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.
- Gregan's 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.
- Delphi Lodge (County Galway; 353/954-2222; 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; 074/915-8188; 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.