I have never stayed anywhere that has as much character as Abbeyglen Castle Hotel in County Galway, Ireland. What a hoot that hotel is! It was a highlight of our Ireland road trip, and its colors and cast of characters would fit perfectly into a Wes Anderson movie.
Want an illustration of how well the hotel pairs luxury with quirk? As the well-dressed porter ushered us into the lobby, what should we see but… the bartender chasing a parrot, yelling “Get back into your cage!” It turns out the parrot is named Gilbert, and is the “Duty Manager.” From the start, the hotel made us smile.
Our hotel room was gorgeous: Canopy bed, fireplace, claw-footed bathtub, and a view out over emerald green hills replete with the hotel’s own helipad. Too bad we didn’t bring our helicopter! I loved looking at the castle’s turrets and thinking, “We’re in a castle! We are doing Ireland to the fullest, baby.”
Just then, the room phone rang. “You are invited to the champagne welcome,” the receptionist sang when I answered. Ten minutes later, the phone jangled again. “We don’t want you to miss the welcome!” the receptionist urged. “Do come down.”
Once downstairs, I realized what the fuss was all about. It was a full-out party! A man I later learned to be the co-owner, Paul, was banging at the piano and singing as guests caroused and raised champagne and brie in the air. Baby Devi loved the buzz, and ate his weight in cheese and grapes.
Our family shifted over to the dining room, as we’ve embraced the 5:30pm dinner to accommodate Devi’s 7pm bed time. What a dining room the hotel has! Chandeliers winked at us, and candles flickered.
While waiting for the restaurant’s famous food to arrive. Devi explored the carpet, crawling hither and thither and flirting with the waitstaff. As more diners trotted in, I began to notice something remarkable: there were more repeat customers than I’ve ever observed in one place!
“I recognize you,” the waitress was saying to a couple behind us.
“That’s right,” the man smiled happily. “We come here every wedding anniversary. This is our special place! We saw the sale this week for dinner and a room and snagged it for one more visit this year.”
“Well, welcome back!” replied the waitress. I heard version after version of this same conversation. Locals and tourists alike love the hotel, and come back with a passion.
As our yummy dinner drew to a close, we heard a commotion. A live band burst in, and with it, a leprechaun! It was the receptionist we had met earlier, clad in a beard and shiny green outfit. That job description must have been classic: “Seeking professional hotel staff for lobby and leprechaun duties.”
That night, I found out there wasn’t WiFi internet in the rooms — just public areas — and had a mini-meltdown. Happily, there turned out to be a positive benefit to this situation. Since I needed to sit in the hall to get online, I was able to observe the delightful energy of the hotel until 1am when I finally finished and published my last Cuba article. What joyful, loyal guests the Abbeyglen Castle Hotel has! You should have heard the laughing and music! It made me smile, and also helped me realize how isolating in-room WiFi can be, as convenient as it is. I also got a chance to see the photos on the wall depicting the numerous A-List celebrities who’ve stayed at the hotel… including Bill Clinton!
The next morning, the hotel’s owner, Paul, sat with us at breakfast, calling me a “famous journalist” — flattery will get you everywhere, sir! — and ceremoniously bestowing a medal and American flag on our baby. Devi was honored… and also tried to eat the medal. I wish I’d had a medal to give to Paul for “Most Fun Hotel Owner!”
All too soon, we had to pack and head to our next Ireland road trip destination (stately Kylemore Abbey), so we didn’t get to experience Abbeyglen Castle Hotel’s excursions, spa treatments, tennis and golf facilities… but I suppose that just means we’ll need to return!
So what do YOU think? Does this seem like a place you’d like to visit? Which hotel that you’ve stayed at has had the most character and quirky charm? Do share!
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We were guests of Abbeyglen Castle Hotel, but all leprechaun-receptionist jokes and opinions are my own.