Want to stay in a fairytale castle in Ireland?

Kilcoe Castle, home to Jeremy Irons
Kilcoe Castle, home to Jeremy Irons

Ridiculously decadent and wickedly corrupt, Rogrigo Borgia is one of the best love-to-hate-him characters of all time. As season three of The Borgias is about to hit our screens, we look at where Oscar winner Jeremy Irons likes to spend his time when he’s not dominating Renaissance Italy

A screen legend

Thirty-plus years after wowing audiences as Charles Ryder in Brideshead Revisited, Jeremy Irons has reached the social pinnacle – at least in terms of his characters’ pomp – sweeping back onto TV screens on 14 April in the third series of The Borgias.

Irons plays Rodrigo Borgia, a gloriously immoral patriarch with even nastier offspring, who schemed his way to become Pope Alexander. Ruthless isn’t the word: the Renaissance clan is billed as “the original crime family” in Neil Jordan’s account. 

The Borgias’ settings are sumptuous (the series is shot just outside Budapest, an understandable shift from Rome given the scale of the production) and Jeremy Irons looks right at home, whether striding through palazzi or lying ill in a bed the size of a football pitch.

For a chap whose roles have included that of super-wealthy socialite Claus von Bülow (Reversal of Fortune), which earned him an Oscar, he looks as if he were to the manner born. So to hear that Irons owns an actual real-life 15th-century castle somehow doesn’t come as a surprise.

A spiritual connection with Ireland     

When he took part in Who Do You Think You Are? a few years back, Irons revealed an almost spiritual love for Ireland. In 1998 he and his wife Sinead Cusack bought a ruin – 15th-century Kilcoe Castle near Ballydehob in West Cork.

The couple painstakingly restored it, and now its peach-painted walls (a controversial choice at the time, but actually very lovely) stand guard over the countryside. Its higgledy staircases, enormous sitting room and open fires make a surprisingly cosy family home. 

How to star in your own fairytale

If living in a castle sounds like fun but you’re not in the mood to undertake a restoration project that, in Irons’s own words, “only a fool would do. Someone with more money than sense,” then how about renting one for a week?

The lovely 17th-century Ballinlough Castle in Meath is a mere 50-minute drive from Dublin. The Nugent family has lived in the house for 400 years, but move aside for guests, which gives the place a friendly, relaxed air. Think long walks, open fires, gorgeous grounds and pretty, airy, comfy furnishings.

 Or step into the pages of Jane Austen

The combination of history and family life is also part of the magic of Drenagh House near Limavady in County Londonderry. Not strictly a castle, it’s one of Ireland’s finest late Georgian houses, set in vast parkland, offering four-poster beds, claw-footed baths and views of the Sperrins.

It has self-catering apartments in the clocktower, which can sleep four or eight, if you don’t want to rent the whole thing. Either way, it’s like living in a Jane Austen novel; you expect Mr Darcy to pop up at any moment.

And that’s what a holiday should give you: a total escape, and a chance to dream. What kind of life style do you dream of?