Dromoland’s glamorous new spa excels in exclusive treatments, with a gentle touch…
Dromoland Castle in Co Clare is a luxurious five-star with a devoted American following. It’s not uncommon to see a helicopter taking guests up for a whirl over the 450 acres, and every amenity is laid on, from golf and fishing to archery and paddleboarding on the Lough. We visited to get a preview of the brand-new spa, which has just reopened following an extensive facelift. Here’s what you need to know…
Themed around Dromoland’s rose garden, the Castle Spa has been a labour of love. The renovation reflects elements of the 16th-century castle’s history: the original brick walls have been exposed, to great effect, playing off against soft shades and comforting textures, such as the KDK-designed cashmere blankets on the relaxation beds.
The spa robe, inspired by a portrait in the castle of one-time chatelaine, Lady Ethel, and designed by Deborah Veale, is hands-down the most elegant you will ever wear in a spa. Normally, you trog around in an unflattering towelling number, somehow too hot and yet overexposed, but here, you feel like you’re wafting your way to a cocktail party. All these elements help to create a soft, rose-tinted cocoon that celebrates the best in skincare.
This is the only spa in Ireland and the UK to offer Barbara Sturm facials – and if you know how good the skincare is, you can imagine how good the treatments are. I tried the Super Anti-Ageing facial (I’m not a fan of the “anti-” message, but otherwise really love the skincare), which incorporates thorough facial massage that sculpts around the jaw and neck area, and lymphatic drainage, plus hydrating and brightening masks. The treatment beds, sourced in Germany, are impossibly comfortable, and the whole experience is entirely restful and face-lifting, naturally. You waft to the Whisper Room in a state of cloudliness, your face feeling several centimetres higher.
Not only that, but the Spa has another exclusive – face and body treatments by Seabody. A real coup, and a great pairing, with Dr Helena McMahon’s line being one of the very best luxury Irish skincare brands. The third brand featured is OSKIA, founded in the UK by Georgie Cleeve, with treatments such as a Nurturing Warm Oil Massage, from €180.
What really stands out here is the way that the tiniest details are considered. Refreshments after your treatment feature mint and strawberries from the garden; there’s a phone charging point in your locker, so you leave your phone for a few hours; you choose the type of music you want to listen to during your treatment, and so on. You put yourself into the most capable and caring hands here. Spa director Kerry Kelly has a wealth of experience and expertise; she managed The Sanctuary Spa in Covent Garden back in the day – a legendary haunt that was the first spa I ever went to, with some 60 treatment rooms. Now, in this intimate space, Kerry and her team have created a rare softness and level of care that epitomises quiet luxury. The overall effect is a balance between the latest technology and this atmospheric, ancient setting.
Note that this is not a venue you come to hang out with friends in the sauna – there is a pool, steam room and jacuzzi over in the separate fitness centre, but the spa itself is firmly focussed on the best treatments in a quiet and relaxing space. There are six treatment rooms and the lovely relaxation room; put on your headphones to listen to a guided meditation around the castle’s rose garden – a really lovely touch, and one I’ve never seen before in a spa.
Hour treatments start from €180, with Barbara Sturm facials from €250, Seabody facials from €180.
The Barbara Sturm Face Mask is calming and hydrating on the skin (€100). I also adore the body cream, a properly luxurious way to restore moisture to dry summer skin. Trying the facial had a definite effect; I cleared the desks of other skincare samples in favour of Sturm’s elegant solutions, particularly the buttery Face Cream.
STAY FOR DINNER?
If you’re looking to really treat yourself, the food (courtesy of executive head chef David McCann), ambience and stately grounds at Dromoland are all incredibly impressive. Dine on native blue lobster, Clare Island organic salmon, Doonbeg crab and local rhubarb, all handled with flair. Most of all, as so often with the best Irish hotels, it’s the wonderfully friendly, warm and expert staff that make this place what it is, from the passion of sommelier Ian (at Dromoland for 23 years), who had us trying a delicious Saké after dinner, to the MD Mark Nolan, who greets every guest with a handwritten note and has a passion for every stone of the place.
Other key elements about the hotel that stood out for us: Charlotte & Co, opened last May, is not your usual hotel store. There are no shamrock magnets or overpriced teddy bears here. Run by Geraldine, who clearly has a great eye, it’s a beautifully designed treasure trove that showcases the best of Irish design, from Colin Burke knitwear to Cleo Prickett designs, Deborah Veale nightwear and Paula Rowan leather gloves. And if it’s a perfect night’s sleep you long for, bear in mind that Dromoland recently won World’s Best Sleep award; they even have an actual Director of Sleep. Sweet dreams …
The Castle Spa at Dromoland Castle, Newmarket-on-Fergus, Co Clare; www.dromoland.ie