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There are literally thousands of castles and ruined manor homes sitting regally in the lush green countryside of the Emerald Isle and all it takes is a visit to one to set off daydreams of living it up like a royal. Luckily, some of these noble estates have been converted into luxurious hotels that turn centuries-old towers and turrets into rentable rooms fit for a king.
Ireland’s best castle hotels might look like they came to life right out of the pages of a fairytale, but these exceptional hotels take into account every modern comfort. Ready for the royal treatment? Pack your bags for an unforgettable stay at one of the top 10 castle hotels in Ireland:
Ballynahinch Castle Hotel
There are few castle hotels in Ireland as truly perfect as Ballynahinch Castle in Co. Galway. The stone mansion is set on the shores of the Owenmore River and has more than 700 acres of private wilderness to explore in the Connemara countryside. In fact, Ballynahinch (or Baile na hlnse, in Irish) means "household of the Island." The current structure was first built in the 1700s by the Martin family and served as an inn and later as a private home. In the early 1900s, the property was bought by an Indian Prince and cricket superstar, who expanded the gardens and built many of the fishing piers along the lake and river. The wild setting makes it an ideal hotel for outdoor lovers but it also offers lavish rooms that are so comfortable you may not want to ever step foot out the door. The 5-star hotel also boasts a fine dining restaurant with terraces overlooking its celebrated salmon river.
After undergoing a complete renovation in 2018, Dromoland Castle in Newmarket-on-Fergus, County Clare is arguably more glorious than it was when it was first built as a lavish retreat in the 16th century. The careful restoration was done in partnership with a historical society to ensure that the most authentic features were preserved while the guest rooms were completely modernized and filled with Made in Ireland touches ranging from local linens to Celtic artwork. Stay and take a dip in the indoor pool, play a round of golf, or head to the on-site spa for a bit of pampering and you’ll be in good company – past famous guests include Former President Bill Clinton, Bono, Muhammad Ali and John Travolta. Dine in their signature restaurant, Earl of Thomond, or sit fireside for afternoon tea.
For a truly indulgent stay and a taste of how high society once lived in the green hills of western Ireland, book a stay at Ashford Castle. Complete with turrets, towers and an enchanting gatehouse, the 13th-century castle has been reborn as one of Ireland’s most beloved 5-star hotels. Sitting along the banks of Lough Corrib, the stone castle was once owned by the Guinness family and looks like a storybook setting come to life. Its regal ivy-draped exterior and lavish rooms make it one of the best castles in Ireland, but there is more to Ashford Castle then meets the eye. In addition to a relaxing stay in the deluxe suites, guests can also attend Ireland’s first School of Falconry, take a private equestrian lesson, try their hand at archery or book a traditional riverboat ride.
Lough Eske Castle Hotel
County Donegal is famed for its dramatic scenery and sitting right in the middle of the wild landscape is Lough Eske Castle. The first castle built here in 1474 belonged to the powerful O’Donnell clan who have deep roots in the area. Now a luxury hotel, the refined castle offers a plush home base to use while exploring the untamed countryside. At the end of the day, book a treatment at the hotel’s Solís Spa, find a seat next to a roaring fire, or indulge in one of the 60 whiskeys available at the bar. The relaxing rooms are done in modern neutral tones, and offer views out over the 40 acres of private land and lakes that surround the property.
Though not a castle in name, Adare Manor is a dreamy mansion set on a sprawling estate outside of Limerick City. The manor house grew to its current grand style in the 1830s when its owner, the 2nd Earl of Dunraven, was confined to his home during an illness. He solved being stuck at home by creating the best retreat that money could buy and transformed his country home into a Neo-Gothic estate inspired by Ireland’s many medieval castles. The stunning stone structure and its surrounding 840 acres of gardens and woodlands is now a 5-star hotel. Dine in your choice of restaurants: the Tack Room, the Oak Room, the Drawing Room or the Carriage House. All rooms have high-end touches like marble bathrooms and designer furniture, but for a truly pampered stay book the Signature Suite which comes complete with a butler.
Placed between the heart of the Irish capital and the seaside town of Howth, Clontarf Castle is one of the best castles near Dublin. The historic castle sits a ten-minute drive outside the city, on the site where the ferocious Battle of Clontarf took place in 1014. The first castle was built here in the 12th century but the current structure dates back to the late 1800s. Many of the original architectural details of the castle has been preserved, but the interior has been thoroughly modernized into a lovely 4-star hotel. Enjoy breakfast or dinner at the Fahrenheit Restaurant or cocktails at the Knights Bar. The gilded mirrors and canopied beds add to the medieval charm, but there are also modern comforts like large flat screen TVs, in-room tea and coffee stations and contemporary hanging chandeliers.
Kinnitty Castle in County Offaly can trace its history back to the early 1200s, when it was rebuilt by Normans after an earlier structure on the same spot was destroyed. Sitting at the foot of the Slieve Bloom mountains in County Offaly, the gothic revival castle has been turned into an intimate 4-star hotel in the heart of the Irish countryside. The rooms were fully remodeled in 2015 and tastefully updated with bright colors and period furniture. There are numerous walking trails and even clay pigeon shooting, but don’t miss the two bars – the Library Bar filled with antique books or the low-ceilinged Dungeon Bar which hosts traditional music sessions complete with Irish dancing.
Located just over an hour outside of both Dublin and Belfast, Castle Leslie is a country estate in quiet County Monaghan. The mansion dates back to 1870 and is still owned by a member of the Leslie family. The estate’s hunting lodge has been converted into guestrooms and it is also possible to stay in the main house, which has a Scottish Baronial style. During their stay, guests can walk up the avenue of 100-year-old oak trees, take a cooking class, or book a table Snaffles, the hotel’s award-winning restaurant. The property also has its own stables and a special equestrian package for those who want to channel their inner blueblood and spend their day horseback riding through the 1,000-acre estate.
All of Ireland’s best castle hotels have long and distinguished histories, but Kilkea Castle takes the cake when it comes to being one of the oldest inhabited castles in the country. The first castle was built here in County Kildare in 1180 for a Norman knight who fought with the legendary Strongbow. The ancient fortified castle has all of the storybook charm from the outside but has been completely updated into eleven elegant bedrooms. More than 100 rooms are available in the new Lodge bedrooms built on the grounds, but nothing beats a stay in the FitzGerald Suite at the top of the original castle’s old tower, with a 360 degree view of the estate.. In addition to castle activities like falconry and archery, the hotel is best known for its 18-hole golf course.
For a secluded stay in the heart of County Roscommon, follow the grand driveway up to the former home of local royalty. Once known as Castle Tenison, the noble country home was built in the 1820s and expanded in the 1880s. Inside, there is an elegant wood-paneled dining room, rich fabrics, a glimmering indoor pool, and classic carved furniture. Outside, the castle is surrounded by 40 acres of old growth forest, a lake, and tranquil paths through green Irish hills.