Departure: Cashel Palace Hotel
The Cashel Palace, the iconic property and now Tipperary’s only five-star hotel finally opened its doors last spring after a superb restoration by its owners, the Magnier family. Already a member of the Blue Book of Ireland and an exclusive Relais & Châteaux collection, the property heralds a new era of luxury tourism in Premier County and this week I took a luxury trip to Tipp to check it out…
Sequestered in an avenue off the city’s main street, Cashel Palace appears almost unexpectedly with an air of a veritable urban oasis in the heart of Ireland’s Ancient East.
The short avenue, dotted with immaculately landscaped box hedges and white hydrangeas, is flanked by a welcoming collection of renovated stable house properties and just beyond I pause in front of the Palladian red brick facade of the mansion, while a number of valets are driving past me.
I decline the parking offer but then am left (*checks watch*) for seven minutes in the parking area before the jeep parked in front of me clears my way to the parking lot. It’s a minor quibble, but after a long drive, it’s a boring first impression of a property aiming to wow from the get-go.
Inside, it’s sensational. I have a brief glimpse of the lobby lounge, the flickering flames of the first open fires of the season, before the general manager, Adriaan Bartels (who plays a very visible role throughout the hotel) offers a warm welcome, ushering me into the adjoining reception room adorned with oil paintings and willow-patterned porcelain. The aesthetic is clearly curated with care, but pays off with pure impact.
The Cashel Palace offers 42 compact deluxe rooms on the top floor of the mansion and rather stately suites spread throughout the property. My friend, Finola, and I stayed in one of the newer suites in the hotel’s garden wing, which overlooks the pretty fairy-tale walled gardens of the ground – just beyond, century-old mulberry trees – and the Rock of Cashel himself.
It’s a spectacular sight, and I suspect it’s even more so in the fall when those mulberry leaves surrender to the season.
My room, which draws on the sumptuous elegance of the neo-classical period, is a spacious and calming suite with dreamy twin beds, a stunning white marble bathroom, a walk-in closet and an adjoining living room full of plump armchairs and of canapes.
There are several eye-catching touches: the coffee, from Tipperary’s own Ponaire roastery; free pantry stocked with local treats such as Con Traas apple juice and O’Donnell’s crisps; as well as cappuccino bathrobes, the most luxurious I have ever seen. Overall the suite is lavish in proportion and comfortable although the interiors, particularly in the living room, are a bit more subdued and conservative than I expected.
At your service
True to its opulent nature, Cashel Palace offers a host of boujee experiences, from afternoon tea in its exquisite Queen Anne Room to open-air seaweed baths in the hotel’s luxury spa.
There are also a range of bespoke culinary and cultural tours, from a visit to the home of Cashel Blue cheese to experiencing the Tipperary Thoroughbred Trail which honors the region’s rich horse racing heritage. After all, this is a property with its own equestrian caretaker.
We enjoy our hours after check-in at the spa, a pleasant, airy space with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the gardens. Of note are the unisex changing rooms that have individual dressing rooms with private showers and vanities and would be out of place at the Monte Carlo Yacht Club.
We head straight for the pool and hot tub, including an outdoor infinity pool with views of The Rock. It is a wonderfully relaxing location although guests can wander the gardens at very close distance so discretion is advised for any PDA or tea spills.
Back inside, the spa also features a steam room, a particularly gorgeous sauna, and a number of themed therapy showers that have lighting and sound effects ranging from Atlantic storms to Caribbean showers. I was transported from Tipp to Trinidad in a jiffy (and a bit of imagination). It’s also worth noting that the hotel has a gorgeous gym outfitted with walnut weights and gym equipment that tops off the air of retro chic.
Tipperary’s culinary scene is increasingly renowned across the country and since its launch, The Cashel Palace and Executive Chef Stephen Hayes have continued to highlight it. We ate at the hotel’s fine-dining restaurant, The Bishop’s Buttery, a cavernous and wonderfully ambient space in the basement of the palace.
We dined on the restaurant’s table d’hôte menu (€85 excluding drinks) and a nonchalant offer of “…a glass of Champagne or a cocktail before the meal?” captures the luxurious evening the hotel is throwing.
The meal begins with a selection of delicious homemade gluten-free breads (a novelty for this celiac) followed by a sublime selection of appetizers; the highlight being an olive tapenade shaped into a delicate leaf.
My bluefin tuna starter with avocado and wasabi was a total explosion of flavors while the local beef tenderloin with morel mushrooms, creamy Anna potatoes and luxurious Madeira juice was a prime dish.
Dessert was a heavily architected lemon and raspberry affair, all topped off with an exceptional dining experience, not least thanks to our extremely knowledgeable server, Dianne, and sommelier, Farrah.
The bar was certainly high, but breakfast the next morning didn’t quite reach the culinary heights of dinner. The setting in the Queen Anne room is beautiful and our table overlooking The Rock is the best seat in the house, but while the menu, featuring the classics from Full Irish to the usual Eggs Benedict, was satisfying, it offered nothing which I haven’t experienced at many other properties with less fanfare – even a bit of potatoes and Tipperary potatoes could add a local touch to the menu.
No gluten-free alternative to the pastries provided may also leave some celiacs feeling a bit aggrieved.
For casual dining, note that the hotel also offers Mikey Ryan’s Bar & Kitchen, Cashel’s wildly popular gastropub, next door.
Cashel Palace is a hugely exciting addition to Munster’s accommodation scene and my stay was a memorable occasion, particularly the meal at Bishop’s Buttery, our highlight.
The spa, gardens and relaxation lounge are sublime and this connection to one of Ireland’s most unique heritage sites is truly special. I would have liked to see more breakfast options and the interior of my room hits the “next level” comfort zone that I expected for a €899 suite, but for a future stay I Would have an eye on these boutique deluxe rooms from €349 per night (and dipping from €279 out of season) which would offer all the luxury I would need.
- Thom was a guest of the property.