The Merrion or The Ashford Castle… Where To Check-In for the St. Patrick’s Day Celebrations in Ireland?

Little Black Book

Technically, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated around the world, but the epicentre of the celebrations has to be Dublin. For five days every year, the city pulls out all the stops to remember the country’s patron saint with everything from huge parades that snake around the capital to funfairs around the Merrion Square and George’s Dock while the locals paint themselves green, and Guinness flows by the gallon.

This year, if spending St. Patrick’s Day in your local pub doesn’t sound quite right, the streets of Dublin is the place to be, with its family-run pubs, music scene and historical sites like the Guinness Storehouse where you can treat yourself to a Reuben toastie that goes just perfectly with a Pint of the Black Stuff…

Plan A: Check into The Merrion

With the Edwardian pomp of Government Buildings right across the street, and the Merrion Square just minutes away, The Merrion‘s location is unbeatable to share in the celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day around March 17. But that’s not the only reason to check-in here. The hotel, which a history that stretches as far back as the 18th century is the capital’s original- and perhaps most gracious and stately Grande Dame. For a start, the architecture of the four Georgian townhouses that make up the hotel is one of a kind. Then you have the half-acre garden in the middle with its fountains and manicured shrubs.

The Merrion is also home to Ireland’s largest collection of private artworks that adorn the walls of the ground-floor drawing room. Naturally, many experiences at the hotel focus on the artwork, including guided tours, but you’ll be most impressed with its Art Tea.

No, it’s not a typographical error. Afternoon tea at The Merrion is called the Art Tea, and is about the most quirky- and witty- take on the British tradition where pastry chef Paul Kelly creates sweet treats inspired by the works of artists like Sir John Lavery, Jack B Yeats and Paul Henry. In all, you’re served 9 pastries, each more colorful and delicately put together than the next, and you’d be hard-pressed to decide whether to take pictures of the creations or dig right in… If you’re lucky, you’ll catch the experience on a day they serve the pastry inspired by “The Hour of Sleep 1951” by Jack B Yeats. The sour apple and caramel mousse is the definition of creative confectioning…

Elsewhere, more mouthwatering culinary creations await at Ireland’s only Two Star Michelin restaurant headed by chef Patrick Guilbaud. With a rich decor and magnificent views over the hotel’s gardens, there is no setting quite like it for an indulgent evening of good food and an Emerald Elixir cocktail.

Plan B: Leave the city for rural Ireland

If you’re looking for something quieter on St. Patrick’s Day, this medieval castle (once the country retreat of the Guinness family) is where you want to be. With a history dating as far back as 1228, and a location right on the border of County Mayo and Galway, it is the ultimate destination for old-fashioned entertainment- think falconry, golf, horse-riding, archery and the list goes on…

There are also the gardens, brimming with Norwegian maples and English yew trees, but our coup de cœur was the Lough Corrib in Ashford Castle’s backyard. The lake, which is Ireland’s second largest, is as beautiful as t is fascinating with its population of wild brown trout and salmon.

Inside the castle, things are just as impressive with rooms and common areas almost exclusively furnished with auction-sourced European antiques, embroidered silk wall coverings and Connemara marble.

If your idea of a perfect hideaway is a room with a four-poster bed, a fireplace, a claw-foot tub and decanters for nightcaps of sherry, the Ashford Castle will check will of those boxes…and more.

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