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If you’ve always wanted to step back in time and see what it might have been like to live in a castle, Ireland is one of the best places to do just that. The Emerald Isle is home to some of Europe’s top historic castles that have been transformed into luxurious hotels renowned for their warm Irish welcomes and beautiful surroundings, including these especially magnificent options.
Ballynahinch Castle Hotel, Connemara
This historic castle hotel boasts a beautiful riverfront location against the backdrop of the 12 Bens Mountain range in Connemara, surrounded by 450 acres of woodland. While the present structure was built in the 17th century, the original settlement goes back another two centuries, as the ancestral home of the “Ferocious O’Flaherty Clan.” All of its rooms are individually and tastefully appointed, offering an especially restful night’s sleep, especially when combined with the peaceful surroundings. Superior double rooms feature four-poster beds and a sitting area with a view of the river. There are numerous lakes and rivers nearby, offering miles of scenic walks, while the Ballynahinch Fishery is world-famous as one of the most outstanding sea-trout and salmon rivers in the country.
Dromoland Castle, Newmarket-on-Fergus
Dromoland Castle Hotel, AKA the “hotel of dreams,” dates back to the 5th century, though it was transformed into a hotel just a little more than a half-century ago. It’s the ancestral home of one of the few families of true Irish royalty, direct descendants of Brian Boru, High King of Ireland from 1002 to 1014. It remained in the ancestral ownership of the King until 1962 when it was renovated into a striking, high-end hotel. The moment you step onto the meticulously-groomed 375-acre estate, you’ll feel like royalty yourself. The façade and powerful towers, added in the 1830s, are reminiscent of knights and dragoons, while rooms feature elegant touches throughout. In addition to five-star accommodations, guests enjoy a wealth extensive selection of dining options with dishes frequently featuring fresh, locally sourced produce. There is also a spa, golf course, award-winning falconry school and activities like horse riding, fishing, clay shooting and archery.
Ashford Castle Hotel, Cong
This 5-star luxury hotel is set across a sprawling 350-acre estate that gazes onto the sparkling blue waters of Lough Corrib. Originally built in 1228, the castle has a luxurious spa and is noted for its upscale accommodations and wealth of active pursuits like horse riding, lake cruising, fishing, golf, archery and more. The elegant rooms and suites are all individually designed, some boasting claw foot bathtubs, open fireplaces and four-poster beds. While many of its original features were preserved, all include modern amenities like Wi-Fi and interactive televisions. Over the years, Ashford has hosted Brad Pitt, Ronald Regan and author Oscar Wilde.
Waterford Castle Hotel, Waterford City
Set on a private 310-acre island just two miles from Waterford City, Waterford Castle Hotel offers luxury, peace and tranquility. Accessible via a three-minute private vehicle ferry crossing, the castle is surrounded by woodlands and features an 18-hole championship golf course. An intimate hotel, it offers highly personalized service and plenty of privacy, given the property’s location. All of its elegant rooms and suites are spacious and include stunning views of the surrounding estate. Gorgeous antique furniture, original oak paneling and an Elizabethan Stone castle are found through the interior. Guests can also enjoy outdoor activities, including walks on the nature trails, archery, skeet shooting and more.
Kinnitty Castle Hotel, Kinnitty
Set against the backdrop of the impressive Slieve Bloom Mountains and in the only designated Environment Park in Ireland, Kinnitty Castle offers a fabulous location as an ideal stopping point for travels south or west, along with fine cuisine and access to a variety of fun activities. Archery, clay pigeon shooting and tennis can be enjoyed right on site, while horse riding and cycling trails are nearby. The early 13th-century castle features chic rooms, each retaining the original style with high ceilings paired with rich fabrics and period furniture that highlights the castle’s heritage. Every room is linked exclusively with someone from its historic past, making it especially popular with history buffs. Its restaurant, Sli Dala, offers a unique blend of modern Irish cuisine with European influences, while the candlelit Dungeon Bar offers loads of atmosphere for lively music sessions.
Cabra Castle Hotel, Kingscourt
Cabra Castle Hotel, just an hour’s drive from Dublin Airport in County Cavan, has a history that dates back to 1760, along with grand staircases and historic hallways. It’s set upon 100 acres of impressively manicured gardens and parkland deep in the countryside with a focus on “affordable luxury.” It mixes original character with modern comforts in a quiet location looking over the vast grounds and picturesque countryside. The castle also has its own 9-hole golf course with beautiful views of the castle, its gardens and glistening lakes. The Derby Bar, serving light snacks as well as entertainment on some nights, and a restaurant serving fresh, local food, are both right onsite.
Ballyseede Castle, Tralee
One of Ireland’s most renowned castles, Ballyseede is set in the heart of Kerry in the extreme southwest region of the country, surrounded by 30 acres of scenic woodland. Dating back to the late 16th century, it offers a true Irish castle hotel experience from the moment you step into its grand entrance via a broad flight of steps flanked by two lions. A warm welcome awaits from both staff and the resident Irish wolfhound, Arthur. Rooms are elegant and spacious, ranging from mini-suites to large family rooms, all with views of the castle grounds. You’ll find special touches throughout, including soft cotton robes and slippers, as well as four-poster beds in some rooms. Ballyseede, like many Irish castles, it’s said to have a resident ghost. Hilda, as she’s fondly known, reputedly makes an appearance on March 24th each year.
Lough Eske Castle, Donegal
This beautiful five-star luxury hotel sits at the edge of Lough Eske, near the fabled Blue Stack Mountains of Donegal surrounded by sprawling grounds and gardens. It has a rich history that dates back to the 15th century, associated with the O’Donnell Clan, the founding fathers of Donegal. Here you can escape to a secluded countryside retreat, while still being just a short drive from the city. You’ll enjoy plenty of pampering with a decadent spa set within the Victoria Glass House, which features a steam room, sauna, an infinity pool view garden views, and a fitness center. Rooms are tastefully decorated and spacious, as are the lavish bathrooms with soaking tubs. The restaurant features dishes using fresh, locally sourced ingredients, including seafood from nearby Killybegs.
Ballygally Castle Hotel, Ballygally
Located just 26 miles from Belfast on the Antrim coast, this is the only 17th-century structure that’s in use as a residence in Northern Ireland today. It overlooks the powdery soft sand beaches of Ballygally Bay and features spacious rooms with gorgeous, original beam ceilings and tasteful contemporary décor. The Antrim suite offers magnificent panoramic views, while the original period rooms are uniquely shaped by the castle’s imposing architecture. Set within the original walls of the castle, the Garden Restaurant offers delicious menus for lunch and dinner, with many items made using the best local produce. You won’t want to miss traditional Afternoon Tea either – enjoy the warmth of a roaring fire while sipping tea, sampling delectable pastries and watching the waves of the Irish Sea.
Ross Castle, County Meath
Ross Castle offers a very authentic medieval castle experience. Your hosts treat each guest as if they were a welcome friend or family member, serving tasty homemade breakfasts as well as dinners upon request, along with pleasant conversation. A stay in one of the tower rooms of this castle built in 1563 is sure to be an unforgettable one, though it may not ideal for doing much sleeping. Guests have been known to wake up at various times of the night hearing voices or doors shutting on their own. Some have even felt the presence of a spirit at the edge of their bed while trying to get some shuteye. This castle offers one of the best off-the-beaten-path experiences for the more adventurous.
Crom Castle, County Fermanagh
One of the most romantic Irish castles, here, you don’t just live like your royalty – you’ll live with them. Lord and Lady Erne, who have called this 1830 castle home for seven generations, has opened up the lavish estate to guests. Set along the shores of picturesque Lough Erne in the Lakeland’s of County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, it features six bedrooms, a mix of double, twins and four-poster beds as well as a sitting room with access to the terrace and Victorian Conservatory in the West Wing, which is separated from the private quarters of Lord and Lady Erne. In addition to luxurious accommodation, guests can explore the 1,900 acres of grounds as well as a lakeside tea house, boathouse and original plantation castle with an ancient yew under which Hugh O’Neill is reputed to have bidden farewell to his lady love just before the Flight of the Earls in 1607.
Adare Manor Hotel, Adare
This early 19th-century manor house is a five-star luxury hotel set across 840 acres in one of Ireland’s most charming villages, Adare. This former home of the Earl of Dunraven boasts its own challenging Robert Trent Jones designed golf course, home to the Irish Open in 2007 and 2008, as well as a world-class spa. Steeped in exotic history and surrounded by medieval ruins, guests can not only enjoy golf and fabulous spa treatments but also horse riding, archery and outstanding trout fishing right on the River Maigue. All of the manor house rooms are individually designed, many feature beautiful details that were added by Lord and Lady Dunraven in the 1800s. You’ll find original fireplaces, carved headboards and expansive bathrooms too.
Abbeyglen Castle Hotel, Clifden
Abbeyglen Castle Hotel is located in the heart of the beautiful Connemara region, set against the mountainous backdrop of the “Twelve Bens.” This small and wonderfully intimate castle offers gorgeous views overlooking the picturesque town of Clifden and is renowned for its luxurious accommodation with rooms that include four poster beds, Jacuzzis and fireplaces as well as an award-winning restaurant featuring outstanding local seafood and Connemara lamb. Enjoy a champagne reception along with a brief history of the castle upon arrival, and after a fabulous dinner you can head to the Piano bar for a fun, music-filled evening. The incredibly warm and friendly staff will ensure your stay is unforgettable from the start.