Spending a few nights in an Irish Fairytale Castle is an absolutely extraordinary experience; letting you step back in time while still enjoying the ultimate range of modern luxuries.
In an effort to select one that Derek and I would like to stay in, I had to do a lot of research and it turns out that there are actually over 40 different castle hotels to choose from on this beautiful little island of Ireland. Some of them look like medieval castle forts, other more palatial; some have turrets, others round towers and there are even those where you can ride across the rolling countryside on horse back before taking falconry lessons in the afternoon. Oh my goodness…
All of these magnificent properties come with exceptional restaurants and dining experiences and most of them even have Spas, just to add that little extra bit of pampering to your fantasy royal getaway. Of course I simply could not keep all of this information to myself, so I would love to share my findings with you; and who knows, maybe your next birthday or wedding anniversary could be spent, like royalty.
To make the list more manageable, I would like to split it into 4 sections, which fits perfectly with the 4 ancient provinces of Ireland: Connacht, Leinster, Munster and Ulster.
I will be starting with Ulster, because that’s the area where we live at the moment and I just could’t help checking out which castles are nearest to us!
Now Ulster is made up of the 6 counties of Northern Ireland (Antrim, Armagh, Derry~Londonderry, Down, Fermanagh and Tyrone) together with counties Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan. Some of these counties don’t actually have any castle hotels even though they do have their fair share of historic castles for sightseeing; those counties are: Armagh, Derry~Londonderry, Down and Tyrone. (I will make another list of historic castles to visit some day, promise.)
With no further ado, the Castle Hotels of Ulster:
Ballygally Castle – County Antrim
“Perched on the tip of the famous Causeway Coastal Route, sits Ballygally Castle Hotel Co. Antrim. A stunning 17th century castle which overlooks the golden sands of Ballygally Bay and has uninteruppted views towards Scotland. ” – Official Website Description
“The castle was built in 1625 by James Shaw, of Scotland, who had come to the area and rented the land from the Earl of Antrim for £24 a year. Over the main entrance door to the castle, leading to the tower, is the Middle Scots inscription “Godis Providens is my Inheritans”. The castle did come under attack, from the Irish garrison at Glenarm, several times during the rebellion of 1641 but each assault was unsuccessful. The castle was owned by the Shaw family until it passed into the hands of William Shaw in 1799. He sold the estate for £15,400. In the 1950s the castle was bought by the carpet tycoon Cyril Lord and was extended and renovated. It is now owned and run by the Hastings Hotels Group.” – Wikipedia
“Built in 1625, Ballygally Castle boasts original features and scenic views of Ballygally Bay. Set on the Antrim Coast, there is free parking, spacious rooms and a beautiful walled garden. The individual rooms at Ballygally are elegantly decorated, and many offer impressive sea views and original beams. All rooms have tea and coffee facilities and a cosy seating area. Said to be haunted, the 4-star Ballygally Castle Hotel has a Ghost Room and atmospheric dungeon. There is also a large garden and terrace, and a lounge with an open fire and antique furniture. Set within the castle walls, The Garden Restaurant overlooks the grounds and serves a modern British menu for lunch and evening dining. Afternoon teas and morning coffee are also available. Just 2 miles from Cairndhu Golf Course, Larne centre and Ferry Terminal are a 10-minutes drive away. Overlooking the Irish Sea, The Ballygally is just 40 minutes from central Belfast. Hotel Rooms: 44, Hotel Chain: Hastings Hotels.” – from Booking.com
There are 3 Castles offering accommodations in County Fermanagh, however they are not Castle Hotels in the classic sense; two of them are self catering or lodging rental and the third is a hotel, but not a classic castle. You can check them out on their official websites:
Cabra Castle – County Cavan
“From the moment you arrive through the 100 acres of beautifully manicured gardens and parkland to this magnificent 19th century 4 Star Castle Hotel & Wedding Venue in Ireland, set deep in the Cavan countryside, you will feel totally welcomed and thoroughly spoiled. Luxury accommodation at affordable prices” – http://www.cabracastle.com
“The aristocratic Pratt family lived just across the Carrickmacross Road at the original Cabra House (also sometimes known as Cabra Castle) on the Cabra Estate, the family’s huge country estate. The Pratt family had owned the Cabra Estate since 1699. In 1813, Colonel Joseph Pratt added the new Cormey Castle and much of the Foster’s Cormey Estate to his own Cabra Estate. Cormey Castle replaced the original Cabra House as the chief ‘seat’ of the Pratt dynasty in County Cavan. Around 1820, the Pratt family renamed Cormey Castle as Cabra Castle, the name it retains to this day.” – “In 1991, Mansour sold Cabra Castle to the Corscadden family, who run a number of hotels. They restored the castle and turned it into a luxury four-star hotel, reopening it as such in the early 1990s. It continues to be owned by the Corscadden family, and the castle remains a luxury hotel. The castle is very close to County Cavan’s border with both County Monaghan and, in particular, County Meath. About a hundred acres of land now makes up the surrounding demesne (or park) of Cabra Castle.” – Wikipedia
“This 18th-century castle has a quiet location, looking out over huge grounds and beautiful countryside. It is now a 4-star hotel, mixing original character with modern luxury and free parking. The Cabra Castle Hotel was built in 1760 and has high ceilings, grand staircases and historic hallways. The en suite rooms have individual style and mix period furnishings and historic features with modern comforts. All rooms have telephones, tea/coffee and satellite TV. Some rooms are in Cabra Castle and some are in the converted 17th-century courtyard buildings. There is a bar and a restaurant serving fresh, local food. The hotel’s patios and terraces have views of the surrounding countryside. Dublin Airport is an hour’s drive away. Hotel Rooms: 80” – Booking.com
Castle Leslie – County Monaghan
“Castle Leslie Estate, home to an Irish branch of Clan Leslie and located on the 4 km², Castle Leslie is both the name of a historic Country House and 1,000-acre Estate adjacent to the village of Glaslough, 11 km (7 mi) north-east of Monaghantown in County Monaghan, Republic of Ireland.” – “The estate is open to paying guests, who can stay in the former Hunting Lodge, the main house itself, the recently constructed traditional-style holiday cottages located in the village or the fully restored and refitted “Old Stable Mews”. While restoration of the house and grounds is ongoing, many new features have been added to the estate, including a spa, a bar and restaurant, and a Cookery School. A new pavilion, adjacent to the long gallery of the main house, facilitates conferences, weddings and other large events.” – Wikipedia
“The Lodge is a restored stone stable-courtyard within the 1000 acres of countryside, ancient woods and lakes that form the Castle Leslie Estate. Rooms feature an en suite bathroom with deep roll-top bath and views of the Equestrian Centre or woodland. Rooms also include flat-screen TVs. A modern equestrian centre and an organic Victorian spa are on site. With its hand-carved ceiling and old oak beams, Snaffles Brasserie is a modern and atmospheric place to dine. Conor’s Bar is a snug cellar bar with roaring fire, cosy corners and great music. The Lodge is a 10-minute drive from Monaghan town, yet is perfectly and peacefully secluded. Hotel Rooms: 30” – Booking.com
“Lough Eske Castle Hotel is the only five star hotel in Donegal. Winner of the World’s Best Luxury Country Hotel for the past five consecutive years, Condé Nast Readers’ Award 2013, European Hospitality ‘Innovation in Service’ Award 2013 and included in the Condé Nast Gold List of the world’s best places to visit for 2014, this lovingly restored castle hotel in Ireland blends its historic past with a dash of contemporary elegance.” – Official Website
The original castle was first built around 1474 and an old date stone of 1621 remains on the property to this day. The current Lough Eske Castle was constructed in the early 1860s on the site of an old Brooke mansion, but was accidentally partially destroyed by fire in 1939. The newly renovated Lough Eske Castle stands as a continuing testament to the rich history of Lough Eske and the surrounding region.” – Official Website
“Set within 43 acres of forest at the foot of the mountains, this stunning castle boasts huge rooms with 32-inch flat-screen TVs. The 5-star hotel offers a luxurious spa within its beautiful gardens. Cosy bathrobes and slippers are provided in each luxury room, along with a wood-panelled marble bathroom. Rooms include oak furniture and idyllic garden views. Cedars Grill has a terrace and features traditional dishes including seafood from the nearby port of Killybegs. The Oak Bar has billiards and Irish music events while the Gallery Bar serves light meals. The Solis Spa has a steam room, sauna and massage suites. There is a fitness centre and the swimming pool is located in a glass atrium, offering views over the grounds. Guests can fish on Lough Eske, less than 5 minutes’ walk from the hotel, while Donegal is less than a 10-minute drive. Donegal Golf Club is a 15-minute drive, while Donegal Adventure Centre and Surf School is a 30-minute drive. Hotel Rooms: 96” – Booking. com