A castle is defined as a large building typically fortified with high walls and soaring towers, but the word has come to mean much more. The abodes of nobility and the settings of countless enchanting legends, castles are ensconced in our culture as romantic icons of a time gone by.
Ireland is a fertile setting for such romancing, a nation whose rich history is only outdone by its verdant countryside. Immersing yourself in the elegance of castle living is an easy way to surrender your imagination to the charm of a historical lifestyle, even if only for a few days. Here is a selection of inspiring Irish castle hotels to whet your appetite.
Abbeyglen Castle, County Galway
Nestled on the aptly named Sky Road amongst the emerald greenery of Galway, Abbeyglen Castle has stayed true to its 19th century roots while welcoming facility upgrades that make it a perfect combination of hotel and historical landmark. Rooms are appointed with a quaint charm, each space boasting a distinctive character.
There’s a Wellness and Relaxation Centre on site, as well as a restaurant that is famous for its fresh seafood offerings. Stunning views of the Twelve Bens range are a fitting backdrop to your complimentary afternoon tea and scones, which are topped off by a glass of champagne and a chat about the region’s historical background with proprietor Brian.
Ballyseede Castle, County Kerry
A distinguished Irish wolfhound named Higgins will greet you at the door of this handsome fortress. Sweep up the broad steps flanked by statues of lions and continue on to your room, tastefully furnished in a manner befitting a castle.
The castle is ideally situated for day touring around the Ring of Kerry or the Dingle Peninsular, but you may prefer a stroll through the 30 acre estate or curling up with a book by the library fireplace. Dating back to 1590, Ballyseede Castle is rife with historical stories, including tales of a friendly ghost named Hilda.
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Ballynahinch Castle, County Galway
You could spend your entire stay within the wild beauty of the Ballynahinch Castle grounds and never want for amusement. Scenic river walks, fly fishing tutorials, tennis courts and breathtaking cycling routes are at your disposal, only slightly more tempting than simply relaxing in the tranquillity of a luxurious 18th century estate.
The onsite Owenmore Restaurant offers elegant yet unpretentious dining, with locally sourced dishes served up against beautiful views. The Fishermans Pub is a great place to while away an afternoon, with its open log fires and local staff who are always ready for a chat.
Cabra Castle, County Cavan
The original Cabra Castle was destroyed in the Cromwellian war, and the current Cabra Castle was constructed in the early 1800s. The ruins of its 17th century predecessor can still be seen near the Wishing Well, a centuries-old holy well in nearby Dun an Ri Forest Park.
The stately rooms and gorgeous common areas have an enchanting old world charm, enhanced further by a legend of star crossed lovers who allegedly haunt the halls to this day. Nearby attractions include the World Heritage listed Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth, tombs that pre-date Stonehenge and the Pyramids of Giza.
Lough Rynn Castle, County Leitrim
Lough Rynn Castle was the ancestral home of the notorious William Sydney Clements and sits amidst 350 acres of luscious greenery, ancient forests and historical landmarks. The sculptured gardens sweep down to meet the shores of Lough Rynn, ensuring a marvellous setting for this manor house castle.
Dinner at the award-winning Sandstone Restaurant is a must, with an attentive level of silver service that is the ideal accompaniment to a menu brimming with local produce. The sumptuous John McGahern library offers an excellent selection of Irish literature, and if you are musically inclined you are welcome to play the castle’s grand piano while enjoying views over the exquisite Victorian Garden.
From the historical to the luxurious, an Irish castle stay offers a journey through to the past with all the conveniences of the modern day. Don’t miss a chance to star in your own fairytale.