- The Clarence (Dublin; tel. 01/407-0800; www.theclarence.ie): Owned by members of the band U2, the Clarence is a perfect mixture of sleek sophistication and coolness. Everything here is designed for subtle elegance, from the soft, neutral color schemes, to the luxurious bed linens and huge beds, to the helpful staff. The Octagon Bar is a relaxing hangout, while the Tea Room restaurant is one of The Best eateries in town. Its Relax spa will pummel and facial you into relaxation, while the staff members hurry off to find your favorite red wine. Staying here is a real treat.
- Park Hotel Kenmare (County Kerry; tel. 800/323-5463 in the U.S., or 064/664-1200 in Ireland; www.parkkenmare.com): In a palm-tree-lined garden beside Kenmare Bay, this imposing 19th-century hotel is grand and luxurious. In the high-ceilinged sitting rooms, fires crackle in the open fireplaces, oil paintings decorate the walls, and there's a full set of armor at the top of the grand staircase surrounded by tapestries and rare antiques. Guest rooms have Georgian and Victorian furnishings and peaceful waterfront or mountain views. The guest-only, in-house spa is extraordinary.
- Gregans Castle Hotel (County Clare; tel. 800/323-5463 in the U.S., or 065/707-7005 in Ireland; www.gregans.ie): Not a castle at all, but an ivy-covered, stone manor house, this small, family-run hotel is filled with light, and has lovely views of the Burren and Galway Bay. The drawing room and expansive hallways are filled with heirlooms, and the walls are decorated with Raymond Piper's mural paintings of the Burren. Guest rooms are spacious and elegantly decorated in muted colors with antique pieces, and all have expansive views of the gorgeous countryside. Dinners here are outstanding, and worth every penny.
- Delphi Lodge (County Galway; tel. 095/42222; www.delphilodge.ie): This was once the country hideaway for the marquis of Sligo, and now it can be yours. Inside, the emphasis is on clean, bright simplicity and perfect taste. It's a different kind of luxury -- there's no spa here; instead the spectacular setting, at the edge of a lake and at the foot of a lush, green mountain, provides the beauty and the relaxation. "Tranquillity," "comfort," and, well, "fishing" are the operative words here. Whether or not you're an angler, you will want to stay longer than you'd planned -- and by renting one of the cottages for a week or more, you can make the indulgence more affordable.
- Rathmullan House (County Donegal; tel. 800/223-6510 in the U.S., or 074/915-8188 in Ireland; www.rathmullanhouse.com): This getaway lies at the end of a long private drive on the banks of the mirrorlike waters of Lough Swilly. Rooms are big and beautifully detailed, with a soft color scheme, claw-foot tubs, and private patios. There are half a dozen drawing rooms in which you can relax on big leather sofas by open fires. The staff is friendly and open, the hotel restaurant is stellar, and the atmosphere is one of pure rural rest and relaxation.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.