24-Hour Room Service: Dromoland Castle, County Clare, Republic of Ireland

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The Independent Travel

As I broke into "Danny Boy", tears in my eyes, my boyfriend shifted uncomfortably in his seat, eyes straying desperately towards the door. The regular after-dinner singsong in the library bar was a big hit with the Americans and me; less of a success with the Irish contingent. Champagne cocktails were proving better at oiling the vocal chords than the pint of Guinness he was hugging. But then, he was still smarting from the indignity of chugging up to Dromoland Castle in a natty little pink Nissan Micra, courtesy of a car-hire cock-up.

As I broke into "Danny Boy", tears in my eyes, my boyfriend shifted uncomfortably in his seat, eyes straying desperately towards the door. The regular after-dinner singsong in the library bar was a big hit with the Americans and me; less of a success with the Irish contingent. Champagne cocktails were proving better at oiling the vocal chords than the pint of Guinness he was hugging. But then, he was still smarting from the indignity of chugging up to Dromoland Castle in a natty little pink Nissan Micra, courtesy of a car-hire cock-up.

Set in 400 acres of sweeping parkland, Dromoland Castle is definitely more of a classic Jag sort of place. The castle was once the ancestral seat of the High King of Ireland, Brian Boru. The home of the O'Brien clan, one of Ireland's ruling noble families, it first crops up in the will of the Earl of Thomond in 1551.

The second castle was built in 1739, in the Queen Anne style. But at the beginning of the 19th century it was knocked down so that a better "old" castle could be built in the then-fashionable Gothic-revival style.

Now a luxurious hotel, it still oozes baronial splendour, from the flagstones to the suits of armour in the entrance hall, the roaring fires in the monumental grates. The walls are draped with antique Venetian hangings and ancestral portraits. A magnificent double staircase leads up from the gallery, where afternoon tea is served beneath twinkling chandeliers and the glassy stare of a mounted stag's head.

If you can bear to drag yourself away from the warmth of the fire, there's a sprawling estate outside.

Location, location, location

Dromoland Castle, Newmarket-on-Fergus, Ennis, Co Clare, Republic of Ireland (00 353 61 368 144; freephone 0800 056 7434; www.dromoland.ie)

Time to international airport: Shannon airport is 20 minutes away by car. A private transfer costs about €32 (£20).

Are you lying comfortably?

Yes, and grandly. We were staying in the Thomond Suite (more prosaically known as room 301) which takes up two floors of one of the turrets. One flaw, there's no heating in the bathroom. Sitting in the Jacuzzi looking out through the casement windows at the estate below was a dramatic but slightly chilly experience.

Freebies: Molton Brown miniatures including conditioner and body lotion (rarities for the freebie collector), a decanter of Celtic Crossing liqueur, a plate of fruit, a box of handmade chocolates and the Irish Independent each morning.

Keeping in touch: direct dial telephones and a complimentary internet facility in a separate room in the castle.

The bottom line

Until the end of March, there is a special weekend rate of €350 (£215) per person for two nights bed and breakfast plus one dinner.

I'm not paying that: in Ennis, the Old Ground Hotel (00 353 65 682 8127) has doubles from €95 (£58) including breakfast, and weekend specials of €110 per person for two nights plus breakfast and one dinner.

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