle and its surrounding land to American industrialist Bernard P. McDonough, due to financial difficulties. It was then that the castle was converted for use as a hotel. Conor O’Brien, the eighteenth Baron, continues to live in adjacent Thomond House, a Georgian-style structure built in 1962, and still farms and operates part of the demesne as a sporting and leisure estate.

Adjacent to the main building is The Queen Anne Court, a quadrangle that pre-dates the castle, having been constructed in 1736 by Sir Edward O’Brien. The castle and The Queen Anne Court underwent major renovations in 1962 and 1963 and emerged as a luxury hotel, one that remarkably retains its stately, warm, and cheerful baronial country house atmosphere. Across the courtyard, brilliantly integrated into its historic setting, is the Moriarty Wing, added in 1998.

Over the years, Dromoland Castle Hotel has hosted many famous guests, including Nelson Mandela, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, John Travolta, Richard Branson, Jack Nicholson, Johnny Cash, and Bono. George W. Bush, former U.S. President, stayed at the castle in June 2004, as he was attending an EU-US Summit held there. In the 16 hours he was there, he was guarded by 7,000 police, military, and private security forces.

Dromoland Castle Hotel, a member of Historic Hotels Worldwide since 2011, dates back to 1014.


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International Numbers

Austria 08000706176
Belgium 080081830
France 805542721
Germany 8007241217
Ireland 1800995320
Italy 800979444
Netherlands 08000200956
Norway 80054304
Spain 900814719
Switzerland 0800001798
UK 8009179622
Book by Phone: +1 866 670 3764
International
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