Cocktail bars, infinity pools and ancient pagan statues... history lovers take note, there’s more to a castle stay in Ireland than meets the eye
Ashford Castle, County Mayo
1 Ashford Castle, County Mayo
When it comes to castles,
Ashford is a superstar. Originally built in the 13th century, and once owned by the Guinness brewing family, it’s become a byword for five-star luxury since it opened its doors to guests in 1939. How many castles offer you a classy billiards room where you can drink your cocktails, or a private cinema with daily movie showings? No surprise then that Ashford has countless awards and accolades under its belt, including Best Resort Hotel in Europe from Condé Nast Traveler.
Tear yourself away from the opulent interior, and you'll find an outdoor playground fit for royalty. Here, your biggest problem is going to be choosing whether to spend your afternoon practicing archery or trying out the ancient art of falconry. Our advice? Try everything. But make sure you take the time to explore Ashford's 350 acres of ancient woodlands. If you're feeling brave, you can take to the treetops for a ziplining adventure you'll never forget.
Crom Castle, County Fermanagh
2 Crom Castle, County Fermanagh
Part of the thrill of staying in a castle is playing the aristocrat. And at
Crom Castle, you won’t just be living like a lord or lady, you’ll be living right next door to them. The Earls of Erne have called Crom home for generations, and the 7th Earl has opened up the West Wing of the family home to visitors looking for a taste of old-world elegance.
Of course, you’re staying in a lakeside castle, so a boat trip is a must. Crom is right on the shores of Lough Erne, known for its many tiny forested islands. Once you're back on dry land again, you can explore the stunning parkland, discover the ruins of the original Crom Castle and marvel at the two ancient, gnarled yew trees, said to be the oldest in Ireland. That’s what we call a classic Crom Castle day.
Lough Eske Castle, County Donegal
3 Lough Eske Castle, County Donegal
Fairytale turrets? Check. Magical woodlands? Check. Everything a proper castle hotel should be,
Lough Eske delivers… and then some. Since opening its doors as a five-star hotel in 2007, this Donegal gem has collected accolades by the bucket load, including the World’s Best Luxury Country Hotel five years running.
You're in one of the most stunning parts of the island here, so we suggest you go exploring. Hire a classic car and take in the spellbinding beauty of the
Glenveagh National Park or the towering Slieve League Cliffs. When you're done, the spa at Lough Eske will be waiting to lull you into oblivion with its infinity pools, tropical showers and decadent luxury.
Clomantagh Castle, County Kilkenny
4 Clomantagh Castle, County Kilkenny
Tucked away in the heart of Ireland's Ancient East,
Clomantagh Castle is an intriguing jumble of styles. Part medieval tower house, part 19th century farmhouse, the building also boasts a Sheela-na-Gig (an ancient pagan fertility symbol) carved into one of the stones.
In its time, Clomantagh's been owned by everyone from a ne’er-do-well aristocrat (yes, we're looking at you, Piers Butler, 8th Earl of Ormond) to the local vet. Now, it's safely in the hands of the Irish Landmark Trust but it's available for hire for any wannabe kings or queens of the castle.
Ballygally Castle, County Antrim
5 Ballygally Castle, County Antrim
We have to admit, we love a castle that really gets in the spirit of things and
Ballygally Castle Hotel embraces its Game of Thrones'® connections with gusto. Fortify yourself with a Game of Thrones® afternoon tea (the Jon Snow cakes are particularly good) and admire the intricate carvings on the Game of Thrones® Door, before setting off to discover the real-life Westeros. When your quest is complete, Ballygally awaits – your very own 17th century fortress by the sea. Just a word of warning – you won't be alone.
After all, Ballygally is rumored to be one of the most haunted places in Ireland, where the ghosts of former residents Lady Isobel Shaw (the 'friendly ghost') and Madame Nixon regularly appear to unsuspecting guests. Visit the Ghost Room in one of castle's turrets, if you dare. Just don't say we didn't warn you...
Ballynahinch Castle, County Galway
6 Ballynahinch Castle, County Galway
Every castle needs a great backstory. Take
Ballynahinch Castle. In its time, it’s been home to the "Ferocious O’Flaherty Clan", the notorious Pirate Queen, Grace O’Malley, founding member of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Richard Martin, and Prince Ranjitsinhji of Nawanager in India, the "Cricketing Maharajah of Connemara".
These days, Ballynahinch is better known for its fly fishing and hiking than for its infamous residents. Nestled in the heart of a 450-acre estate in Connemara, it’s the ultimate country getaway and an ideal place to leave the modern world behind for a little while.