This Western Ireland Hotel Is Where 'Bridgerton' Meets 'Lord of the Rings' — and It's Close to the Iconic Cliffs of Moher

It's the perfect home base for exploring the Cliffs of Moher, a stunning national park, and 2,500-year-old historical sites.

The exterior of Gregans Castle Hotel in Ireland

Courtesy of Gregans Castle Hotel

A 1953 photo shows a middle-aged J.R.R. Tolkien standing in front of Gregans Castle, a 16th-century, vine-covered estate in Ireland’s County Clare. In his repeated visits to nearby University of Galway, the author used the castle as a base for exploring the Burren — a wild, rocky expanse in Western Ireland. “He was fascinated with the unusual landscape of the Burren, with its limestone rock and caves,” explains Simon Haden, the property’s current owner. “We have a cave nearby called Pollnagollum, where Tolkien would have gotten the name for the character Gollum in Lord of the Rings.”

That castle is now a hotel, and you can sleep there, too.

A guest room at Gregans Castle Hotel in Ireland

Courtesy of Gregans Castle Hotel

And sleep well. Though the 16th-century tower house is still intact, guests sleep across the road in the 18th-century manor house. Think less Neuschwanstein and more Bridgerton’s Aubrey Hall — the house was the “summer home” of the notable Martyn family through the 1900s. There’s croquet on the back lawn, open fireplaces, a cozy drawing room for afternoon tea, and Connemara marble floors. Twenty-one curated guest rooms and suites come independently decorated by Freddie Haden, often with antiques sourced from around Ireland and the world. The result feels like you’ve stumbled onto an invitation to the family’s country estate, which, essentially, you have.

Interior of the lounge at Gregans Castle Hotel in Ireland

Courtesy of Gregans Castle Hotel

Interior of the lounge and fireplace at Gregans Castle Hotel in Ireland

Courtesy of Gregans Castle Hotel

“My parents bought the hotel in 1976 and my wife, Freddie, and I bought it from them in 2003,” explains Haden. The duo makes changes every winter, closing in December and January in advance of spring and summer travelers. Just like Tolkien found, the hotel is a convenient spot to explore the Burren — a uniquely exposed, rocky landscape; a moon-like national park; and a “memorial to bygone cultures,” what with it’s 2,500-plus archaeological sites scattered across the region. Along with the nearby Cliffs of Moher, one of Ireland’s most visited sites, it’s also part of a UNESCO geopark.

A lush walking path at Gregans Castle Hotel in Ireland

Courtesy of Gregans Castle Hotel

Though the region’s natural landscapes may be what draw guests to the hotel by night, the food is notable enough to tempt staying in by day. “We’ve been known in Ireland as a foodie destination for 15 years or so,” says Haden. That status has only gained traction with the pandemic: Head chef Robbie McCauley started an extensive vegetable garden during the first COVID-19 lockdown, and the staff is developing an outdoor dining area in the vegetable garden itself for private parties. “We are also very lucky to work with great local artisan food producers — we have plentiful fresh fish from the Atlantic nearby, and the Burren is famous for its beef and lamb.” 

Interior of the dining room and afternoon tea service at Gregans Castle Hotel in Ireland

Courtesy of Gregans Castle Hotel

The bar and Cadbury dessert counter at Gregans Castle Hotel in Ireland

Courtesy of Gregans Castle Hotel

For now, guests can taste the fruit (and fresh vegetables) of McCauley’s labor in the Dining Room, where the seven-course dinner menu changes daily; lunch, afternoon tea, and aperitifs are served in the jewel-toned Corkscrew Bar and Drawing Room, cozy seating in nooks, under picture windows, and by the roaring fireplace. Concentrating on garden-grade fare, McCauley’s style of cooking is “modern Irish with some French and Nordic influences.”

With reservations made in advance, the Burren-exploring public can also get a taste of Gregans, whether it be lunch, dinner, afternoon tea, or the Surprise Seasonal Tasting Menu, a fantastic match for the myriad surprises held in this corner of Western Ireland.

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