Ireland – A Home Away From HomeWords by Courtney Kellar
When the opportunity to travel to Ireland arose, I jumped – no leaped – at the chance. Gallivanting through the Irish countryside was my ultimate cup of tea. I boarded a flight out of New York just as the sun was setting. Fast-forward six hours and I was watching the sun rise over the coast of Shannon. Seeing the rosy pinks and gilded yellows of early sunlight contrasted with the infamously lush Emerald Isle is something I will never forget.
While Destination I Do has covered Ireland in the past, The Lodge at Doonbeg was something entirely different and oh-so-perfect for honeymooners. What sets this Irish resort apart from others is the fact that it has all the throwback charisma you will find in a castle, but with modern luxury which simply can’t be found in an establishment originally built as a fortress. The American owners of Doonbeg took an extensive tour of Ireland studying old manor homes in order to inspire their design. It has been said that while the resort was being built in 2006, a travelling Irishman asked how long the “refurbishment” had been going on. Despite the fact the buildings are only six years old, it’s as if it’s always been there – nestled on the southwestern coast of County Clare.
This five-star resort doesn’t disappoint with artfully appointed suites and cottages all filled with carefully curated antiques. You’ll find the beamed ceilings, arched doorways and secret nooks and crannies characteristic of a grand old house paired with delightful and unpretentious luxury. From the moment I stepped into the cozy lobby complete with a roaring fire, I felt like I was visiting an old friend’s home in the country rather than a resort. Once your bags are unpacked, settle in and prepare to make friends. The staff at Doonbeg will quickly feel like family with their genuine sincerity, curiosity and openness.
Kindness is a necessity in such a small town. The local village consists of just 250 residents, one store and six pubs. The Lodge at Doonbeg is the perfect escape for honeymooners wanting to do just that – escape. The nearest stop light is almost 40 minutes away and yet it’s only an hour from Shannon Airport. This is not the destination for couples wanting the fast-paced atmosphere of a big European city. Traveling to Doonbeg is like stepping back in time to when we were entirely dependent on the land, knew our neighbors and life was simply simple. If you hire a car, don’t be surprised if your driver stops in the middle of the road to heckle a passing first-cousin.
County Clare is the perfect place since it’s largely non-commercialized, but offers some of the most popular tourist attractions in Ireland. The iconic Cliffs of Moher are an hour drive north of Doonbeg and you can easily pass through the Burren – a moon-like landscape of limestone which ironically boasts one of the most unique flower landscapes in the world. The Burren Perfumery is a family-owned business nestled among this landscape of contradictions – fractions of limestone and lush, overgrown foliage. Here they produce all organic products based on the unique herbs and flowers which grow in the region. However, the latest and greatest tourist attraction is to see the cliffs from the water via a Cliffs of Moher cruise. It’s only from below that the true majesty and sheer size of this national landmark can be properly seen. For a smaller, more pedestrian-friendly version, the cliff walk in Kilkee is just over a mile and has stunning views of the Atlantic. The surfing city of Lahench will also find itself along your driving route and is the perfect place to stop off for a little shopping.
The Lodge is quickly becoming a landmark in itself with a world-renowned links-style golf course and a bevy of accolades. The Doonbeg Golf Course is listed as one of the top 100 in the World and is majestic with a mix of grass-strewn dunes and seaside fairways. The Lodge has also become a hot-spot for Irish cuisine. Chef Wade Murphy was recently named “Best Chef” by the Irish Restaurant Association and the Lodge’s Long Room was named the “Best Restaurant” in all of Ireland. The beach which gives the resort its signature views is tremendously popular with the locals and is the only beach to border a five-star resort in the country.
If you and your sweetie are looking to say “I do” between the months of April and September, a destination wedding in Doonbeg would be a sure-fire success. The resort is extremely popular with Irish and U.K. residents, yet they often host only one wedding a week – ensuring you’ll get the love and attention you deserve. Your guests will stay content with golf lessons, horseback riding, fishing and a visit to the on-site genealogist to trace their Irish heritage, all topped off with a pint of Guinness in one of the local pubs.
Looking to stay satisfied yourself? Then visit the White Horses Spa to enjoy their signature treatment: the Burren Wilderness Massage. Organic herbal mitts placed on your hands and feet will warm you to your core and help with circulation. The spa only accommodates four to five people at a time, so there’s no worry of feeling rushed or crowded. After your treatment, pop over to Darby’s Pub for some brown bread – an Irish staple – and a bowl of homemade soup.
There’s no question a stay at the Lodge at Doonbeg will impress you with its striking setting and supreme luxury – but there’s something more important. It’s the people you will meet and the old Irish charm which will really have you coming back for more. I know I’ll be back – and with friends in tow. More than returning to a resort, I have a feeling it will be like coming home.
Photos Courtesy of The Lodge at Doonbeg (1st, & 3rd) and Courtney Cox (2nd & 4th)
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