It’s all very well to say there are more than 30,000 castles in Ireland (we haven’t counted, but we’ll take the word of those that have) yet in which castle do you rest your head for a few nights of well-deserved rest and recreation? We are going to crunch down the extremely long list into a neater and more accessible ‘definitive’ collection. Some of the castles featured here are remote, some aren’t, but that depends on where you live, doesn’t it? Every single one of them, we can say with safety, are fabulous.
GLIN CASTLE, LIMERICK
So historically sound that its credentials are (much like it was back in the 14th century) impregnable, this august establishment stands harmoniously on 400 acres of woodland that sit right by the banks of the River Shannon. With more than 15 bedrooms, formal lawns, a walled kitchen garden and an onsite tennis court, you really won’t want to go anywhere outside its boundaries. Of all the castles on the island of Ireland, this one takes the proverbial biscuit, to which we can only say the following: you win, Glin!
Further details: www.glin-castle.com
BALLYSEEDE CASTLE, CO KERRY
If you want to step back in time (which right now sounds like a great idea), then why not to an elegant hotel that is immersed in history? This four-star lavish resting place is ideal for those that want the best but prefer to keep their bank balance above water. Between the two-star AA Rosette O’Connell Restaurant and the range of Castle Rooms, you are pampered, spoiled, comforted and cossetted like nothing else.
Further details: www.ballyseedecastle.com
CLONTARF CASTLE HOTEL, DUBLIN
What’s this? A 12th-century castle minutes away from Dublin’s city centre? A Condé Nast Readers’ Choice hotel, history is intrinsic to this property, parts of which date from 1172. Many hundreds of years later and Clontarf’s truly iconic landmark is equal measure heritage and hospitality. From attentive staff and coastal location to historical significance and unique atmosphere, this four-star is too often an overlooked gem.
Further details: www.clontarfcastle.ie
BALLYNAHINCH CASTLE, CO GALWAY
Located along the Wild Atlantic Way, and close to the destination towns of Roundstone and Clifden, Ballynahinch Castle has so much class and style it’s no wonder it is regarded as one of the most breath-taking places where you can rest your weary head and recharge your worn-out batteries. Did we mention a backdrop of the 12 Bens Mountain range? Or its award-winning Owenmore Restaurant and Fisherman’s Pub? Thought not.
Further details: www.ballynahinch-castle.com
CABRA CASTLE, CAVAN
Is this Ireland’s best kept castle secret? Located in the appropriately named town of Kingscourt, Cabra Castle’s history goes as far back as the 17th century. Fast forward to the past 30 years, and here we are right now: a genuinely refined castle hotel set on 100 acres of scenic parkland and manicured gardens, and also imbued with a high-quality level of old-world charm and Disney-like atmosphere. With over 100 bedrooms and six dream-come-true cottages, you can’t go wrong here. The fact that Cabra Castle also has a two-bay electric car charging station on site is a distinct environmental plus.
Further details: www.cabracastle.com
CASTLE LESLIE, CO MONAGHAN
What a terrific backstory this place has. What began over 20 years ago as an ambitious and impassioned restoration project is now one of Europe’s finest luxury destination hotels. With heaps of friendliness, acres of authenticity and a dash of eccentricity, Castle Leslie is a must. Seriously, if it’s good enough for a Beatle (Paul McCartney was married in the estate’s family church in 2002) then you need no further ‘help’ to decide to come here.
Further details: www.castleleslie.com
DROMOLAND CASTLE, CO CLARE
Just think: interior design that blends modernity with the very best and most expensive of what you might see cropping up on the Antiques Roadshow. Just imagine: a stately castle resting on a 450-acre site that wouldn’t look out of place in any of The Hobbit movies. In other words? Out. Of. This. World.
Further details: www.dromoland.ie
LUTTRELSTOWN CASTLE RESORT, CO DUBLIN
A high-end castle that dates back to the 15th century and only a heavy stone’s throw away from Dublin city centre? This estate property is true luxury, quality and opulence. The eyes don’t lie: with over 560 acres of verdant private parkland, a championship golf course, and what amounts to, no more and no less, a fairy tale castle, you’ll think your wishes have come true as soon as you see it.
Further details: www.luttrellstowncastle.com
LOUGH ESKE CASTLE, CO DONEGAL
Let the many boxes be ticked: Ireland’s Castle Wedding Venue of the Year 2020; listed in Condé Nast’s Top Ten Luxury Hotels in Ireland in 2018 and 2019; plush rooms, blissful spa and splendid restaurant. So it continues for this castle-with-a-history hotel that is as impressively accomplished as it is understated.
Further details: www.lougheskecastlehotel.com
BELLEEK CASTLE, CO MAYO
Authenticity seeps from the blocks here – the construction of the neo-Gothic Belleek Castle was completed in 1831, so it isn’t too far off from its 200th birthday. While we’re waiting for that, feast your eyes on one of Ireland’s most vivid castle properties: ten boutique bedrooms, period antiques and décor, Belleek Woods covering over 200 acres, and tours to get you acquainted with its amazing history.
Further details: www.beleekcastle.com
KILKEA CASTLE, KILDARE
Stretching your legs and resting your heads in one of Ireland’s oldest inhabited castles isn’t something you get to do every day, but Kilkea Castle is ready, willing and able to take care of that. Following an extensive refurbishment, the 140-bedroom property is the pitch-perfect place to surround yourself with the historical majesty of the genuine article. Factor in 180 acres of woodlands and gardens, as well as a panoramic golf course, and you won’t want to leave.
Further details: www.kilkeacastle.ie
ASHFORD CASTLE, CO MAYO
The list of awards this stunning property has nabbed over the past year alone is almost as long and impressive as the drive from its entrance to its front doors. Read them, other hoteliers, and be envious: National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World, Travel + Leisure’s No. 1 Resort Hotel UK/Ireland, and Ireland’s first Forbes Travel Guide five-star hotel. A recent full refurbishment is surely the biggest cherry on the sumptuous cake.
Further details: www.ashfordcastle.com
WRITTEN BY TONY CLAYTON-LEA