Hotel Deal of the Week : Clontarf Castle Hotel, Dublin
Going by history alone you wouldn't classify Clontarf Castle as a romantic place. Brian Boru was slaughtered by retreating Vikings. The Knights Templar left never to return. Cromwell's Puritans took the castle from King George and for 300 years owning the place seems to have been a guarantee your family would remain heirless.
To cap it all, I then learned that the original castle sank into the mud and had to be rebuilt. On that evidence the romance package seemed an unlikely choice. As it turned out, history has at last been put to rest.
If you haven't seen the hotel, describing the place is a little difficult. Part hip-hotel, part keep and castle, and part country manor, when you add to the mix a boutique interior, the design and detailing give the hotel something quite unique. It isn't cooler-than-thou or edgy minimalism, but it isn't overdone either.
Tucked tightly into Dublin's northern suburbs you would certainly miss it if you didn't know where it was, yet once you pass the heraldic stone archways into the lobby the darkness that you might expect is transformed by a vast glass atrium wrapped around the original castle.
Walking round a castle tower from inside your hotel is a decent welcome.
The lobby is a delight - gargoyles make faces over a vast fireplace, pheasants hang from the castle balcony never to be plucked and knights in suits of armour are watched over by the antlered heads of stags who were once oversized shooting trophies. Few hotel lobbies make more of an impression than Clontarf Castle and as you walk around the balconies that form each floor, rather than being a slave to history, the place is something of a modern folly built neatly around an older one.
I arrive at my room to find roses on the bed, chocolates, and Moet on ice. A mahogany four-poster, designer furnishings and a modern bathroom made for a very decent room and if the superior doubles aren't vast, the price point is good for what is essentially a room in a city hotel.
After the cork had been popped and the chocolates devoured, I headed to the dining room. Choosing from the table d'hôte, starters of prawn and crab bisque and pan roast monkfish were good, but as the restaurant is as much about the grill as it is modern European, the blackened T-bone with hand cut chips was easily the winning dish. The grill aspect wasn't what I had expected, in fact, nothing was I as I had expected, but it was welcome all the same.
As nice as sipping from a wine list under carved oak beams of an old manor house is, I couldn't hold the table forever and it was down the grand staircase and past a pair of huge carved wedding chairs for an evening in the bar. Espressos were ordered and then changed for drinks and for a hotel of this type it was nice to discover the place has as much by way of character as it does by way of characters.
Bay-leaded windows, more mounted stags and a couple of huge stone fireplaces only added to the grandeur and whiling away my evening chatting to the locals and watching the 'groom to be' quietly sip away his last night of freedom lent the evening a warm touch. Food, chocolate and champagne I might have expected from a romance package, three knights in shining armour hidden away in a hotel in a Dublin suburb I did not.
What's the deal:
I sampled the Clontarf Castle Romance Package which includes overnight accommodation in a superior room, a bottle of champagne and box of chocolates on arrival, breakfast the next morning and three course Table d'hote dining in the Farenheit restaurant. The package is available for €249 per couple sharing. To book visit the Clontarf Castle website or for more enquiries call +353 1 8332321.
Room : 4 / 5
Food : 4 / 5
Service : 5 / 5
Atmosphere : 5 / 5
Value for Money : 5 / 5