Wednesday, 27 April 2022

An Irish Stunner

Cashel Palace Hotel Best Bridal Suit Ireland

It’s a chill, grey day in March when I arrive at the Cashel Palace Hotel in Ireland’s County Tipperary, but the welcome is as warm as the peat fires that roar away in the entrance hall.

Dating back to 1732 and originally the home of the archbishops of the Church of Ireland, the newly reimagined Cashel Palace Hotel opened its doors on 1 March 2022, after a meticulous five-year restoration. While a new guest-room wing, meeting space, spa and swimming pool have been added to the main house, with only 42 guest rooms, it still manages to feel like an intimate bolthole.

The hotel has all the touches you’d expect of an Irish country house – including an antique-filled drawing room with books to leaf through by the fireside. There is a guest-only bar where you can try Cashel Palace 1732 gin, distilled just down the road, and vases brimming with hyacinths and narcissi that cosy up to equestrian-themed sculptures and paintings, a nod to the fact that the owners, the Magnier family, are also the proprietors of the nearby Coolmore racehorse stud.

But as lovely as these details are, it’s the staff that give the hotel its edge, and the friendly Irish welcome feels as authentic as the manor house’s original design elements. In the Queen Anne Room, Alina fusses over me in the kindest way possible, making sure my afternoon tea is topped up with sandwiches and scones. When I leave the following morning, she runs down the driveway with a box of soda bread for my homeward ferry journey.

At the Bishop’s Buttery restaurant, I enjoy a dinner that’s so good I almost cry at my misfortune to live an eight-hour flight away. The couple at the next table have popped up from Cork for the night to see the changes – and seem impressed. Others have come down from Dublin, enthusiastically chatting about what a difference the renovation has made.

I dive into a Castletownbere crab salad with briny caviar, a crunch of macadamia, and a whisper of a seaweed crisp. Black sole follows, topped with samphire spears and tiny brown shrimps, accompanied by two types of mashed potato – one buttery, one smoked. I skip the Tipperary whiskey baba with barley ice cream (which I now regret), and go for a plate of Irish cheeses. Server Claire writes down the names – Cashel Blue, Cáis Na Tíre, Gubbeen ­– so they don’t get lost in my blissful post-prandial haze.

When I wake the following morning, the sky is cornflower blue – the perfect backdrop to the Palace’s handsome brick façade – and the air is full of birdsong. Beyond the lawns rises the Rock of Cashel, a limestone outcrop topped by a cluster of medieval buildings, including the ruins of a Gothic cathedral.

There’s also a circle of young hop trees in the garden, hearkening back to the mid-1700s when the land agent, Richard Guinness, used to brew ale onsite. The archbishop left Guinness’s son, Arthur, £100 in his will, with which he founded St James’s Gate Brewery in Dublin. It’s been producing Guinness ever since.

There’s a sense here that you’ve discovered something very special, tucked away in a corner of Ireland that’s far from the tourist trail. It’s worth sipping a pint of the black stuff in the hotel’s snug Guinness Bar and enjoying the moment. If the Cashel Palace Hotel keeps doing what it’s already doing so soon after opening, it’s unlikely to remain undiscovered for very long.