5 Reasons to Stay at the Clontarf Castle Hotel

fixedwI’ve always wanted to live in a castle. Unless I ever get filthy rich or decide to pursue a career in butlery, that’s not going to happen. Thus I satisfied part of that childhood desire of mine by staying in a castle the last four nights.

Tonight is my last night in the Clontarf Castle Hotel, and I just wanted to share how incredible the experience has been. I cannot recommend this place enough. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. It’s a castle! This hotel is not like any other. Its walls are those of a very old castle. And it’s so much more than just a novelty feature. Sure, the bedrooms just feel like ordinary hotel bedrooms. But there are a number of lounges that intertwine in and out of the castle parts of the building. This is particularly important for rainy Irish days when you don’t want to go out much. Hanging out in the castle parts of the building on those days is a vacation in itself.
  2. Location. The hotel is in Clontarf, a little seaside town about 10 minutes away from Dublin and 20 minutes away from Howth, where I spent a lovely day today. Honestly, there’s not a ton to do in Clontarf, but it’s great if you’re like me and want to pretend you’re indigenous for a few days on vacation. Now, there are certain perks to staying in Dublin–considerably more choices of restaurants and pubs, as well as more tourist destinations–but Clontarf feels like an escape from the hubbub of real life, which has its benefits.
  3. Affordable luxury. This is a four-star luxury hotel that you can stay at for under $100/night.
  4. Amenities. I’ve spent most of my time in an awesome in-hotel bar called the Knight’s Bar, but there’s also a club and an expensive restaurant here. Just depends on what you’re looking for, but it’s nice to have all of them in the hotel. They seem to attract a number of locals, not just people staying at the hotel. And there have been a ton of weddings here during my stay. I may or may not be married to an Irish woman; I’m really not sure what happened in that ceremony.
  5. Service. I need a separate section for this, because it’s been astoundingly good. See below.
  • My flight arrived last Friday at 8:00 am, and I wanted to go to the hotel first. I would have been fine with just dropping off my bags because check in wasn’t until late afternoon, but they found me a room right away. It was really nice to be able to relax after the long trip.
  • I had a bit of an issue with cash on my second day. I realized that many places here only accept “cash or chip,” the latter of which means that your debit card has a microchip in it. Your American debit cards will not have this chip, and without it you may not be able to use ATMs or make payments. In the US I just use my credit card for everything so I can track my expenses, but I wasn’t going to be able to do that here. I was a little stuck, but I explained the situation to the concierge, and he let me pay for cash from the hotel with my credit card. I didn’t expect them to help in that way, but they did, and it was a huge relief for me.
  • I’ve tried to eat a variety of Irish food during my trip, but I had difficulty finding shepherd’s pie in any restaurants for some reason. Finally I found it today at a local shop where they make food daily and package it for reheating. So I had a cold meat pie with no way to heat it (my room doesn’t have a microwave, but the pie was in foil, so a microwave wouldn’t have helped). I mentioned it to the concierge (a different guy than the first one), and he told me he would take care of it and send it up to my room when it was ready. 20 minutes later I was happily eating a deliciously warm authentic Irish shepherd’s pie in my room.
For all three of those situations, the hotel could have said, “We don’t do that.” But instead, they found a way to help every time. You’re not going to find that everywhere, so make sure you come here the next time you’re in Ireland. Mention the shepherd’s pie guy to the concierge and you’ll share a laugh.

7 thoughts on “5 Reasons to Stay at the Clontarf Castle Hotel”

  1. The castle sounds like a fantastic place! I’ve only visited Ireland briefly—Dublin for a few days—but have been wanting to go back ever since. Your posts are making me plan a trip back in my head!

    In regard to your service comments, I was recently on a cruise with a few girl friends and while cruising was definitely not the type of vacation I’m interested in doing again, the one thing that I really enjoyed was the level of service. I was more than impressed. The service members live on the ship, working 7 days a week, probably 12 hours a day for 4 months at a time and you’d never know it by their cheery, bend-over-backwards attitudes. Keep in mind, the crew was from all over the world—there were actually very few American crew members even though the cruise started in Ft. Lauderdale.

    When I returned, I raved about the service to my boyfriend, from Venezuela, who shrugged his shoulders and said, ‘I’ve always told you American service sucks. In South America, that level of service is standard. The service industry there is considered a career, not just a job.” Now, I’ve traveled enough to know that in Europe at least, that’s not always the case, but on average I think it is much better than what we’re accustomed to here. In the future, I think I’ll be paying more attention to the level of service I receive in other countries.

    • Christine–I was actually going to write a separate post about service in general, but you wrote half of that post for me here.

      In truth, the vast majority of the restaurant service I received in Ireland was very poor. The hotel staff were the exception. And I can’t speak for South America, but I’ve been to France, England, Wales, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Australia, and Japan, and although service varies from place to place, on average service is much worse than in the US. I’ve found that in most foreign countries, the service amounts to them taking your order and delivering your food. That’s it.

      Of course, that varies from waiter to waiter in the US, but at least here the expectation is that if you go to a decent restaurant, you get a lot more attention than that. Your needs are met. Your glass is filled without you asking. And so on.

      The main contributing factor, I believe, is that waiters in many foreign countries receive minimum wage. Because of the widespread obligation to tip in the US, waiters are essentially paid on commission, giving them an incentive to serve well. Again, that incentive may not matter to some people, and some people will give great service regardless of the incentive, but when your income depends on you making 20% tips plus $4/hour, you work for it.

      Beyond restaurant service, it varies. I think Americans are so used to being incentivized monetarily that if they’re not incentivized (say, at the grocery store), many simply don’t care unless it’s a huge part of their company’s core values and environment. Most other countries have different attitudes when it comes to working hard simply for the sake of working hard.

      The one exception to that, though, is that Americans are taught to think outside the box, something that we take for granted. In Japan, if you go to a McDonald’s and ask for two packets of ketchup instead of one, you get a confused stare in response. It’s like when you go off script with an Indian customer support rep. If it’s not in the script, they’re not going to do it for you, whereas a support rep in America will find a way to accommodate you.

      I actually believe that America could lead the world in customer service if we wanted to. There are some companies here that have absolutely amazing customer service, and it’s not something they can type into a script and send offshore. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is beyond “thinking outside the box,” but I think it’s something that’s uniquely American, and I hope more and more companies take advantage of it.


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