Ireland is dotted with stunning castles, a fair few of which have been converted into hotels. As you step through the doors of one of these phenomenal buildings, it can feel like you’re walking into a dream.
Ashford Castle, Cong, Co Mayo
In Ashford Castle, which was once owned by the Guinness family, you could find yourself snuggling down into the same four-poster bed that John Lennon and George V have slept in. Voted Best Resort Hotel in the UK and Ireland by Travel and Leisure in their “World’s Best” awards in 2016, this estate sits on 350 acres overlooking Lough Corrib. Part of the Red Carnation Hotel Collection, this castle was built in the 13th century and hosts 83 rooms plus a lakeside cottage. Boating, golf, archery, hunting, fishing and falconry are some of the activities you can indulge in while you stay here. Housed in the bronze conservatory are the spa and gym, with exceptional lakeside vistas. You can dine in the awe-inspiring George V dining room or in a climatic, tastefully converted 16th-century tunnel.
Dromoland Castle, Newmarket-On-Fergus, Co Clare
Dromoland Castle is the ancestral home of the Kings of Thomond, whose lineage dates back 1,000 years to Brian Boru. You can take a boat out on the lake, explore the 400-acre park, play golf, try your hand at archery or falconry, or relax in their spa. It boasts five-star accommodations that include Suites, state rooms, and guest rooms. You can choose your dining options, from a six-course dinner to gourmet picnics. The castle is close to Ireland’s west coast and the Cliffs of Moher, and former famous people that have stayed here include Nelson Mandela and Bill Clinton.
Waterford Castle, Waterford, Co Waterford
You have to take a car ferry over the King’s Channel to reach the 310-acre private island upon which the 16th-century castle sits. Just a 10-minute drive from Waterford City, the castle has 19 luxurious bedrooms and self-catering lodges, and has activities that include falconry, golf, tennis, croquet and clay pigeon shooting. The castle’s Munster Room is an award winning restaurant which was critically acclaimed in the 2015 Michelin Guide, and the Fitzgerald Bar houses an incomparable collection of Irish Whiskey.
Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Co Monaghan
This castle’s founding family, the Leslies, arrived in Ireland in the 16th century and still own one of the last great Irish estates. Laid-back living is what is emphasized on this 1,000-acre estate, which boats delicious late breakfasts and comfy log fires. The estate has ancient forests, glittering lakes, romantic boudoirs, and flamboyant bedrooms, plus the Old Stable Mews and Village Cottages. Enjoy your meals by candlelight, have a BBQ on the terrace, relax at the spa, play snooker, go kayaking or clay pigeon shooting, have a go at falconry or sample the private cinema.
Lough Rynn Castle, Mohill, Co Leitrim
This stunning castle has some of largest and most unique gardens in the country, which lead down to the shores of the beautiful lough nearby. Part of the Hanly Castle Hotel Group, the resort has 44 unique bedrooms and suites, including 16 converted from the old stables, as well as a number of self-catering houses. You can tantalize your taste buds in The Sandstone Restaurant, which is a 2AA Rosette Award Restaurant for “Excellence in Food”. Outdoor activities include golf, horse riding, boat trips, fishing and a whole host of family activities at the Lough Arrow Activity Center.
Ballygally Castle, Ballygally Bay
Why not explore Ireland’s beautiful, brooding Game of Thrones style landscape while you stay at this gorgeous 17th-century castle. Sitting on the famous Causeway Coastal Route, which was used as a filming location for the hit TV series, the castle overlooks golden sands of the nearby beach and has unimpeded views of Scotland across the channel. The hotel has 54 bedrooms, which either have sea views or vistas over the landscaped gardens, and for the more adventurous there is a “ghost room” in the turret. Serving bistro menus and complete meals with few choices at a fixed price is the Garden Restaurant, or you could choose private dining in a medieval dungeon.
Helen’s Tower, Bangor, Co Down
Hidden deep in the woods of the Clandeboye Estate, commanding incredible views of the surrounding landscape, is this alluring three-story stone tower, which is perfect for couples seeking a romantic getaway. There is no TV or Wi-Fi, which ensures an intimate and personal atmosphere. Linen, dishes, cutlery and kitchen equipment are all provided, and there is a comfy double bed and an open fire for when you want to unwind. In 2015, the tower was awarded a Bronze Award in the Green Tourism Business Scheme, which shows that the venue is committed to working towards sustainability.