Ashford Castle, County Mayo 1 Ashford Castle, County Mayo Ashford is one of Ireland’s superstar castles and rightly so. Originally built in the 13th century, and once owned by the Guinness brewing family, it’s become a global icon of luxury accommodation. This five-star hotel has won countless awards and accolades since it opened its doors to guests in 1915, including Best Hotel in the World from The Huffington Post. Besides its opulent interior, the estate is a vision during autumn and winter when its magnificent ancient woodlands explode with colour. We suggest long walks in the crisp air, maybe a round of golf on the 9-hole course (which used to be the deer park) and even a cruise on the estate’s lake. Then it's time to retreat back to your fortress for a sumptuous afternoon tea. Crom Castle, County Fermanagh 2 Crom Castle, County Fermanagh At Crom Castle, you don’t just live like aristocracy; you’ll live with them. It's all thanks to Lord and Lady Erne, whose family has called Crom home for seven generations. They've opened up the West Wing of the family home to visitors and you can rent it for a week or a long weekend. With its enviable location on the picturesque Lough Erne at the heart of Fermanagh’s Lakelands, Crom Castle is a northern delight. Stroll around the rolling parkland to the romantic ruins of Crom Old Castle, scene of many past battles, or just curl up in the drawing room with a good book. Ballynahinch Castle, County Galway 3 Ballynahinch Castle, County Galway Nestled in the heart of a 450-acre estate in Connemara, Ballynahinch Castle's infamous history just adds to the allure of this stunning County Galway gem. The present house was built in the 17th century, but the original settlement goes back another 200 years when it was the ancestral home of the ‘Ferocious O’Flaherty Clan’. They became even more feared when Donal O’ Flaherty acquired a wife in 1546 – the notorious Pirate Queen, Grace O’Malley. Nowadays, Ballynahinch is much more civilized prospect. Guests are greeted by a welcoming log fire in the reception hall, food is locally sourced and lovingly prepared, and expert guides are available to advise on the best fly fishing spots and walking trails. 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. Lough Eske Castle, County Donegal 5 Lough Eske Castle, County Donegal With its collection of tall turrets and magical woodlands Lough Eske Castle is bursting with fairytale credentials. It has, of course, been renovated and upgraded since the original build around 1474 but Eske remains an important historical site. Entering the castle, you’ll be greeted by an intricately carved oak staircase, gleaming marble floors, roaring fires and sheer opulence. The fairytale fantasy continues right up to the fine dining and accommodation. And if you can tear yourself away from the luxurious interior, County Donegal is a walker’s paradise, and there’s no better route than the International Appalachian Trail, which passes right by the castle. Ballygally Castle, County Antrim 6 Ballygally Castle, County Antrim They say that location is everything, and in that case, Ballygally Castle Hotel has it all. This turreted treasure has been standing guard over the spellbinding Causeway Coastal Route since the 17th century. Rumored to be one of the most haunted places on the entire island, Ballygally boasts more than one spectre, including former residents Lady Isobel Shaw and Madame Nixon. If you're brave enough, you can visit the Ghost Room in one of the turrets. But if you're looking for a more relaxed stay, just enjoy the spectacular views and the hotel's famous afternoon teas, the perfect way to relax after a busy morning of sightseeing. Take it further Ireland's Ancient EastThe Historic Heartlands - explore medieval castles, distilleries and Mesolithic hunting grounds. Ireland's gardensGet lost amongst the greenery with these nine beautiful gardens in Ireland. The 'Big House': 7 of the bestIreland’s story can be told through our “Big Houses”, where beauty and history combine in stunning natural settings.