Sleeping off in a castle
It’s pretty safe to assume that as a child you had dreams of one day living in and owning your own castle (thanks, Disney). Although we may have grown out of our illusions of being royalty ourselves, there’s still a level of intrigue that comes with sleeping inside a place with so much history. While the world is home to many of these medieval estates, a great place to find castles-turned-hotels is Ireland. Its castles dot the countryside and sit as beautiful reminders of the island’s past. If you’re ready for your Cinderella moment, here are five castle hotels to book in The Emerald Isle:
Waterford’s history dates back to the sixth century, but it wasn’t until 1987 that the castle was opened up to the public. Situated on its own private Island on the River Suir, the now four-star resort (picture above) can only be reached by ferry (a notably charming way to arrive). It is home to 19 guestrooms and five suites on its private 310-acre property. Each suite features a living room, marble fireplace, four poster beds and elegant furnishings. Among its dining options is The Munster Room which was awarded two AA rosettes in 2001, and has continued to do so year after year. The island boasts an 18-hole Championship Golf Course, clay pigeon shooting, tennis courts and a Kids Island Fiesta Club.
One of Ireland’s most luxurious five-star hotels, Ashford Castle was built in the 11th century on 350 acres. In 1915, the castle was turned into a resort, and over the years was restored to its original splendor. The hotel’s 83 guestrooms, suites and the Lakeside Cottage have all gone through an extensive refurbishment and include antique furniture, individually-designed décor, bespoke beds and custom designed carpets. Ashford’s bragging rights also include being home to the country’s first school of falconry. Last year, the castle was named Travel + Leisure’s No. 3 Best Hotel in the World and voted Hotel of the Year by Virtuoso.
Dromoland Castle is one the most famous baronial castles in Ireland and one of the few estates that can trace its history back to Gaelic Irish families from royal heritages. Built in the ninth century, the castle was the ancestral home of the O’Briens, Barons of Inchiquin, and after years of ownership, Lord Inchiquin sold the estate to an American industrialist in 1962. The castle then underwent major renovations and was transformed into a luxury hotel but still maintains much of the feel of its past self. Dromoland includes 100 guestrooms and suites and offers an 18-hole championship golf course, spa facilities, falconry, archery, boating, mountain biking and clay pigeon shooting. Among its visitors have been President Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, President Nelson Mandela, President George W. Bush, Mohammad Ali and The Beatles.
The original Cabra Castle dates back to 1699, and its main building was destroyed during the Cromwellian War, leaving only its adjacent courtyard intact. In 1964, the Brennan Family bought Cabra and rebuilt the structure and converted it into a 22-room, four-star hotel. Sitting on 100 acres of parkland and garden, the 19th century castle is decorated with period furnishing and rich color schemes, exuding a distinctly-royal air. From medieval castle rooms to artisan-style courtyard suites, guestrooms vary in size and décor, but offer the same Old World elegance. Most notably, the castle is considered one of the most romantic spots for a fairy tale wedding.
The Crom Estate has been the historic seat of the Earls of Erne for over 350 years and still remains so today. Which means guests staying in the castle are living side-by-side with actual aristocracy. Although only the West Wing is open to the public, travelers may find themselves mingling with lords and ladies during their visit. Located on Lough Erne, Crom Castle was built in 1830 and sits on 1.900 acres of land. The West Wing is the current home of Lord Erne’s son Viscount Crichton, and therefore feels more like a personal residence than a hotel. The wing has only six rooms and is available for groups of up to 12 people. But don’t expect to find much in the way of amenities here, the grounds hold a conservatory (available for events and weddings), a dining room and reception rooms. Other than that, you’ll need to find your entertainment off property.