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Hotel Doolin
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Reviewed 4 June 2008

For us, Doolin has always been the quintessential B&B/backpacker destination and over the years we've tended to frequent the same little B&B on the edge of the village. But when we took advantage of promotional rates from our insurance company loyalty scheme and booked the Hotel Doolin for the June Bank Holiday weekend, it somehow felt wrong..... But we unashamedly adjusted to a more refined Doolin experience with very little difficulty!

When we arrived at the Hotel Doolin after a long, hot and sometimes frustrating drive from Dublin, the cool, airy lobby seemed very welcoming. It's high, vaulted glazed roof flooded the area with light and the browns, greens and greys of its stylish, modern decor and furniture seemed to echo the natural colours of the Burren outside. Check in was straightforward and the black-clad receptionist (all-black uniforms seem to be the current de rigeur for the staff of 'boutique' hotels) was efficient and friendly. We were informed that the lift/elevator was not working but as our room was on the first floor and we were only carrying weekend luggage, this wasn't a problem for us.

Our bedroom was large and bright. It contained an extremely comfortable kingsized bed as well as a substantial single. Decor was crisp and modern in tones of dark brown, cream, beige and deep pink, with textured design touches on bed headboards and lamps. There was a flat screen TV and tea/coffee making facilities, as well as plenty of wardrobe space. The bathroom was a good size and had the fastest filling bath I've ever seen! But oh the noise of the plumbing! The decibels generated by the emptying bath tub would probably require ear defenders under health and safety legislation. Late night soaks are definitely off the menu unless you want to wake everyone in Doolin who has actually made it to bed. Also, the plumbing gave off a constant high pitched whistle which invaded my sleep on the first night. After that I seemed to attune to the whine and not notice it so much.

We wondered how a new hotel would fit into the landscape of Doolin and the Hotel Doolin has managed it very well by creating a structure which internally functions as a unified building but from the street looks like a series of seperate shop fronts representing the different areas and facilities of the hotel. The hotel entrance is followed by a small jeweller's shop (really affordable and lovely silver pieces - succumbed to a silver and amber necklace), then Cafe Sonas open till late and selling coffee, snacks and pizzas, followed by an unstaffed tourism office with lots of literature on display, an online information point and Internet access, followed by the South Sound restaurant, and finally at the end of the street terrace, a pub called Fitpatrick's. The hotel only has 17 rooms (it was full the weekend we were there) but all of the facilities were busy and seemed to attract diners and drinkers staying at other estabishments (the pizza cafe was certainly popular on Sunday evening).

As there was one evening meal included in our package, we decided to eat in the South Sound restaurant on Saturday evening. When we sat down at about 8pm, this medium sized and intimate restaurant which is screened from the corridor by attractive wood and etched glass panels was about half full. We were offered a table d'hote menu which had a good level of choice. For starters we had a duck salad and a seafood chowder, both of which were very good. For mains we went for sirloin beef and salmon. My partner was expecting slices of roast beef but was delighted with the large pieces of medium rare (as ordered) steak-style beef which arrived on a bed of parnsnip mash. My salmon was huge and delicately flavoured, served with a julienne of vegetables. Other vegetables included a dish of glazed carrots, baby corn and mangetout and a dish of jacket-on friend potatoes. As we couldn't possibly eat another thing, we were happy to pass on desserts but those being served to our fellow diners who were indulging looked extremely tempting. We drank our coffee as the evening sunlight poured through the etched glass partitions to fill the room with diffused light. We also drank a jug of tapwater and a bottle of Australian Stonefish Shiraz at €19.95. Service was excellent - our orders were taken without delay, our waitress was attentive and friendly and there was just enough of an interval between courses.

Before dinner we had checked out Fitzgerald's bar in the hotel and it was all but deserted. Having dined, we repaired to McGann's for what turned out to be an unusually lacklustre music session. When we returned to the hotel after the music had ended and decided to head to the bar for a nightcap, we found the joint was absolutely jumpin'! It was packed and one man and his guitar had everyone singing and dancing. Not necessarily great trad music but enormous fun! We ended up staying until the bitter end.

Breakfast on Sunday morning was a fairly chaotic affair, despite the fact there were only a few tables occuped when we arrived in the South Sound restaurant. On the cold buffet table stood empty carafes of what had been freshly squeezed orange juice and an almost empty dish of fresh fruit salad (along with the usual cereals, a good range of fruit juices and excellent baked goods). As I wanted some of both, I had to ask if they could be replenished and this was quickly taken care of. We had to wait a bit before our order was taken and then quite a long time before our cooked breakfast were served. As we watched a number of guests who had arrived and ordered after us being served with the same cooked breakfasts we had ordered, we realised that we had been forgotten. My partner saw the waitress noticing our empty table with alarm and our delicious breakfasts soon arrived, but without any apology for the delay. Breakfast on Monday with different staff was an entirely different experience (although once we had sat down we had to finish setting our table with missing items purloined from neighbouring unoccupied tables). I ordered a platter of smoked salmon, cheese and cold meats. The plate was laden with all kinds of delicious offerings, including a small mountain of melt in the mouth smoked salmon. Very enjoyable and a less leaden start to the day than the full Irish breakfast, scrumptious though it is.

Having eaten a large, late seafood lunch in New Quay on Sunday afternoon we were only wanted a light bite on Sunday evening. We first looked into a packed Fitzgerald's where there was a barbecue in full swing, So we decided to head for the Sonas Cafe around 7.30pm for a quick snack. The small cafe was absolutely packed, mainly with families. We managed to grab a table outside on the pavement and my partner went in to order a pizza for us to share. He emerged hot, bothered and frustrated a full 30 minutes later. While the chef was working flat out, the waitress seemed to have totally lost control of the situation and was acting like a disinterested bystander. People were starting to complain about the delays, especially for take away food, and some were being given the wrong orders. When some time later the waitress wandered about trying to find a home for a pizza no-one appeared to have ordered we just took it. We couldn't care less if it wasn't what we ordered - we just wanted eat something and go. The pizza itself was fine but the whole experience was pretty frustrating.

We left mid morning on Monday. Checkout was straightforward and efficient and the bill was pretty painless. Our promotional rate meant our total bill for two nights bed and breakfast and one evening meal for both of us, excluding drinks and tips, was €198. We would have easily paid €160 in the village for a fairly ordinary B&B so it was fantastic value.

The Hotel Doolin is nearly there and we will definitely make a return visit at a less busy time but they do need to work on their service. To be fair it was a very busy weekend in Doolin and some of the pressure on their services and facilities came from customers who were not hotel residents in a village where there are not a lot of informal eating options. The staff were all so friendly and good natured, that it seemed like nit picking to complain about the hiccups. When the hairdryer in our room suddenly packed up on Saturday evening, the reception staff sorted it out immediately for us. I like friendly, bumbling hotels and I'm not impressed by corporate slickness but neither appear to be the niche the Hotel Doolin seems to be trying to create for itself. So smarten up the service (take a lead from the staff in the South Sound restaurant on Saturday evening who were perfect) , get the plumbers in as soon as you can, and we'll probably never darken the doors of a Doolin B&B again!

  • Stayed: June 2008, travelled as a couple
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Thank Carrsmill
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 2 May 2008

The Hotel interior design is quite nice but we stayed there for four nights and had some things to complain about:
1) no warm welcome but a receptionist with mechanical phrases, speaking in stereotypes. Since the arrival is a very crucial and sensitive moment, this was no good intro to our stay
2) the music in the restaurant where breakfast and dinner is served was just absurdly awful: the title theme ( a "Sirtaki") from "The Last Greek" and classic hits like "Yesterday" on a Pan Flute! We heard that special mix of ear torture every day. Mornings and evenings!!
3) the staff showed little to no interest and did not provide a nice hospitality
Compared to the other hotels we stayed in, the Doolin Hotel was the least recommendable experience :-(

  • Stayed: April 2008, travelled with friends
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2  Thank MissGeorge
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 22 January 2008

I stayed in Hotel Doolin for one night in December 07. While the hotel is nice and new we had big problems trying to get the hotel staff to keep the heating on in the room. We requested this 3 times directly at reception and each time they were turning it off. Last time it was requested at 4am after waking up because the room was freezing. Unacceptable for a hotel of this level. It should be the customer's choice if they want to leave the heating on or off after the room was paid.
It showed utter disregard towards customer's needs and it is highly unlikely I will stay there again.

  • Stayed: December 2007, travelled with family
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4  Thank Dylanesque
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 11 January 2008

my wife and i stayed here for a night. the hotel was new and clean. Great rooms with all the modern ammenities. as with most hotels in ireland and the uk it came with breakfast. check out mcdiarmids pub up the road for a great time.

  • Stayed: October 2007, travelled as a couple
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Thank tybo
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 3 November 2007

Very pretty hotel in beautiful surroundings, but not worthy of 4 stars.

Rooms are clean and comfortable. Was surprised at the lack of amenities one might expect from a 4 star hotel - no satellite/cable TV, no internet connection, no laundry services, no leisure center.

Breakfast in the restaurant was average - nothing stood out as being special - no "4 star" touch.

We ate dinner in Fitz's Pub one evening - my penne pasta dish was delicious!!!, unfortunately my husband's curry dish was bland and tastless. Also unfortunate that night was the band booked to play - quite frankly they were awful and pretty much cleared the pub. Luckily we remembered the receptionist's recommendation of Gus O'Connor's just up the road - we happened upon a lively wonderful session of music there and dined there the next evening as well. Great food and atmosphere - not to be missed when visiting Doolin!!!

Staff were all very friendly and accomodating. The young American (Canadian?) receptionist on duty when we checked in was so very helpful with securing ferry bookings for us and was a wealth of information as to what to see and do in the area.

Nice hotel.

  • Stayed: August 2007, travelled as a couple
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1  Thank Josie64
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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