Middle Age Miles

Hotel Review – Gregans Castle, Ballyvaughan

Lounging on the front lawn of Gregans Castle

This article is part of our Trip Report, A Summer Holiday in Ireland & Scotland.

For our first night of A Summer Holiday in Ireland & Scotland, Philly, Maria, Erin and I stayed at Gregans Castle hotel, in The Burren near the Irish village of Ballyvaughan.  Gregans Castle is a 20-room boutique, and technically, it’s an 18th-century Georgian guest house, as the accompanying castle tower is actually on the other side of the highway from the hotel.

Executive Summary

We all enjoyed our time at Gregans Castle, and it was a special experience to kick off our holiday in Ireland.  The building itself is old, and the furnishings are classic, but the hotel was well-maintained.  The area is quiet, and there are terrific views of the surrounding area of The Burren.  And Gregans Castle has a very friendly house cat who may come visit your room!

Booking and Rate

At Gregans Castle, we booked a Junior Suite for Philly & me, and a Classic Double/Twin Room for the girls.  The booking was made online, direct through the Gregans Castle website.  We paid a total price of 655 Euros (about $722 at the time).  Our rate included Full Irish Breakfast in the morning, WiFi, and all taxes and service.  Our booking was cancelable up to 7 days prior to our arrival date.  I emailed the hotel to confirm 1 bed for Philly and me, and 2 for the girls, and the hotel responded in one business day to confirm.  There was no points-or-miles play to be had at Gregans Castle as it is not a member of any hotel alliance.

Location

Gregans Castle is located in County Clare in the west-central part of Ireland.  It is about 5 km south of the village of Ballyvaughan, just off highway N67.  It is located within the rocky geological formation known as The Burren.

Gregans Castle is an hour’s drive from Galway, and a little over a half-hour’s drive from the Cliffs of Moher Visitor’s Center (taking the direct route; we took the longer but more scenic route around the R477 coast road through Murroogh, Faore and Doolin).

It’s important to note that Gregans Castle is secluded and there are no restaurants or stores within walking distance.  If you need any supplies, or if you want to eat out anywhere other than the hotel’s restaurant, you’re probably going to need to drive to Ballyvaughan.

On the plus side, the area is lush, and the hotel has a great view of the rocky hills of The Burren from its front lawn.

The Burren landscape, from the front lawn of Gregans Castle hotel (house cat included)

The Burren landscape, from the front lawn of Gregans Castle hotel

Arrival & Check-In

To get to Gregans Castle, there is a small road that turns off from the N67 highway.  There is a sign to alert you, but pay close attention and use a maps app on your phone if possible to help find it.  There is a small parking lot at the front of the hotel.

Upon arrival at Gregans Castle, we were warmly greeted by the staff and assigned our rooms.  The process was very old-school and manual, and our room key was an old-style actual metal key.  Furnishings were classic and elegant, in-theme with the property.

Unfortunately, this stay came before I had any idea I’d be starting Middle Age Miles, so I need to rely somewhat on pictures from the Gregans Castle website.  I’ll say that their pictures accurately depict the hotel.

Here are pictures of the hotel grounds, the entryway with its fireplace, and the stairs leading upstairs where the girls’ room was located:

Gregans Castle Hotel, grounds and parking lot [image courtesy Gregans Castle]

Gregans Castle Hotel, entryway with fireplace [image courtesy Gregans Castle]

Gregans Castle Hotel, stairway [image courtesy Gregans Castle]

Rooms

We had booked a Junior Suite for Philly & me, and a Classic Twin Room for the girls.  Our Junior Suite was on the ground floor, down the hall past the entryway/reception area and to the right.  It had a “back door” to a small patio that opened into a green courtyard behind the hotel.  The girls’ Classic Twin Room was one floor up.

In our Junior Suite, upon entering the room the bathroom was straight ahead, with an open doorway to the bedroom to the left.  After passing into the bedroom and turning to the right, the room looked like this:

Gregans Castle Hotel, Junior Suite bedroom [image courtesy Gregans Castle]

I’m not sure if the above photo from the hotel website is of our exact room, but it has the same layout, with the bed directly ahead, a sitting nook in the bay window to the far left, a sitting chair with table and lamp to the rear left, and a doorway to the “living room” to the rear right.  Not pictured are a sit-down vanity with a mirror and padded stool, which would be against the wall behind the photographer in the photo above, and a “back door” to a small patio and open courtyard, which would be to the photographer’s immediate left.

The photo below gives a glimpse into the “living room,” where there were sitting chairs and books on the shelves.  This was a cozy nook, but it didn’t seem very usable.  We were much more comfortable in the larger bedroom, which was more open, brighter, and provided better views out into the courtyard.

Gregans Castle Hotel, Junior Suite “living room” [image courtesy Gregans Castle]

Common Areas & Amenities

The Grounds

The grounds of Gregans Castle are lovely and very well-kept, as you’ve seen from the photos I’ve posted earlier in this article.  The expansive front lawn has thick, lush grass.  It provides great views of The Burren, and specifically, a nearby rugged rocky hill that exemplifies the landscape of The Burren.  The area is quiet and tranquil – a great place to relax.  There is no pool at Gregans Castle, which fits with the peaceful atmosphere.

Bars & Restaurants

Gregans Castle Hotel, the Corkscrew Bar [image courtesy Gregans Castle]

Gregans Castle has a small, classic, dark-wood Irish bar known as the Corkscrew Bar, located near the front area of the hotel.  Aside from the bar and stools you can see in the picture above, there is an area with large padded chairs and a few tables (to the right of the photo; you can see a couple of the chairs on the far right edge of the photo).  We enjoyed a late-afternoon drink there, where we chatted with the friendly bartender and a few other guests.  It was a nice, welcoming space to relax after a long day of travel.

The Dining Room at Gregans Castle apparently has a very good reputation and has won numerous awards.  It’s clearly a “fine dining” experience, described by the hotel’s website as “creative and modern dishes using fresh, local ingredients like organic Burren Lamb and game, and fresh Atlantic fish and shellfish.”

We didn’t have dinner at Gregans Castle, but we did have breakfast the next morning, which was served in the Dining Room.  A full Irish breakfast was included in our room rate.  I recall the breakfast being excellent, with a wide selection of choices that satisfied everyone in our group.

The Dining Room itself was classy and nice, in-theme with the hotel.  It was brightly-lit with natural light from the many windows, which looked out over the hotel grounds and The Burren.

Here are a few pictures of the Dining Room from the hotel’s website:

Gregans Castle Hotel, Dining Room [image courtesy Gregans Castle]

Gregans Castle Hotel, Dining Room [image courtesy Gregans Castle]

Gregans Castle Hotel, Dining Room [image courtesy Gregans Castle]

A Special Surprise – A Visit from the Gregans Castle House Cat!

On the morning of our Gregans Castle stay, Philly and I were getting ready for our day, going about our normal routine.  She was drying her hair when we thought we heard a noise.  She turned off the hair dryer, and sure enough, there was indeed a noise, and it was a loud meow.  Where could this be coming from?  I looked out the back door onto the porch and patio, no cat.  Out the window of the living room, no cat.  After a couple more meows, the source of the noise became more clear.  It was right outside the door to our room.  I opened the door, and sure enough, there was the cat – and he came straight into our room!

Obviously, this cat felt quite at home at the hotel and in our room, and he was very friendly.

He played with me on the floor:

Gregans Castle Hotel, house cat in our room!

He jumped up onto the vanity:

Gregans Castle Hotel, house cat in our room!

He even came into our bathroom and jumped into the tub!

Gregans Castle Hotel, house cat in our bathtub!

Gregans Castle Hotel, house cat in our bathtub!

Eventually, we headed to breakfast, and the house cat resumed his morning of wandering around the hotel.  His visit was a fun and quite unexpected treat for our Gregans Castle stay!

Service

Service at Gregans Castle was on-point throughout.  Immediately after I made our reservation, I emailed the hotel to confirm one king bed for the Junior Suite and two twin beds for the girls, and they got back to me within one day.  A few days before our stay, hotel owner Ken proactively reached out by email to let me know that our stay was during a banking holiday weekend, and he offered to reserve a dinner time for us before it filled up (important since there were no other dining options without driving a few kilometers away).  I really appreciated this gesture.  And while we were on-property, everyone was friendly, professional, and helpful.

Additional Resource

For a very nice article on Gregans Castle from The Telegraph, please click here.

 

 

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