Five years ago Dromoland and its sister property, Castlemartyr Resort, formed an environmental action team to target waste, energy and water management. Guests might not realize the hotels are now using non-toxic cleaning supplies, paraben- and sulfate-free guest toiletries, low-energy light bulbs and water-saving fixtures, but I was startled to find a brown paper Recycling Bag in my Castlemartyr marble bathroom. The set-up was a far cry from the familiar plea to hang up used bath towels.
At both resorts improved recycling and waste management have saved eye-popping amounts of landfill (10 tons), carbon emissions (1,200 tons), and greenhouse gases (500 tons every year). These projects helped the hotels reach their carbon neutral goal in 2011 and win several prestigious Green Hospitality Awards, a national effort funded by the Irish Environmental Protection Agency.
It’s no surprise that local sourcing is virtually a mantra throughout the resorts. At Dromoland’s spa I arrived for my “Pamper Me Please” appointment, and even before the full body exfoliation, my therapist explained that the spa uses only seaweed-based certified organic products that are hand harvested on Ireland’s west coast by Voya, an Irish company.
Chef McCann, who was classically trained in French cooking, is particularly passionate about the kitchen. “It’s very important that we use local producers and products,” he said. “We have the best beef and lamb in the world, Burren lamb; seafood from the Atlantic — lobster, turbot, brill — all of it sourced locally and available locally. Vegetables, herbs from the Royal Garden. Whatever the garden grows I’ll use.” What it doesn’t, he encourages local farmers to supply.
At Castlemartyr, an 18th-century manor house near Cork on the southern Irish coast, a major draw is its unique golf course. In 2007, when the hotel converted a former boys’ school to a high-end resort, of course they planned a course. In Ireland, a resort without golf is like coffee without Irish whiskey.
Castlemartyr chose a links-style model (true links are surrounded on three sides by water) to give guests an alternative to the more familiar manicured parkland courses in the area. Ron Kirby, the course designer, contoured the flat pastureland into typical dunes with hundreds of gorse plants, and covered the newly formed lows and hillocks with native grasses.
The links-style course was superbly suited to the sustainable philosophy Castlemartyr was embracing. The hillocks drain into the fairways, which aren’t watered at all; the pest-tolerant, low-maintenance fescue grass needs less fertilizer and water.
If you’re not a golfer, the way to see the course, and the whole estate, is with Castlemartyr’s carriage man, Roy Daily, in a cart pulled by a pair of his Kerry bog ponies. He’ll take you along the course where you might see groundskeepers propagating the existing gorse or planting indigenous saplings to create more woodlands, attracting more animals and birds. Castlemartyr has found that protecting wildlife habitats is not only good land management, it keeps the 220-acre estate lush and leafy for guests as they go hiking, clay shooting, fly casting and fishing.
The trap ride turns into an historical tour as the ponies trot past Castlemartyr’s formal gardens and elaborately patterned hedges designed by the great landscape architect, Lancelot “Capability” Brown, and through the property’s 800-year-old castle ruins that, Roy points out, Oliver Cromwell shelled during the 17th century Cromwellian Wars.
Both Castlemartyr and Dromoland have ambitious green plans in the pipeline. Pretty soon, electric golf carts may be plying the courses and solar panels heating the bath water.
How nice that living well at Irish castles is also living green.