Ireland is known for its country house hotels and Gregans Castle is one of the best. Located in Ballyvaughan in the heart of the Burren, this Irish country house hotel makes a great base from which to explore County Clare and Galway. Read our Gregans Castle review to find out more about this amazing property and the local area.
Gregans Castle is one of the jewels in Ireland’s Blue Book, the collection of luxury Irish hotels and restaurants. Since opening its doors in the 1940s, this stylish four star hotel has been popular with celebrities and discerning holidaymakers.
Gregans Castle Review
Run by the same family since 1976, it is a real home from home. The handsome property has the appearance of a manor house and the creature comforts of a castle.
Gregans Castle was awarded Best Hotel in Ireland 2019 by The Good Hotel Guide, and Best Hotel & Guesthouse Restaurant by the RAI Irish Restaurant Awards 2019. It also scooped Best Breakfast in the 4 Star Hotel Category at The Georgina Campbell Awards 2018.
Gregans Castle Hotel
Arriving at the 18th century property, you’ll notice the beautifully landscaped grounds. There are incredible views over Galway Bay and the Burren UNESCO Global Geopark.
Almost lunar in appearance, the limestone rock has inspired poets such as Seamus Heaney and authors including J.R.R Tolkien. Both literary greats have stayed at Gregans Castle. In more recent times, Gregans Castle has played host to Ewan McGregor, Sharon Stone and Kathleen Turner.
In fact, Tolkien is said to have been inspired by The Burren when he wrote Lord of the Rings. Relax with a cool drink in a deckchair on the lawn and seek your own inspiration!
Accommodation at Gregans Castle
There are 21 bedrooms and suites in the hotel, each with its own distinctive style. Antique furniture and original artworks are combined with all the latest mod cons.
All the rooms have great views of Galway Bay, the Burren mountains or the garden and some have a private garden. They don’t have TVs, as the focus is firmly on enjoying the local area.
Having said that, there are several TVs dotted around the lounges and complimentary high speed WiFi is on hand if you can’t resist the lure of technology! Our cosy suite had its own private garden with a bird feeder. You feel very much at one with nature here.
The bedroom amenities include:
- Fluffy bathrobes and slippers
- Books and magazines
- Tivoli Bluetooth radios
- Direct dial telephones
- Complimentary high speed WiFi
- Complimentary mineral water
- Hair dryers
- Electric fans
- Luxurious Bamford organic toiletries
There’s a turn-down service in the evening, a same-day laundry service and tea and coffee making facilities upon request. Several of the suites have private sitting areas and some have sofa beds or rollaways, suitable for small children.
The spacious bathrooms are equally welcoming. Ours had a marble splashback and handy seating area. The organic Bamford toiletries smell amazing.
Facilities at Gregans Castle
There are lots of cosy areas where you can relax inside the property. The Corkscrew Bar has an open fire, board games, comfy sofas and is decorated with flowers from the garden.
You’ll also discover many other relaxing spots throughout the property.
The main lounge has lovely views of the garden and lots of books to read.
Within the grounds, there’s a winding woodland walk to explore. Kids will also enjoy visiting the donkeys in the field below.
Gregans Castle has a couple of resident cats who are well behaved and give the place a very homely feel. Guests are welcome to bring their dogs, and several of the ground floor rooms have access to the gardens.
Dining at Gregans Castle
The restaurant focuses on seasonal produce, reinventing traditional dishes with contemporary flair. Head chef Robbie McCauley and team work closely with several local producers.
Guests can savour organic lamb from the Burren, fresh fish and shellfish from the Atlantic and Burren smoked salmon with pickled cucumber.
The homemade walnut and raisin bread is a real treat.
A particular highlight of the menu is the Heritage Tomatoes with Black Olive, St Tola Goats Curd, Black Olive, Herbs & Sourdough.
Afterwards, enjoy a selection of Irish cheeses or a tasty dessert such as Irish Cherry Souffle with Almonds, Tonka Bean and Sauce Anglaise.
On Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday the dining room serves an a la carte menu and a fantastic 9 course tasting menu, from 6 to 9 pm. On Mondays and Thursdays they offer a more casual bistro style dinner, which is also delicious.
You can also have lunch in the Corkscrew Bar daily from 12.30 pm to 2.30 pm, or afternoon tea from 2 to 4 pm. Both the Dining Room and the Corkscrew Bar are open to non residents.
It’s highly recommended to book in advance as they’re both very popular!
No wonder that Gregans Castle has won several awards for their food, including the RAI Restaurant of the Year Awards for Best Hotel & Guesthouse Restaurant 2019.
There’s also a great choice of wines from every continent. Bio-dynamic and organic wines are particularly well represented, as well as classic French wines such as Crozes-Hermitage.
Breakfast is a hearty affair at Gregans Castle, served from 8 am to 10 am. There’s a tempting array of cereal, cheeses from Aillwee Cave, fruits, cured meats, organic salmon from the Burren Smokehouse and pastries.
You can try a nice selection of organic tea blended by Solaris Botanicals in Galway and the coffee is fairtrade.
Guests can order other dishes from the menu, including Eggs Benedict, pancakes with Highbank organic apple syrup, poached smoked haddock with hollandaise sauce, grilled bacon and sausage with wild boar pudding and free range eggs or organic porridge.
Activities in The Burren
You’ll no doubt find it hard to tear yourself away from the comfort of Gregans Castle. If you fancy a massage or reflexology treatment, the hotel can arrange this on the property, as long as they have advance notice.
There’s so much to see in the surrounding area that it’s also worth getting out and about. The hotel organise regular walking tours around the Burren. Led by a local farmer, they’re a fascinating insight into this unique landscape.
The word burren or boieaenn in Irish means rocky area and the area is known for its limestone, dating from the glacial era. The rocks are cracked in many parts and beautiful wildflowers grow in between.
There are also bicycles available for guests to use and they can arrange a local guided cycling tour for you. As the roads are fairly quiet, it’s a great way to see the local area.
The beaches in County Clare are stunning. Buckets, shrimping nets and spades are available for guests to borrow, as well as Wellington boots.
Gregans Castle are a founding member of The Burren Food Trail and The Burren Ecotourism Network. They have a special ecotourism package for guests, and can arrange lots of other fun activities.
Here’s a list of some of the great activities in the local area:
- Clay pigeon shooting
- Horse riding
- Rock climbing
- Sea Angling
- Sea Kayaking
Things to Do in the Burren
There is a huge amount of interesting sights within a short drive of Gregans Castle. You’ll find a selection of guidebooks and maps on sale at the hotel reception, as well as tips on what to see on the hotel’s website.
For three days in June, the Burren in Bloom Festival celebrates flowers as well as pollinators, with a series of guided walks, workshops and family events. If you’re single and lucky to be visiting in September, don’t miss Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival. It’s the largest dating event in Europe.
Check out our guide to things to do in County Clare for other fun ideas.
Here are a few of the top attractions in the Burren and nearby:
- Aillwee Cave – one of the oldest caves in Ireland, it also has an interesting birds of prey centre.
- The Aran Islands – Inishmore, Inishmaan and Inisheer are all accessible by ferry.
- Caher Bridge Garden – a tranquil oasis with over 200 kinds of snowdrops.
- Caherconnell Stone Fort – sheepdog demonstrations are regularly held here.
- The Burren Centre and Kilfenora Crosses – museum and cafe next to Kilfenora Cathedral, known for its Celtic crosses.
- Clare Heritage and Genealogy Centre – trace your Irish ancestors.
- Cliffs of Moher – 250 metres high, these cliffs can be visited on foot or by ferry.
- Doolin Cave – famous for its Great Stalactite, the longest free hanging stalactite in the Northern Hemisphere.
- Doolin village – known for its wool shops and live Irish folk music.
- Hazel Mountain Chocolate – take a factory tour of this bean to bar chocolatier.
- The Burren Perfumery – fabulous organic cosmetics in a picturesque setting with a charming cafe.
- The Burren Smokehouse – delicious smoked salmon and other local delicacies.
- St Tola Goat Cheese – see the baby goats during an Open Day and taste the delicious goats cheeses.
- Tea at Father Ted’s House – for fans of the infamous TV series, must be booked in advance.
Gregans Castle really does make a fantastic base from which to explore the beauty of the Burren. This charming boutique hotel is somewhere that you’ll happily return to time and time again.
The friendly staff and stylish decor, combined with the delicious food make it somewhere very special. For more information, contact Ireland’s Blue Book, romantic collection of Irish Country House Hotels, Manor Houses, Castles and Restaurants.
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