The Shelbourne (Dublin; 01/663-4500; www.marriott.co.uk): Certainly one of the best hotels in Ireland’s capital city, the Shelbourne also holds a unique place in Irish history.
The Westbury (Dublin; 01/602-8900; www.doylecollection.com): What the Shelbourne is to the old Dublin, so this place is to the new: a top-class place for fashionistas and sophisticates to rest their well-heeled feet.
Monart Spa (Enniscorthy, County Wexford; 053/923-8999; www.monart.ie): A sumptuous countryside retreat, this pampering paradise is consistently rated among the top spas in Ireland. It’s a serene, adults-only zone in a lovely setting.
The Merchant (Belfast, County Antrim; 028/9023-4888; www.themerchanthotel.com): Once a Victorian bank, this stunningly converted hotel is one of the finest places to stay in the trendy capital of Northern Ireland.
Ashford Castle (Cong, County Mayo; 094/954-6003; www.ashford.ie): Live like royalty for a night at this fairytale castle in County Mayo. The great and the good have been coming here for decades to see what the fuss is about. The fuss, it turns out, is justified.
- The Clarence (Dublin; 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; 064/664-1200; 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. An Irish newspaper recently described this place as “as close as you’ll get to Downton Abbey without going on set.” The Park Hotel also has one of the very best spas in Ireland.
- Gregans Castle Hotel (County Clare; 065/707-7005; 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. It was here that while staying amid the lunar landscape of the Burren, J. R. R. Tolkien took inspiration for The Lord of the Rings. Dinners here are outstanding, and worth every penny.
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.