Since Cashel Palace was built in 1732 by big-deal-back-then architect Edward Lovett Pearce, it’s lived many lives. Set at the foot of sanctified ecclesiastical seat the Rock of Cashel, it was home to high-ranking clergy for over 200 years – and played a part in founding Guinness – before British millionaire Lord Brockett turned it into a luxury hotel in 1959, hosting the likes of Princess Diana, Elizabeth Taylor and Jackie Kennedy. At the reigns today are thoroughbred champion-breeders the Magniers, who’ve restored it with Palladian grace. It’s gilded, swagged, hung with opulent artworks and chandeliers, and champions not just equine excellence (horse-lovers and race enthusiasts will be all aflutter), but Tipperary-top dining from Golden Vale to plate, serious spa spoiling and the county’s rich culture.
12 noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 4pm.
Double rooms from £284.85 (€329), including tax at 9 per cent.
Rates include a two-course breakfast: the first a selection of fruit, scones, pastries, cereals and cheeses; the second a choice of warm à la carte dishes.
There are especially adapted accessible rooms in the Carriage House and Garden Wing, with grab bars, a shower seat and an emergency cord in the bathroom. And there’s a lift to all floors in these buildings. Accessible parking is available too.
At the hotel
Spa with thermal suite and yoga room, gym, hair salon, three acres of sweeping gardens, lounge with a fireplace, drawing room, ballroom, concierge, charged laundry service, free WiFi. In rooms: TV with casting capabilities, mini larder, Melitta pour-over coffee system with local Ponaire coffee, tea-making kit, desk, bathrobes and slippers, air-conditioning, Memo Paris bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Honeymooners, sequester yourselves away in the Gate Lodge, which is decorated in shades of pink, has a private patio and sits away from the main house to give that little extra privacy. Or, if you’d like to be among the action, the blush-hued Main House Avenue Suite is rather swoonsome, with high ceilings and original cornicing, evocative artworks and a canopied bed. Families staying should book the School House (not quite as scholastic as the name suggests).
In the spa there’s a peaceful space with a 17-metre heated indoor-outdoor pool (with five alfresco metres). Large windows let you glimpse the garden and the iconic Rock as you run laps.
Take a cue from Ireland’s remarkably well-preserved bog bodies and submerge yourself in a peat mud bath, or one filled with hand-harvested Atlantic seaweed, or aromatic salts – they’ll all leave you looking refreshed. But the hotel spa has many ways to soothe, buff and beautify: perhaps a spiced mud wrap or sugar scrub, a gua sha facial, massage with basalt river stones? In three treatment rooms (plus one for couples), each with their own steam room, therapists apply luxurious products from Bamford, Voya and Skin by Olga; practice global knot-untying techniques (Japanese shiatsu, Swedish, Indian head massage); and scrub and smoothe. Or get steamy on a spin through the thermal suite of sauna, pool, Jacuzzi and experience showers.
As you might guess from the many grand pieces of equine artwork and statues of stallions, there’s a lot of horsing about to be had here, so bring your boots and breeches.
The Magniers also have a fine eye for art – copies of pieces from their collection (Lowrys, Laverys, Orpens, Jack Butler Yeats…) and some originals hang in heavy frames throughout.
Little ones are welcome here – don’t worry, most of the antiques and original artwork are above the reach of little grasping hands. Rooms fit at least a baby cot, and babysitting can be arranged on request.
Cashel Palace’s owners, the Magnier family, have done some fine necromancy in keeping this 18th-century residence near mint. Working with a local architect and craftspeople, and referencing vintage photos from the Laurence Collection, they pieced together how the house once looked and set about re-tiling the roof in traditional Bangor Blue slate, rebuilding four chimneys and rescuing pitch-pine timbers to reuse as beams in rooms. Its brick and limestone façades were both repointed, the basement’s flagstone floor was salvaged, wood panelling was repaired, and throughout original cornicing, fireplaces, windows and doors were gently restored. But, in reviving the past, they’re also safeguarding the future: all new builds have been designed to NZEB (Nearly Zero Energy Building) specs and are powered using renewable sources. Lighting is LED or photosensitive, heating is underfloor, and air-con is room-key controlled. An antique well discovered during refurbishment provides some of the water supply and the hotel has a Garbage Guzzler to compost waste. This is used to keep the kitchen gardens (part of the All Ireland Pollinator Programme) flourishing, and the hotel’s food sources (nearly all within the county borders) are a part of Origin Green, a sustainability initiative from Ireland’s food and horticulture agency. Greenhouse produce comes from the owners’ Coolmore Stud farm, and herbs and greens are grown in a hyper local, pesticide-free vertical farm in Ballyporeen, while an onsite hops garden nods to the hotel’s links with Guinness.
Cosy up by the crackling hearth in the Bishop’s Buttery, or take in the views of the mighty Rock of Cashel (and the 300-year-old mulberry trees) from the Queen Anne Room. When sunny, hit the garden terrace.
The hotel’s set in Ireland’s Golden Vale, which – aside from being as magical as it sounds – keeps the kitchen flush with the best of Irish produce. And Cashel Palace staff speak so glowingly about their local farms and growers that they might be reeling off a list of old friends. Some produce is grown onsite too, but provenance is a source of pride, so dishes such as Shepherd’s Store agnolotti with truffle, celeriac and hen of the woods; wild turbot with mussels and violet artichokes in a beurre blanc; and financiers filled with organic lemon curd and raspberries showcase the pick of the pastures. And, with vaulted ceilings, a flagstone floor and a huge fire-lit brick hearth, the dining room makes each meal feel like atmospheric occasion dining. For those who could eat a horse come morning (but don’t, the stallion-raising owners might be affronted), a two-tier breakfast (a cold spread of pastries breads, cheeses and more, followed by hearty choices of local meats, eggs and more) is served in the Queen Anne Room – a space of equine art, maroon-leather banquettes and swagged curtains with views of the garden’s twin 300-year-old mulberry trees and the Rock of Cashel. You can also take a genteel afternoon tea here, with silver teapots and finger sandwiches, scones and patisseries (Opera gateau, white-chocolate and pistachio sponge, carrot cake) served on fine bone china.
The Guinness Bar is no pandering nod to Ireland’s signature stout. The hotel played a vital role in the drink’s inception: Richard Guinness, land agent for the Archbishop Arthur Price (resident here from 1744 to 1752) used hops from the garden and water from the well to brew ale for Price and his guests; and using a bequest of £100 from the archbishop, his son Arthur went on to establish a very successful Dublin brewery… The rest is history, one embodied in this convivial bar, where you can order a pint of the black stuff with an air of authenticity. There’s more on tap too, plus local spirits (try a dram of the whiskey or a G&T from the Tipperary Boutique Distillery) to enjoy in a comfy armchair by the fire. And, for guests only, there’s an intimate cocktail bar where the barkeep will dream up something bespoke or you can sip fine wines, champagnes and more whiskey still.
At the Bishop’s Buttery, lunch is served from 12.30pm to 2.30pm (Thursday to Saturday) and dinner 6.30pm to 9.30pm (Tuesday to Saturday). Afternoon tea is served from 1pm to 3pm.
From 12 noon to 9pm, you can order salads, soda bread and sourdough sandwiches, local cheeses and decadent desserts.
Cashel Palace sits at the foot of Tipperary’s iconic Rock of Cashel, a landmark-swarmed seat of mediaeval religious power amid the Golden Vale (the county’s larder).
The closest airport to the hotel is in Cork, an hour’s drive away, which has good direct links across Europe. Shannon Airport is a 90-minute drive away but has more connections in Europe and direct routes to Boston and New York. And, Dublin, with its many international connections, is around a two-hour drive away.
Thurles train station (on the Dublin to Cork main line) is about a 20-minute drive from the hotel. From Dublin the journey’s just over an hour, so it’s not really that long a way to Tipperary.
A patchwork of pastures, Tipperary is largely country, and while the hotel is just off Cashel’s main street, you’ll want to explore more of the county, and a car’s the easiest way to get about. At the hotel, the Carriage House, Gate Lodge and School House each have a dedicated parking space, and guests staying in the Main House or Garden Wing can use the adjacent Buckley car park. Valet parking is offered to all guests, and if you drive up to the entrance on arrival staff will help with unloading luggage.
Worth getting out of bed for
The hotel might have a heavenly location in County Tipperary’s Golden Vale, but if you believe the legends, there’s some devilry at play. The hotel sits in prime position at the foot of Cashel Rock, an immensely impressive collection of mediaeval buildings set atop a soaring limestone outcrop. It was the high seat of Christianity in Ireland for six centuries, but was believed to have been formed when Satan took a bite out of aptly named northerly peak Devil’s Bit and spat it out to form Cashel Rock. Intriguing for sure, but it’s certainly a pious place with a Gothic cathedral, Romanesque chapel, Hall of the Vicars Choral, high cross and towers to explore. Luckily, the holy former residents of the palace had a private ‘Bishop’s Walk’ direct to the Rock, so guests can get on the fast track. Spend some time wandering the palace grounds too – the gardens, laid out by Edward Lovett Pearce a few centuries ago, are enchanting, with fountains and trim topiaries, wisteria-threaded pergolas, flowering parterres, lilac bushes and a copper-beech hedge that marks where the old city wall used to run. Hotel owners the Magniers made their fortune rearing thoroughbred horses, so equine pursuits are a serious business here. There’s even a dedicated equine concierge who can arrange Tipperary mountain trekking for riders of all abilities and lessons at the Crossogue Equestrian Centre; private tours of Fethard Horse Country Museum, to better understand horses’ cultural importance in Ireland, and the Magniers’ own Coolmore Stud Farm; or the Royal Racing package, where you’ll go behind the scenes at Ballydoyle Racing to visit the equine therapy centre and watch a trainer put the champions through their paces, stop for a picnic lunch, visit the Fethard Horse Country Museum, and then get up close with the stallions at Coolmore Stud before a visit to the restricted access Legacy Museum, filled with iconic memorabilia. But, you needn’t saddle up to experience Tipperary’s wealth of natural beauty and Celtic history – you could hike through the Glen of Aherlow; kayak, canoe, bike or hike the Suir Blueway; or take advantage of the hotel’s private six kilometres of river for fishing along the Suir and Aherlow waterways. Tour the grand residences of important families (Castlegarde Castle and Grenane and Lismacue houses), swing by Cahir and Ormonde castles and Holycross Abbey, then take a traditional pottery class at Rossa Pottery, one of Ireland’s oldest purveyors. And, get a true taste of Tipperary and its agricultural prowess on a range of food tours. Taste Cashel Blue cheeses at the creamery in Fethard, wildflower honey (and try your hand at beeswax candle-making) at Brookfield Farm, juicy windfalls and hedgerow berries at the Apple Farm, and whiskeys and gins at the Tipperary Boutique Distillery.
The fertile soil of County Tipperary has grown more than abundant crops and fed more than dairy cows – the region’s on-the-up restaurant scene lays the fat of the land on your table in restaurants that range from the cosy and traditional to Michelin courting. Mikey Ryan’s leans towards the former. Owned by Cashel Palace, it's so close it’s also serviced by the same antique well (which you can see in their ‘glass well’ private dining space). A century-old gastropub with sustainable sensibilities, it serves cranked-up comfort food: burgers oozing Derg cheddar, crispy chicken with chipotle beans, Cashel Blue and poached pear millefeuille. In a converted Victorian Gothic church just outside of town Chez Hans is a Michelin-recognised eatery where the menu maps out top produce – try steamed Kerry mussels in a sweet potato and coconut curry, Ballycotton monkfish with pine-nut purée, olive caramel and parmesan, and aged T-bone with deep-fried parsnips and onions cooked in malt extract with port sauce. And in Clonmel, Mani’s seasonal menu keeps your tastebuds on their toes, serving up scallops in a ginger, coconut and lemongrass broth; barbecued chicken with candied walnuts and orange in a yoghurt dressing; and a tiramisu-stuffed choux with rum-and-raisin ice-cream, coffee gel and chocolate sauce.
Over in Fethard, Dooks Fine Food is a café and deli, beautifully stocked with local artisan brands, where you can build a very gourmet picnic. Lunch on fat sausage rolls with a slick of mustard sour cream, imaginative salads and chicken and chilli focaccias; then stock up on chutneys, jams, hummus pots, cheese, Gubbeen charcuterie, breads and scones. Cookery classes are often held here too.
First established in the 17th century, welcoming boozer TJ Ryan’s is older than Cashel Palace and so has plenty of stories to tell – the locals will happily regale you as you sip away on a local whiskey in its trad scarlet-hued bar.