Margaret

Margaret

Things to Do

Haunted Castles in Ireland

dunluce-castle-ireland

Who doesn’t love a good ghost story?

With their long and often violent histories, castles are pretty much ground zero for supernatural encounters. Join me as I share the tales of some of the spookiest haunted castles in Ireland.

Leap Castle, County Offaly

Leap-castle-Ireland

Not only is Leap Castle the most haunted castle in Ireland, it’s considered by many to be the most haunted castle in the world. It’s so haunted it’s been featured on TV in shows such as Ghost Hunters.

The castle has a sad and bloody history filled with imprisonment, execution and even a massacre. The O’Carroll clan, upon siezing the castle, unleashed a violent and gruesome reign. One of the sons, a priest, murdered by his own brother while saying mass in what is now known as the “Bloody Chapel”.

Numerous entities have been seen including two young girls, one of whom various people have seen falling from the castle battlements only to disappear before she reaches the ground.  And the Red Lady wanders the halls carrying brandishing a dagger. She is reputedly a woman who was imprisoned and repeatedly raped at the castle. When she gave birth, the O’Caroll’s killed the baby upon which she took her own life with a dagger.

A macabre discovery

When the castle was being refurbished in the 1900’s a grizzly discovery was made. A hidden room with a trapdoor was found above a spiked oubliette. Victims met their death after being dropped through the trapdoor by the barbarous O’Carolls. Three cartloads of human skeletons were recovered from the spikes where they had been impaled for several hundred years.

As if this wasn’t enough, in the 1600’s, one of the O’Carroll descendants, Mildred Darby, practiced the dark arts in the castle. A gothic novelist, her meddlings with the supernatural are thought to have awakened a dark elemental presence. Opinions vary as to what this presence is – perhaps it was put there by Druids before the castle was built, or possibly it’s the ghost of a leprosy-ridden ancestor. It’s been described as an evil, gaunt spirit that smells like a rotting corpse.

Strange activities have continued even to the modern day.

You’ll find Leap Castle in Roscrea. It’s privately owned but can be toured by appointment. If you dare.

To get a taste of Leap Castle check out this video…

Castle Leslie, County Monaghan

Castle Leslie is a beautiful estate still belonging to the Leslie family who built it in the 1600’s. Although it appears to be an elegant and peaceful place, there are strange things lurking in the castle halls. Guests to the castle have reported all sorts of ghostly apparitions and paranormal activity.

Norman Leslie died during a battle in World War l and at the moment of his death his mother, Lady Marjory, is said to have seen a vision of him near her bed in the Red Room. When she asked him what he was doing there, he disappeared. Visitors staying in the Red Room have seen Norman who reportedly shuffles paper and hushes people when they are making too much noise.

castle-leslie-ireland

Another member of the Leslie family who likes to haunt the halls is Lady Constance Leslie. She made her first known appearance at the deathbed of Lady Leonie. A nurse on duty saw Leonie greeted by a woman with whom she talked for a while before the woman vanished. It wasn’t until the next day, at Leonie’s memorial, that the nurse recognized the woman – in a portrait of Lady Constance who had died in 1925! Constance is known for still visiting the Mauve Room and levitating the bed. Cue the music from The Twilight Zone…

You can spend the night at Castle Leslie which is now a luxury resort. If you’re really brave, you’ll be asking for the Red Room or Mauve Room!

Ballyseede Castle, County Kerry

Ballyseede Castle

TripAdvisor rated Ballyseede Castle as one of the most haunted castles in the world. Back when the first Queen Elizabeth was on the throne, the 15th Earl of Desmond was Ballyseede’s owner. He refused to swear allegiance to the Crown and openly incited rebellion against English rule. For his troubles he was captured and beheaded. His head was taken to the queen as a gift (how thoughtful!) who displayed it on London Bridge as a warning to others who might be tempted into the same folly. In those days it didn’t pay to mess with the queen.

Today, guests report all sorts of paranormal activity. From hearing voices to footsteps to actual ghostly encounters. The castle’s most famous ghost – the Phantom Monk of Kinnitty – likes to talk to staff and visitors, often appearing in solid form. He has even been mistaken for a living person. Another regularly sighted ghost is said to be Hilda Blennerhassett who died in the 1960’s.

The castle boasts two haunted rooms – the Geraldine Room and the Elizabeth Room.

But all reports indicate that the ghosts of Ballyseede are friendly and perfectly harmless.

You can stay at Ballyseede Castle which operates as a luxury hotel. While you’re visiting be sure to tag along on one of the nightly spooky tours of the castle.

Ballygally Castle, County Antrim

Reputed to be one of the most haunted places in Ulster (Northern Ireland), mediums visiting this castle have said that there are more ghosts than guests staying here.

The most famous ethereal being is that of Lady Isabella Shaw, who reportedly fell (or was she pushed??) to her death from a window. The story goes that after giving birth to his heir, Lord Shaw took the baby and locked his wife in a room at the top of the castle and she fell while trying to escape to find her child.

Lady Isabella has been wandering the halls of the castle for 400 years. Many visitors have either seen her or felt as a presence in their rooms. She also likes to knock on doors before disappearing. A ghost who enjoys a practical joke?

The Ghost Room, in one of the castle turrets, is dedicated to her – you can visit the room but you can’t stay overnight in it. But that’s okay, there are plenty of ghostly encounters to be had in the other rooms.

There are many stories of things going bump in the night and even an eerie green mist hanging over the castle. Another regular spirit visitor is Madame Nixon who lived here in the 19th century. The rustle of her silk dress is often heard as she walks through the halls.

One particularly spooky incident happened in 2003 when a table had been neatly set up for a meal in the Dungeon Room. The room was locked but when it was next checked the table was a mess. Napkins had been unfolded and most strangely, the glasses had been arranged in a circle.

Despite these eerie happenings, the ghosts of Ballygally appear to be friendly.

Ballygally Castle operates as a hotel. You’ll find it along the famous Causeway Coastal Route on the scenic Antrim coast.

Dunluce Castle, County Antrim

dunluce-castle-ireland

No list of haunted castles in Ireland would be complete without an abandoned castle. Not too far from Ballygally Castle, brooding on a rocky crag, clings the ruin of Dunluce Castle.

Its a castle that just screams haunted. Or maybe that’s the Banshee. Yes, Dunluce castle has a resident Banshee.

This Celtic castle began life in the 13th century and in the 14th century was the stronghold of the Clan MacDonnell. Earlier than that though, it was the site of an Irish fort. Its location on a basalt outcrop, with sheer drops on all sides, probably explains its appeal to the early Christians and Vikings who came here. What remains of the castle today can be reached across a narrow bridge. But be warned – ghostly encounters have been reported here for hundreds of years.

But back to that Banshee.

Maeve Roe, the daughter of Lord MacQuillan, fell in love with a man who was not the one her father had in mind. As punishment she was imprisoned in one of the castle towers. Eventually, she managed to escape with a plan to elope with her paramour Reginald O’Cahan. That night, they stole a row boat and escaped through the Mermaid’s Cave which opens to the sea below the castle. But a wild storm was raging and their boat was destroyed against the rocks. Her body was never recovered. Since that night her wailing can be heard coming from the Northeast Tower on dark, stormy nights and her ghost haunts these windswept ruins. Maeve’s soul has become the Banshee of Dunluce Castle, forever in torment.

Dunluce Castle can be found along the Causeway Coastal Route in Northern Antrim between Portballintrae and Portrush.

When you’re visiting Ireland be sure to stop in to one of its haunted castles. If, that is, you’re not afraid…..

Have you ever encountered a ghost? Or heard a banshee? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

 

 

 

 

Tips and Tricks

How to Book a Hotel Online

markree-castle-irelandMarkree Castle, Co, Sligo

If you’re unsure of how to book a hotel online, then this guide will help you find the best hotel at the best price.

If you’ve never booked a hotel online, it can be overwhelming. Where do you even start? For every hotel room, there are dozens of different prices depending upon where you happen to look. This can make finding the right room at the right price an extremly time consuming and frustrating process.

Why are there so many different prices for the same room?

When a hotel has a room for sale, they have many choices about where to sell that room. Of course, the most obvious place is on their own website. But that may not provide them with enough exposure, so they also offer their room through travel agencies – both online and offline.

Online travel agencies have enormous buying power so they are able to negotiate competitive rates with hotels. The hotel may have different agreements in place with different agencies depending upon how much business the agency sends to them. This is why hotel rates differ across different websites.

hotel booking channel graphic

How to Book a Hotel Online in Four Easy Steps

Booking a hotel online really only involves four steps:

1. Head to a hotel aggregator site to find a hotel and the best deal

2. Once you’ve made your selection, the aggregator will transfer you to the booking site

3. (Optional) Before you commit to the booking there, head over to the hotel’s
website and check their rates just to be sure you have the best price
available.

4. Depending upon the results of Step 3, make your reservation.

What do you need to make a hotel booking online?

1. Credit or debit card (in some cases you may be able to use Paypal or Bitcoin)

2. Email address – this is where your hotel confirmation will be sent. If your email doesn’t turn up immediately after making the booking, check your spam folder.

Travel Aggregators

A good place to start with any online hotel booking is with what is known as an aggregator site. These sites search the internet for all available hotels for the date requested and then compile the results for you. You can then compare deals and the aggregator will direct you to the relevant booking site.

Aggregators are a great way to save time and ensure that you’re getting the best deal. Filters within the site allow you to narrow searches down so that you can easily find a hotel perfectly suited to your needs.

Examples of aggregator sites include:

Trivago

Kayak

Hotels Combined

In this video, I walk through how to use Trivago to find a hotel.

Online Travel Agencies

There are benefits in dealing exclusively with one online travel agency. Most will offer you the opportunity to collect loyalty points with each booking that can be redeemed either as cash off future bookings or as free nights.

However, the disadvantage of only ever using the one online agency is that they may not be offering the best rate available on a particular hotel. My advice is to start with one of the aggregator sites just to be sure you’re getting the best rate. Competing travel websites may have special promotions happening that more than make up for any loyalty bonus you receive with your preferred travel website. There’s also nothing to stop you from joining multiple loyalty programs!

Examples of online travel agencies are:

Expedia

Booking.com

Hotels.com

Priceline

In this video I walk you through how to make a booking on Expedia.

Hotel Chain Booking Site

Hotel chains also offer their own booking sites. So, for example, you might be looking for a Hilton Hotel in which case you can head straight to the generic Hilton Hotels website. From there you can book any of their hotels worldwide. This option is most suitable for people who have strict hotel brand loyalty.

Booking Directly with the Hotel

The final option is to book directly with the hotel on their website. Most hotels have their own booking facility on their website, although you may occasionally find smaller properties that only sell their rooms through online travel agencies. Many will offer an “internet rate” which is either as low as, or sometimes lower, than what you’ll find on a travel website. They will also often offer discounts for memberships such as AAA or discounts for veterans. These options don’t generally show up in searches on aggregators or online travel agencies, so its always worth checking with the hotel’s own website.

General Information About Booking a Hotel Online

 Pay Now or Pay Later?

When you book a hotel online, you’ll usually be asked if you wish to “pay now” or “pay at the hotel”. Paying at the hotel generally results in a slightly higher rate than pay now options. In either case you will need to provide credit or debit card details. Occasionally you may be able to pay immediately using Paypal or Bitcoin in which case you won’t need to provide credit card information.

The reason you need to provide card details, even though you’ve chosen to pay at the hotel, is that if you don’t turn up on the first night of your reservation, the hotel will charge a cancellation fee. This fee ranges from 100% of the first night to 100% of the full booking. Some hotels may require a minimum of 24 hours notice of cancellations and others will require longer.

If you choose the “pay at the hotel” option when travelling internationally, be aware that the final price may vary from when you originally made the booking. This is due to currency fluctuations.

Check the Booking Conditions!

Before you hit “confirm” always check the booking conditions because they can vary a great deal. This is particularly so if your travel plans are tentative or likely to change.

Travel Smart

When you travel, have a copy of your booking confirmation email with you either electronically or on paper. While its rare, sometimes things do go wrong and your room may not be available. Its always good to be able to provide proof of an online booking.

No Nasty Surprises

Whatever website you ultimately use, always be sure to check that you have selected the right currency to display prices. When it comes to displays in $$ there can be a great deal of difference between US Dollars and Canadian or Australian Dollars, for example.

What About Mystery Hotels?

Some websites such as Priceline and Hotwire offer you the opportunity to purchase a “mystery hotel” at heavily discounted rates. They allow you to select an area, star rating and guest rating but not a specific hotel. If you’re not concerned with staying at a particular hotel, these can be a great option for budget-friendly travel.

Loyalty Programs

When you make a booking with an online travel agency, you’ll be given the option to join their loyalty program. Its not necessary to join in order to make the booking, but you may wish to join if you plan on doing a lot of travelling. There is, however, a trade off – there may be a better price for your hotel at another agency, or even directly with the hotel. So you’ll need to assess whether the loyalty bonus is worth more than a rock bottom price.

Are you already a member of a loyalty program?

In addition to online travel website loyalty programs, hotel chains offer their own programs. Its often the case that if you book through an online agency you’re not eligible to claim hotel loyalty program points for that booking. So you’ll need to decide which points offer you the most value. So, for example, if you are a member of Starwood Preferred, you may wish to book directly with either the Starwood website or the hotel itself to ensure you accrue Starwood points.

I hope you’ve found this guide helpful. Do you have any tips about booking hotels online? If so, feel free to leave them in the comments.

 

 

Co. Mayo

Ashford Castle

Ashord-castle-irish-castle-hotels

Voted one of the best hotels in Ireland and one of the Top 50 resort properties in Europe, Ashford Castle epitomizes the elegance and splendour of a royal experience. The castle walls whisper their tales of battles and bloodshed, royalty and movie stars that stretch back 800 years.

The History of Ashford Castle

The story of Ashford Castle begins in 1228 when the first stones were laid by Richard Mor de Burgh, 1st Lord of Connaught. Richard was the son of a Norman adventurer and an Irish princess and the province of Connaught had been granted to his father. However the native O’Connor clan had not been conquered and it wasn’t until 1235 that the Gaelic King of Connaught was finally defeated by Richard and expelled. This began a new Irish-Norman dynasty and the House of de Burgh became one of the most influential houses in Ireland during the 13th and 14th centuries. The de Burgh family was to own Ashford Castle for nearly four centuries.

The Tudor Era

Sir Richard Bingham was a soldier and naval commander who served under Queen Elizabeth I during the Tudor conquest of Ireland. He was appointed Governor of Connaught in order to suppress the local rebellions that resulted from Tudor attempts to bring Ireland under centralized British rule. Fierce battles with the de Burghs ensued with Bingham ultimately crushing their rebellion and taking possession of the castle which he further fortified.

Further Expansion

It wasn’t until 1715 that the castle once again returned to Irish hands when it was acquired by Baron Oranmore Browne. A descendant of the ancient tribes of Galway, Browne was an MP and Irish merchant. He undertook significant expansion and architectural changes including construction of the distinctive French chateau style central facade. Today, the double-headed eagles representing the Browne coat of arms are still visible on the roof of the building.

The Guinness Family

Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness,  purchased the estate in 1852. After the death of his father in 1855 Benjamin became the richest man in Ireland with a huge export trade and the continual expansion of his brewery. This enabled him to expand the Ashford estate with the addition of two large building extensions and new parklands that grew the estate to 26,000 acres (110 square km).

Upon his death in 1868, the Ashford estate passed to his son Arthur, Lord Ardilaun, a businessman, politician and philanthropist. He is probably best known for giving St Stephen’s Green to the people of Dublin. Under Arthur’s care the evolution of Ashford continued with the rebuilding of the entire west wing of the Castle in the neo-Gothic style and further investment in the land.

In the late 1800’s, the Irish Land Wars saw tenant farmers rebel against their absentee landlords. Although Arthur spent much of his time at Ashford and was a generous landlord who was well-liked by his tenants, he was eventually forced to break up the estate.

Hollywood and the Castle

The estate remained in the Guinness family until 1939 when it was purchased by Noel Huggard. He established the estate as a hotel that became known for country pursuits such as fishing and hunting.

In 1951, Hollywood came to Ashford Castle when it served as the backdrop for director John Ford’s film “The Quiet Man”. The movie, starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara , was filmed on the Castle grounds and nearby Cong.  More recently the Castle was used as a set in the medieval drama “Reign”.

Modern Times

John Mulcahy purchased the estate in 1970 and began a complete restoration. He doubled the size of the castle with the addition of a new wing, added a golf course and developed the grounds and gardens.

A group of Irish American investors became the new owners in 1985 and the estate was then sold again in 2007 to Galway-based property investor Gerry Barrett and his family. The property was placed into receivership in late 2011 although the hotel continued to operate, receiving several significant awards.

The estate went up for sale again in late 2012 and in May 2013 was purchased by Red Carnation Hotels who began a major refurbishment, restoring the Castle and grounds to their former glory. Neighbouring Lisloughrey Lodge was purchased in 2014 and added to the resort.

Curious Fact

Ashford Castle once had Oscar Wilde as a neighbour. Wilde’s father owned the estate next door and Oscar spent some of his childhood there.

What’s it Rated?

5 Luxurious Stars

Voted # 9 in the Top 30 Resorts in Europe 2017 in the Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards

Get Me There Now!

Cong
County Mayo

2 hours 50 minutes from Dublin Airport

1 hour 30 minutes from Shannon Airport

1 hour from Knock Airport

Famous Guests Before Me

You know you’re in good company when previous guests have included kings and presidents….

King George V and Queen Mary
Prince Rainier and Princess Grace
President Ronald Reagan
John Lennon
George Harrison
Oscar Wilde
Prince Edward
Senator Ted Kennedy
John Wayne
Maureen O’Hara
Robin Williams
Brad Pitt
Pierce Brosnan

Ashford-Castle-irish-castle-hotels
800 Years of History at Ashford Castle (image: Wikimedia Commons)

Rooms at Ashford Castle

Each of the 83 rooms and suites here are fit for a princess (or a prince). Many have been individually designed and are in keeping with the castle’s architectural heritage. Alongside modern luxuries, you’ll find unique works of art, antique furniture, custom designed carpets, feature lighting, specially built beds, custom designed carpets and luxurious fabrics. At night you’ll snuggle down into monogrammed Egyptian Cotton 400 thread count bed linens.

All rooms and suites offer the following:

  • Fully interactive plasma screen TVs with movies and music on demand
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi
  • Deluxe Voya toiletries
  • Bottled mineral water
  • Bathrobes and slippers
  • Evening turn down service
  • 24 hour in-room dining
  • Complimentary copy of “The Quiet Man” movie
  • Hair dryer
  • I-luv bluetooth speaker
  • USB charger
  • 110 volt sockets
  • Individually controlled air-conditioning
  • International direct dial telephones
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Electronic safe
  • Electronic blinds

Corrib Rooms

Elegant rooms that have recently been refurbished, offering comfort and luxury with king-size beds.

Corrib Lake View Rooms

Enjoy the elegant sanctuary offered by these individually designed rooms. Some even feature gilt and cream painted tester beds. Special features of these rooms include feature beds, chandeliers and fresh flowers.

Deluxe Rooms

These newly designed rooms offer a spacious relaxation area, beautiful furnishings and gorgeous views over the Ashford Estate.

  • Feature beds and chandeliers
  • Separate seating area
  • Writing desk
  • Fresh flowers
  • Interconnecting rooms are available

Lake View Deluxe Rooms

Relax in your private sitting area as you savour the views over magnificent Lough Corrib. These rooms feature antiques such as a German Baroque stumpwork silk decorated tester bed made for Friedrich Christian Freiherr von Spee in the late 17th Century; a Louis XV painted and parcel gilt trumeau mirror circa 1750; and satinwood and rosewood cross banded writing tables from around 1900 that are used as bedside tables.

  • Feature beds and chandeliers
  • Separate seating area
  • Writing desk
  • Fresh flowers

Deluxe Queen Family Rooms

Designed with families in mind, these rooms feature two Queen size beds with a relaxation area. Suitable for two adults and two children under 12, they overlook the beautiful Lough Corrib and Parterre Gardens. The bathrooms have a separate shower and marble sinks. The children will be looked after with robes and slippers as well as juice and cookies on arrival. In addition to standard the features, these rooms also offer sitting areas with armchairs. Interconnecting rooms are available.

Junior Staterooms

Image courtesy Red Carnation Hotels

Traditional style meets modern convenience in these gorgeous rooms with their sumptuous four-poster beds, views over the estate and colour schemes that range from rich, regal reds to soft neutral shades. Some rooms have split level sitting areas.

  • Feature beds and chandeliers
  • Interconnecting rooms available
  • Separate seating area
  • Writing desk
  • Fresh flowers
Image courtesy Red Carnation Hotels

Staterooms

Image courtesy Red Carnation Hotels

These grand rooms are located in the oldest part of the castle that dates back to the 13th and 17th centuries. They feature high ceilings with gorgeous views of Lough Corrib. Most of the rooms have four-poster beds and original fireplaces. Antique furniture and large bathrooms, some of which feature pedestal claw-foot tubs, finish off the regal ambience.

  • Feature beds and chandeliers
  • Separate seating area
  • Writing desk
  • Fresh flowers
Image courtesy Red Carnation Hotels

Suites

Did someone say ‘opulence’? That’s what you’ll get in one of these suites, some of which have been recently refurbished and all of which
surround you in gracious style. Feast your eyes on the views of the River Cong or Lough Corrib as you dine in your large private dining
area.

  • Feature beds and chandeliers
  • Separate seating area
  • Writing desk
  • Fresh flowers
  • Soaps from world famous perfumeries

Kennedy Suite

Image courtesy Red Carnation Hotels

If you’re seeking true luxury, with loads of history, then look no further. This suite was named after US Senator Ted Kennedy who stayed here in the early ’80’s. The suite is situated in the oldest wing of the castle, overlooking Lough Corrib. In keeping with its historic setting, the suite is filled with antique furniture that includes a 19th Century walnut bed, an early Victorian Rosewood centre table and an early 18th century Spanish armoire. The suite can be combined with the Reagan Presidential Suite to create a private three bedroom wing of the castle. You’ll just love all the special touches of this suite.

  • Feature beds and chandeliers
  • Separate seating area
  • Writing desk
  • Fresh flowers
  • Soaps from world famous perfumeries
  • Self controlled fireplace
  • 24 hour housekeeping
  • Champagne & chocolate arrival
  • In-room Sherry night cap

Reagan Presidential Suite

In 1984, Ashford’s owner John A. Mulcahy invited his friend President Reagan for a visit and his elegant suite in the oldest wing of the castle now bears his name. With its original fireplace and impressive George lll style four-poster bed this is the last word in castle luxury. Fittingly, the room is decorated with antiques and original portrait art, all of which is enhanced by the spectacular views of Lough Corrib from floor to ceiling windows. The split level suite has two bathrooms and can be combined with two adjacent rooms to create a private three bedroom wing of the castle. Guests of the suite are also given the presidential treatment with plenty of thoughtful touches.

  • Feature beds and chandeliers
  • Separate seating area
  • Writing desk
  • Fresh flowers
  • Soaps from world famous perfumeries
  • 24 hour housekeeping
  • Champagne & chocolate arrival
  • Complimentary canapés delivered each evening
  • Complimentary bar during stay
  • A daily gift will also be delivered to your room!

Hideaway Cottage

Nestled on the shores of Lough Corrib, the Hideaway Cottage is a former boathouse that dates back to the Castle’s Guinness era. Reclaimed materials such as stone and old fireplace lintels from the Castle were used in its restoration. The parquet floors are hand-crafted and the decor features original art including some by Louis Icart, sumptuous fabrics and a stunning blue Murano glass chandelier. Custom antiques include a French Empire marquetry chest of drawers; a 20th century, four-fold European canvas screen and a late 19th century pair of walnut armchairs covered in tapestry by Brunschwig & Fils.

The surrounding gardens and secure gate access ensure your total privacy so you can relax in comfort while enjoying the lake front views. When you arrive at the Castle you’ll be escorted to the cottage where a welcome basket and fully stocked bar await. As do Jack Murphy Jackets and Wellingtons that are yours to take home. Bicycles are also provided for your use and you can enjoy all of the 350-acre estate’s amenities. A 24 hour concierge service ensures you’re always taken care of.

Dine privately or at one of the Estate’s restaurants. Perhaps an alfresco dinner on the pier? This is a unique luxury Irish experience.

Dining at Ashford Castle

Ashford Castle offers a range of dining options all of which feature seasonal, locally sourced ingredients. Creative Irish cuisine combined with an extensive wine cellar make Ashford Castle a gourmet’s paradise.

George V Dining Room

George V Dining Room (image: Red Carnation Hotels)

The Prince of Wales, who went on to become King George V of England, visited Ashford Castle in 1905. In honour of that visit, the Guinness family built this special dining room that still bears his name. As a resident pianist plays softly, and the light sparkles on the Waterford Crystal chandeliers, you’ll dine on exceptional dishes designed by Chef Philippe Farineau (awarded two rosettes by the AA Hospitality Awards), while sipping a fine selection of wines from Chief Sommelier Robert Bowe.

Cullen’s at the Cottage

Cullen’s at the Cottage (image: Red Carnation Hotels)

Formerly the Cong Cinema, this traditional thatched cottage offers a casual dining experience featuring international and local dishes inspired by the Estate’s owner Beatrice Tollman. A short stroll from the Castle and with a lovely garden and patio area, this is the perfect spot to enjoy lunch and cocktails with a magnificent view of the Castle.

The Dungeon

The Dungeon (image: Red Carnation Hotels)

With its historic curved stone ceiling and medieval decor, the Dungeon is a unique setting to enjoy bistro-style traditional Irish cuisine.

Afternoon Tea (The Connaught Room)

Afternoon Tea at Ashford Castle is a must. In a tradition dating back to 1868, tea is served in The Connaught Room with views across the gardens and Lough Corrib. Tempting treats created by Head Pastry Chef, Paula Stakelum, Winner of the Valrhona Pâtisserie Championship 2017, are served on beautiful, ornate silver stands. Heavenly!

Wilde’s at the Lodge

Located within the Estate at the Castle’s sister property The Lodge at Ashford Castle, Wilde’s Restaurant serves contemporary Irish cuisine created by chef Jonathan Keane who was recently described as “one of the country’s most inspiring chefs”.

The Castle Wine Cellars

For a truly unique experience, try a private wine tasting or wine dinner in the secret passageways of the castle. This remarkable setting with its soft lighting and cozy ambience may just be the perfect place to savour the Castle’s fine selection of vintages.

The Billiards Room

Serving Cuban and Irish tapas each evening in a setting of traditional elegance. A selection of Mr Tollman’s limited edition cigars are also available.

The Cigar Terrace

Located off the Billiards Room and overlooking the River Cong, the Cigar Terrace is the perfect spot to relax with a whiskey or cognac and a cigar.

The Prince of Wales Bar

Retaining its original 1800’s style, this bar offers an elegant setting in which to relax and enjoy a cocktail, liqueur or brandy.

The Drawing Room

For a morning coffee or light lunch from the bar menu, the light-filled Drawing Room offers a relaxed ambience where floor to ceiling windows frame beautiful view across the gardens and Lough Corrib.

What else can I do here?

With a long history as one of the finest sporting estates in Ireland and 350 acres of land, you’ll never be short of things to do. And if you need advice, there’s a dedicated Activities Coordinator to assist!

Golf

In addition to Ashford Castle’s own 9 hole, 2996 yards par 35 parkland course, the estate is surrounded by some of the finest Links Golf courses in the world.

Fishing

Lough Corrib and the River Cong make up one of the most famous fisheries in Ireland. The area is well-known for salmon, brown trout and pike fishing.

The Cinema

Ashford Castle even has its own cinema, with seating for 32 in sumptuous red velvet chairs. Each day features a new movie, with something for everyone.

The Spa at Ashford Castle

Voted Ireland’s Best Hotel Spa at the World Spa Awards 2017.

The Spa at Ashford Castle (image: Red Carnation Hotels)

Step into a gorgeous world of relaxation and nurturing. This state of the art facility includes a relaxation pool, five treatment rooms, relaxing steam room and an invigorating Hammam. The Fitness Studio houses the latest Life Fitness equipment and also offers PureFlow™ Fitness sessions.

Other Activities at Ashford Castle

Falconry

Clay Shooting and Archery

Zip-lining and Tree Climbing

Cycling

Kayaking

Horse Riding

Lake Cruising

Stand Up Paddleboarding

Tennis

Traditional Boat Trips

Falconry at Ashford Castle (image: Red Carnation Hotels)

What about the kids?

Ashford Castle is extremely family friendly and a great place for a family vacation. Small guests receive a welcome gift, personalised cookies and home-made apple juice. Kids will be kept amused with board and card games as well as specially selected DVD’s. They’ll be provided with a personalized guests’ book as part of the evening turndown service. The even have a LEGO Butler (now what kid would not love that?)!

There are menus for young guests, a children’s afternoon tea, treasure hunt and movie matinees with popcorn. Outdoor activities are also focused on youngsters with junior golf lessons, falconry, cycling, horse riding, tennis and more.

And when mum and dad want some time out, experienced and trained babysitters can be arranged.

(Note: there is an additional cost for some activities)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dublin

Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel

Have you ever fancied having Bono as a neighbour? Well now you can.

Located in upscale Killiney, where the rich and famous like to hang, Fitzpatrick Castle stands majestically above the coastline, overlooking Dublin Bay.  Just 20 minutes from Dublin City, it’s a great base for a visit to Ireland’s capital.

The History of Fitzpatrick Castle

Mount Mapas

Although official records show that there were buildings on this site earlier than the mid 1700’s, Fitzpatrick Castle really began life as Mount Mapas – a house built in 1740 by Colonel John Mapas.

It then changed hands twice in the next thirty years, being purchased by Colonel Loftus in 1770. Just two years later the property was once again on the market. However, during his ownership, the colonel created pasture where there had only been barren ground and also constructed a road around the hill on which the house stood.

The new estate owner was Lord Clonmel who invested the princely sum of £3,000 (nearly half a million US dollars in today’s terms) into improving the property.

A Name Change

In 1840 the estate became Killiney Castle after it was enlarged by Robert Warren. He also restored the obelisk that had been erected by Colonel Mapas nearly 100 years earlier. Killiney Parish Church also owes its construction to Warren who donated both land and most of the money to build it. Once a part of the estate, nearby Victoria Hill as it is still known, was sold to the Queen Victoria’s Jubilee Memorial Association by Warren’s son.

The 20th Century, War and Another Name Change

The Castle had an eventful 20th Century during which it was used in turn by the Black & Tans, the IRA and the Republicans during the civil war. It was also burnt by the Free State Troops and requisitioned by the government from 1939 to 1945 for use as an army billet.

In the 1970’s the Paddy and Eithne Fitzpatrick purchased the property and renamed it Fitzpatrick Castle. They converted it into a luxury hotel and today their daughter Eithne Fitzpatrick Scott-Lennon still owns and manages the hotel with her family.

What’s it Rated?

4 star Luxury.

Get Me There Now!

Killiney
Co. Dublin
Ireland

50 minutes from Dublin Airport
10 minutes from Dun Laoghaire Ferry Port

The Castle was voted as one of the best family hotels in Dublin by TripAdvisor’s family travel site Family Vacation Critic.

Rooms at Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel

The last word in elegance and comfort, each of the 113 rooms at Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel are individually designed and decorated. Whichever room you choose you’ll enjoy pampering touches like luxury duvets, fluffy towels and power showers.

Classic Room

  • 19 square metres
  • Double or twin beds
  • On-demand movies
  • Wi-Fi
  • Tea and coffee making facilities
  • Direct Dial telephone
  • 24 hour service
  • In room safe
  • Full ensuite bathroom

Classic Seaview Rooms

  • Balcony overlooking scenic Dublin Bay
  • 19 square metres
  • Uniquely furnished with rich fabrics and hand chosen accessories
  • King beds
  • On-demand movies
  • Wi-Fi
  • Tea and coffee making facilities
  • Direct Dial telephone
  • 24 hour service
  • In room safe
  • Full ensuite bathroom with walk-in shower

Family Rooms

  • Large and spacious at 28 square metres
  • Two King double beds
  • Can accommodate an extra single bed or cot
  • Small fridge available on request
  • On-demand movies
  • Wi-Fi
  • Tea and coffee making facilities
  • Direct Dial telephone
  • 24 hour service
  • In room safe
  • Full ensuite bathroom

Suites

For those who really want the ultimate 18th Century experience of opulence, a Castle Suite is for you. These rooms date back to 1741 and are decorated in Victorian style. These rooms are beautifully appointed and reflect the Castle’s history and heritage. You’ll be surrounded by antique furnishings and warm restful colours.

  • Seaview balcony Suites have views overlooking Dublin Bay
  • King double bedrooms with a separate sitting room
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi and Car parking
  • Complimentary use of the Leisure Club
  • In room movies & internet services
  • Tea & Coffee making facilities
  • Direct dial telephone
  • 24 hour room service
  • In room safe
  • Full en-suite bathroom
  • Trouser Press
  • Robes & Slippers
  • Iron & Ironing Board
  • Mini Bar (on request)

Dining at Fitzpatrick Castle

Tempt your taste buds with the finest ingredients at one of the Fitzpatrick Castle’s three restaurants.

PJ’s Restaurant

This is one of the finest restaurants in Dun Laoghaire with an award-winning chef. It offers a warm and friendly atmosphere overlooking Dublin Bay.

Mapas Restaurant

Paying tribute to the builder of the original Mapas House, this restaurant is led by Executive Chef Sean Dempsey. In warm surroundings you’ll enjoy a menu prepared with the best of Irish, locally sourced, seasonal produce.

The Library Bar

For an intimate and cosy atmosphere that’s popular with locals as well as hotel guests, head to the Library Bar. This popular pub serves delicious snack options as well as a renowned Afternoon Tea. Ireland’s glitterati have been known to tuck into one of the “to die for” scones here. And if you’re more in the mood for a Long Island Iced Tea they also have an excellent cocktail menu.

What else can I do here?

Leisure Club

The hotel boasts a fully equipped gym and a 20 metre indoor swimming pool with an on-deck whirlpool spa. For true relaxation there’s also a Scandinavian wood sauna and steam room. While you’re staying at the hotel you can join in any of the fitness classes that are scheduled, including spinning, aqua aerobics, total body workouts, step and tone and more.

Other Activities

There is plenty on offer in the local area:

  • Explore Killiney and Sandycove beaches
  • Breathe in the sea air and drink in the views as you walk on Killiney Hill
  • Visit the picturesque Dalkey Village and Heritage Centre
  • Powerscourt House and Gardens
  • Horseracing at Leopardstown
  • Tennis
  • Horse riding
  • Golf on one of the many local courses
  • Sailing & windsurfing
  • Bowling Green
  • Dublin City Centre is only 20 minutes away by DART

What About the Kids?

Fitzpatrick Castle is very family friendly. Kids will love the indoor swimming pool which also has a kid’s pool.  Beaches in the local area also suitable for swimming and if you’re here in September and October you can frequently see baby seal pups on Killiney Beach. There are also many beautiful walks near the hotel so the kids can burn off some energy.

Families can take the DART into Dublin and visit Dublin Zoo, Aqua Zone at the National Aquatic Centre, Viking Splash Tours and Imaginosity. There are also plenty of other child-friendly attractions.

 

 

Things to Do

Ultimate Road Trip – The Wild Atlantic Way

Just the name Wild Atlantic Way sounds romantic doesn’t it? It conjures up images of jagged cliffs, soaring gulls and crashing waves. If you love road trips (and really, who doesn’t?) you’ll love this one.

At 2500km (1600 miles) The Wild Atlantic Way is the longest defined coastal drive in the world. It hugs the western coastline of Ireland all the way from County Donegal in the north to County Cork in the south.

You’ll need at least a couple of weeks to do the whole thing properly, but if time is short don’t worry! There are six regions along the length of the route and you can spend your time exploring one or just a couple of them if you only have a few days.

Northern Headlands

This is the most remote part of the route and the starting point. Donegal is a beautiful, wild part of the country and was named the “Coolest Place on the Planet for 2017” by National Geographic Traveler. The landscape here is captivating, with dramatic cliffs, seabirds and the ceaseless movement of the ocean. The small communities are tight knit and maintain both the Gaelic language and tradition.

Tip: Since no road trip is complete without music, be sure to have some Clannad or Enya loaded onto your iPod. This legendary family of musicians come from the town of Gweedore in Co. Donegal.

“There’s a feeling in all our music, an ambience that stems directly from where we were brought up and to have to define our sound, I always say that if they were to visit Gweedore they wouldn’t need to ask.” – Ciarán Brennan

Surf Coast

While its possible to surf along most of Ireland’s west coast, the stretch from Donegal Town to Erris, which includes Bundoran and nearby Mullaghmore Head, is a magnet for surfers the world over.

Bay Coast

From Erris the road travels into beautiful Connemara. Still alive with its Gaelic heritage, this area is home to peninsulas and bays that make for a stunning coastal journey. Nature provides the perfect backdrop for outdoor activities. Cycle along the Great Western Greenway or hike the rugged and wild Connemara National Park. You can also visit some of the many islands in the area including Clare Island which was the stronghold of pirate queen Grace O’Malley. Who, incidentally, was once the owner of Ballynahinch Castle, which is now a luxury hotel.

Cliff Coast

Leaving County Galway, you’ll head into County Clare and the northern part of County Kerry. If you love traditional Irish pubs and cliff top walks then this is the spot for you. At the famous Cliffs of Moher you can observe colonies of puffins or simply soak in the spectacular views along this section of the journey.

Southern Peninsulas

This section of the route takes in the southern part of County Kerry, with its giant peninsulas, before crossing into County Cork. Views off into the endless expanses of the ocean combine with stellar walking opportunities here. Be sure to visit Skellig Michael, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Gaelic Christian monastery that dates from the 6th to 8th Centuries. Also made famous as the remote home of Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Haven Coast

The southern-most portion of the route winds its way from Bantry Bay to Kinsale. Beachcomb as you work your way towards the vibrant arts scene of West Cork. This is also a foodie’s paradise – Kinsale is known as the Gourmet Capital of Ireland.

This really is the road trip of a lifetime.

Castle Hotels on the Wild Atlantic Way

Ballynahinch Castle Hotel, Connemara

Ballyseede Castle Hotel, Tralee

Find out more here: The Wild Atlantic Way

Co. Waterford

Waterford Castle Hotel & Golf Resort

Waterford_Castle_Ireland

An historic 16th Century castle on its own private island. What more could you ask for?

The History of Waterford Castle

The Island on which Waterford Castle is situated was first settled by monks in the 6th Century before being taken over by the Vikings between the 9th and 11th Centuries. Due to its location, the island has always been strategically important.

The Norman Invasion & The Fitzgerald Family

After the Norman Invasion in 1170, Maurice Fitzgerald was the first in what was to become a lineage at the castle that spanned 800 years. The Fitzgerald’s were the Kings of Ireland in all but name during the 15th and 16th centuries.

The castle itself began life as a Norman Keep – a stone tower with thick, virtually inpenetrable walls, narrow slit windows and a lead roof – designed for defence. In the 14th Century a tower, which is the centre part of the present castle, was constructed on the site of the old Keep.

Over the years it was enlarged and in the late 1800’s the East and West wings were added. However, up until the present century it retained its fortress-like exterior with the original arrow slit windows. Roof top gargoyles were brought from Castle Irwell in Manchester.

High Society, the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám and an Italian Prince

In the 18th Century, Mary Frances Fitzgerald, a formidable socialite of the day, made the Castle a centre for high society. She was, at one stage, engaged to the Duke of Wellington (who defeated his foe Napoleon at Waterloo) but she broke off the engagement to marry her first cousin.

Her son Edward gained fame for his translation of The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám with some critics suggesting the poetic quality of his work exceeded that of the original author. Edward’s great, great niece Mary Augusta de Lisle Purcell Fitzgerald, who married an Italian Prince, was the last in the line of Fitzgerald ownership, ending an 800 year legacy.

The End of a Legacy and New Beginnings

In 1958 the Igoe family from County Mayo became the new owners of the Castle and set about building a five-acre complex of glasshouses to produce flowers and fruit.

The next owners were the Farren Brothers who farmed tomatoes and in 1978 the property was rented to a Waterford Pedigree dairy farmer who eventually bought the Island outright. In 1987 the Island was sold again, this time to Eddie Kearns who developed it into a luxurious hotel and country club. This was eventually sold to a business consortium in 1997.

In 2015 the estate passed into the hands of the current owner, Seamus Walsh, a Waterford-born businessman. Seamus and his family have reinvigorated the property while also preserving the Castle and the Island’s rich history. They have completed restoration work on the Castle as well as redecorating the self-catering lodges and the King’s Channel Clubhouse. They’ve also restored priceless antiques and procured new period décor. The 1870 farm buildings and stable yards are slated for restoration and a new spa will be opening soon.

Curious Fact

The ghost of Mary, the last of the Fitzgerald family to own the Castle is said to haunt the Munster dining room and attached conservatory

What’s it Rated?

5 star Luxury. With a capital ‘L’.

Get Me There Now!

The Island
Co. Waterford
Ireland

1 hour 30 minutes from Dublin Airport

You’ll take a small car ferry across to the Island.

In the Conde Nast 2016 People’s Choice Awards, Waterford Castle Resort was named No. 7 Best Hotel In The World.

Rooms at Waterford Castle

Waterford Castle is small and intimate with only 19 rooms. Each room is unique and they all exude a luxurious old world charm. You’ll never forget you’re in a castle because all the rooms feature the original cast iron windows set in granite stone, from which you can enjoy views of the Island’s parklands, forest and wildlife.

And if you really want to feel like royalty….you can’t go past the sumptuous Presidential Suite!

All rooms offer the modern conveniences you’d expect in an upscale hotel as well as:

  • Luxury Irish Handmade Soap Company toiletries
  • Heated towel rail
  • Bathrobes & Slippers
  • Daily newspaper
  • In-room complimentary Nespresso coffee & Irish Breakfast Tea
  • Handmade Irish chocolates (how awesome is that?)
  • Bathrooms that feature hand-painted ceramics and claw-footed baths (hello bubble bath!)

Standard Room

  • Elegantly decorated rooms that feature luxurious furnishings and antiques
  • Size – approximately 300 square feet


Deluxe Rooms

  • Grandeur and style within the walls of a 16th Century castle
  • Size – approximately 485 square feet
  • Complimentary bottled Irish Spring water

Deluxe Suites

  • Individually decorated with opulent furnishings and period décor – rich in history and style
  • All suites have numerous windows and spectacular views
  • Size – approximately 900 square feet
  • Separate living room area
  • Complimentary bottled Irish Spring water

Presidential Suite

  • Old-world style on a grand scale
  • Lavish decorations that include antique furnishings, presidential paintings, Waterford Crystal chandeliers and lamps and spectacular four poster bed
  • Size – approximately 1400 square feet
  • Entrance hall & separate living area
  • Double basins in the bathroom
  • Complimentary bottled Irish Spring water

 

 

Island Lodges

The Island Resort also offers 45 family-friendly, self-catering lodges.

  • Three double bedrooms each with private verandah overlooking the golf course
  • Open plan living, kitchen dining, laundry, four bathrooms and patio

Dining at Waterford Castle

  • Chef Michael Thomas heads up the team at the award winning Muster Room Restaurant. Here you’ll enjoy a fine dining experience with seasonal menus created with local produce and an extensive wine cellar. Considered one of the finest in Ireland, the restaurant provides a warm ambience with oak paneled walls and a lovely ornate ceiling.

  • For a more informal meal head to the King’s Channel Clubhouse. Overlooking the first tee of the 18-hole golf course it offers everything from light snacks to delicious evening meals.
  • Like all good castles, Waterford offers a decadent afternoon tea. You can choose to have yours in the elegant surroundings of the Fitzgerald Room, The Leinster Room or The Conservatory.

What else can I do here?

Golf

The Island is home to an 18-hole par 72 Des Smyth designed course that is ranked in the Top 30 parkland courses in Ireland by Golf Ireland. The course covers an area of over 200 acres with parkland and woodland areas that offer a scenic and strategically challenging game.

Clay Pigeon Shooting

One of the Resort’s most popular activities for both novices and more advanced shooters. Tuition is available.

Falconry

The sport of kings….and you’ll feel like one as you fly, handle feed and interact with these beautiful birds of prey.

Other Activities

  • Archery
  • Croquet
  • Tennis
  • Island Trails
  • Picnic in the grounds – have the kitchen prepare you a basket of delectable delights
  • Visit all the attractions of nearby Waterford

What About the Kids?

Small guests are well-catered for at the Resort.

  • Kid’s playground including a flying fox
  • Kid’s Island Fiesta Club (July & August) for drama, dance, arts & crafts and games
  • Find Eliza the Fairy’s front door

 

 

 

 

Dublin

Clontarf Castle Hotel

Clontarf Castle Hotel, Dublin, Ireland

If you’re looking to stay in a castle just 10 minutes from downtown Dublin then Clontarf Castle is your go to. It’s a boutique luxury hotel that has won a multitude of awards.

In Gaelic, Clontarf translates to “Cluain Tarbh” meaning Meadow of the Bull

The History of Clontarf Castle

Although the current building dates from 1837, there has been a castle on these grounds since the 12th century. The area of Clontarf itself is famous for the Battle of Clontarf  in 1014.

The Knights Templar

The first castle was built by Hugh de Lacy, Lord of Meath or his tenant Adam de Phepoe and was subsequently held by the Knights Templar. The Knights Templar were suppressed in 1308, at which time the castle went to the Knights Hospitaller.

Henry VIII

When Henry VIII disbanded monasteries between 1536 and 1541 (known as the Dissolution of the Monasteries) the castle was surrendered to the Crown.

Henry’s daughter, Queen Elizabeth I, granted the estate to her Secretary of State for Ireland in 1600. It then descended, through marriage, to the King Family. During the Irish Rebellion of 1641, George King of Clontarf took part and consequently had his lands confiscated.

Oliver Cromwell and the Vernon Family

After Oliver Cromwell invaded Ireland for the English Parliament in 1649, the estate was given to Captain John Blackwell who eventually sold his interest to John Vernon – Cromwell’s Quartermaster General. The Vernon family retained the castle for 300 years.

Edward Kingston Vernon was the last in the direct male line of the Vernons at Clontarf. He succeeded to the estate in 1913 but only lived there for six months before renting it to John Oulton (who was married to his niece). The Oultons purchased the castle 1933. Eventually Desmond Oulton, who inherited the estate in 1952, sold the property to pay death duties and other expenses.

A New Life

For five years the castle remained empty before being bought and sold several times and subsequently operated as a popular cabaret venue between 1972 and 1998. The castle was re-opened to the public as a four-star hotel in 1997.

Curious Facts

george_frideric_handel_by_balthasar_denner

The composer Handel frequently visited the castle during his stay in Dublin for the premiere of Messiah in 1742. Apparently Handel was captivated by the lady of the house – Dorothy “Dolly” Vernon. So much so that he eventually composed Forest Music in her honour.

On their 1971 debut album, Thin Lizzy refer to the castle in the song “The Friendly Ranger at Clontarf Castle”.

What’s it Rated?

4 stars of historic indulgence

Get Me There Now!

Castle Avenue
Clontarf
Dublin
Ireland

20 minutes from Dublin Airport

The Castle was voted #8 in the Top Hotels of Ireland in the Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards

Rooms at Clontarf Castle

Sophisticated, beautiful bedrooms with all the amenities you’d expect in a luxury hotel. Rooms are individually decorated and range all the way up to suites that feature four poster beds and sensational views.

All rooms offer:

55” Interactive TV Systems
Pillow top mattresses
HD IP Telephone system with direct dial access
Complimentary 100 Mb Wi-Fi
Laptop–friendly safes
Complimentary mineral water and tea / coffee making facilities
Individually controlled air conditioning and climate control
24 hour room service
Splendidly stocked mini bar
Hairdryer
Tea and coffee making facilities
Trouser Press

Deluxe Rooms

  • Boutique décor that ranges from country heritage to contemporary

Executive Rooms

  • Décor inspired by delicate tones and fabrics

Boutique Queens

  • Individual décor with luxury and glamour
  • Some with antique four poster beds
  • Some with views of the Dublin mountains

Luxury Suites

  • Newly remodelled with luxurious touches such as four poster beds and hand-painted wallpapers
  • Styles range from classic to contemporary
  • Ultimate castle luxury (who wouldn’t want to stay in a room called the Viking Suite?)

Dining at Clontarf Castle

Whet your appetite with modern Irish cuisine featuring locally sourced ingredients.  The Castle’s head chef, Stuart Heeney, has worked in some of the finest restaurants around the world.

  • If you want to really feel like you’re in a castle, dine at the Fahrenheit Restaurant. Situated inside the original 12th century castle walls, you’ll be surrounded by stained glass windows, wooden beams and panelled walls. The menu is contemporary and the restaurant has been awarded with two AA Rosettes for culinary excellence.
  • With its red chandeliers, sofa style seating and a chic vibe, the Indigo Lounge, creates a glamorous atmosphere. In summer you can also enjoy al fresco dining on the adjoining Terrace where ivy-draped castle walls provide the perfect backdrop for a glass of champers. Or two.
  • For a traditional Irish Castle pub experience, step into the Knights Bar. The polished wooden floors, open fireplace and ornate pitched ceiling lend a touch of the medieval to your meal at this popular Dublin Gastropub. And as if that’s not enough, they offer an extensive craft beer menu which will likely require extensive taste testing on your part.

What else can I do here?

Location. Location. Location.

At Clontarf Castle you’ll be a mere 10 minute drive from downtown Dublin so there will be plenty to keep you busy.

Dublin at sunset

If you’re an art lover be sure to pick up a copy of the Art Map at reception and take a stroll through the Castle’s carefully curated collection of paintings, photography and sculptures.

What about the kids?

The Castle gets a big tick of approval from the kids too,  with family packages that include a Castle treasure hunt and a family trip to either Dublin Zoo or the Viking Splash Tour.

 

Clontarf Castle Photo Credit: Photo © JP (cc-by-sa/2.0)

 

Castle HotelsCo. Galway

Ballynahinch Castle

Ballynahinch castle in Connemara mountains, Ireland

Ballynahinch Castle, located in peaceful Connemara, overlooks the Owenmore River from its private, 700 acre estate. It’s ideally located to explore the Wild Atlantic Way and Twelve Bens Mountain Range.  Relax and enjoy beautifully appointed rooms and elegant dining in this gorgeous setting.

Ballynahinch (Baile na hlnse), means ‘household of the Island’, and refers to the O’Flaherty Castle built on an Island in the lake.

The History of Ballynahinch Castle

A Pirate Queen

In the mid-1500’s, sixteen year old Grace O’Malley married Donal O’Flaherty, joining together two of Ireland’s most powerful families. Ballynahinch was one of many castles held by the O’Flahertys. When Donal died, Grace took over as clan leader and her notorious life as a pirate was immortalised in the Broadway musical “The Pirate Queen”. She famously met with Queen Elizabeth I in 1593 and was the only Gaelic woman ever to appear at the Royal Court. It was written of her at the time “In the wild grandeur of her mien erect and high Before the English Queen she dauntless stood.” She died the same year as Queen Elizabeth – in 1603 – and to this day her final resting place remains a mystery.

Descendents of the Crusaders

In 1590 the estate was sold to Robert Martin whose family have a lineage that stretches back to the Crusader, Sir Oliver Martin who received armorial bearings from Richard the Lionheart.  They were the first of the Tribes – a group of 14 merchant families who dominated life in Galway – to move their household outside the walls of the city.

Humanity Dick….or Hair-Trigger Dick?

The current house was built in 1756 by Robert Martin’s descendants as an inn. It was extensively renovated in 1813 after which the house became the principle residence of the Martin family who were, by this time, members of the British Parliament. Head of the household, Richard Martin, led an opulent lifestyle complete with lavish soirees. A fact which no doubt caused his money troubles in later years. During his time as an MP he was responsible for the founding of the RSPCA, earning him the title of “Humanity Dick”.  He also gained notoriety as a duelist…leading to another nickname – “Hair-Trigger Dick”.

A London Brewer

In 1850, following the Great Famine, Ballynahinch was one of many houses sold through the Encumbered Estates Court, before being sold again in 1870 to a London brewer – Richard Berridge. His refurbishment and expansion led to the building we see today. The Estate remained in his family for two generations.

An Indian Prince….and Famous Cricketer

In 1924, His Highness the Maharaja Jam Sahib of Nawanager, a.k.a. Ranji Prince of Cricketers, fell in love with Connemara during a fishing holiday and ultimately became the new owner of Ballynahinch. He’s most famous as a world class cricketer who still holds many unbroken records. He made extensive improvements to the castle, including most of the garden landscaping and construction of the fishing piers and huts along the river.

Following his untimely death in 1933, the property was sold to Mr Fredrick C. McCormack who owned it until his death in 1946.

The Estate was then purchased by the Irish Tourism Board  who opened the famed fisheries to the public. It was sold again in 1952 and has remained privately owned ever since, with three families owning the property over the past 66 years. During the years the hotel has been extended and updated.

Curious Fact

The Castle has long been a place of inspiration for artists and writers. Today, they work with Occasional Press to publish artistic or literary works that are related to the property, local area and people.  You can purchase these and other works at the hotel bookshop.

Connemara Countryside

What’s it Rated?

An indulgent 4 stars

Get Me There Now!

Recess, Connemara
Co. Galway
Ireland

3 hours 30 minutes from Dublin Airport

2 hours 20 minutes from Shannon Airport

1 hour 25 minutes from Galway Airport

Famous Guests Before Me

You’re going to be in good company…

  • Eamon de Valera
  • US President Gerald Ford
  • Sir Alec Guinness

The hotel was voted #1 in Ireland by Conde Nast travellers

Rooms at Ballynahinch Castle

Kick back in style while you soak in the gorgeous views. Each room is unique with tasteful decorations and 24 hour room service. All rooms offer crisp white linens, individually controlled heating, tea/coffee making facilities, hairdryer, direct dial phone, complimentary bottled water, flatscreen TV’s, free WiFi and evening turn-down service.

Classic Room

  •  Most are situated in the original house (3 are in the Riverside Wing)
  •  Decorated in a country sporting estate style
  •   215 to 344 sq ft rooms with king or twin beds

Classic Riverside Room

  •  Situated in the old house which was built in the 1700’s
  •  Each room has its own unique décor which reflects the colours of the Connemara landscape
  •  215 to 344 sq ft rooms with king or twin beds

Superior Room

  • Most of these spacious rooms overlook the river
  • Two superior rooms are located in the original house and have views of the woodlands for those who prefer a room in the house but with extra space, dressing room, bathtub and walk-in shower
  • 463 sq ft with king or twin beds (some with four poster beds)
  • Bathrobes, slippers and twin hand basins

Luxury Room

  • Located in the newer wing with spectacular views of the river, garden and woodlands
  • Spacious rooms that include walk through dressing rooms, separate bath and shower, spacious seating areas
  • Ground floor rooms have access to the gardens through French doors
  • 463 sq ft with king or twin beds
  • Bathrobes, slippers and twin hand basins
  • Pillow top mattress
  • i-Pod docking station

Riverside Suite

  • Enjoy river and woodland views from an exquisitely furnished room
  • Located in the newer wing
  • 645 sq ft one bedrooms suites with king or twin beds
  • 882 sq ft two bedroom suites with king or twin beds
  • 4 poster beds in the main bedroom
  • Beautiful bathrooms with separate dressing rooms
  • Spacious lounge areas
  • Bathrobes, slippers and twin hand basins
  • Pillow top mattress
  • i-Pod docking station

Dining at Ballynahinch

At Ballynahinch you can enjoy gourmet delights with breathtaking views.

  • Soak up the relaxed elegance of the Owenmore Restaurant where chef Pete Durkan and the team create culinary magic with fresh produce from the region. Meanwhile, you’ll be surrounded with a beautiful collection of artwork that adorns the walls.
  • For a friendly pub vibe there’s the Fisherman’s Pub & Ranji Room, popular with locals and visitors alike. Warm up by the open fire while you peruse a menu featuring local produce in seasonal dishes such as Wild Atlantic Salmon and Killary prawns.  Or perhaps organic venison and woodcock is more to your taste. (is your mouth watering yet?)
  • On Saturdays afternoon you can enjoy a traditional high tea. Indulge in all the sweet and savory delights of a traditional afternoon tea which also features a tea menu compiled by Jorg Mueller – a Galway-based master tea blender. Be sure to check out the signature house tea blend that features ingredients foraged from the Twelve Ben Mountains.

What else can I do here?

Fishing

Ballynahinch is world-renowned as one of the finest fisheries in Ireland with outstanding fly fishing for salmon and trout. The season runs from 1 Feburary to 30 September. The best time for sea trout fishing is from early June until the end of July.

Hiking

If you love to hike, you’ll love staying at Ballynahinch. There are plenty of easy walks through the Estate woodlands and for the more adventurous, the Twelve Bens, Maumturk Mountains and the surrounding Connemara countryside offer endless possibilities.  The hotel has a walking guide on-site who can give you insight into the history, archaeology and ecology of the area.

Connemara-National-Park

Island & Lobster Experience

Inishlacken is an island of picturesque beauty with its white sandy beaches, bird life and derelict houses. You can reach the island on a guided boat trip that also visits a grey seal colony in the Ballynahinch estuary.

Clay Shooting & Private Tutorials

Whether you’ve never touched a gun or are an experienced marksman, you’ll enjoy the
Connemara Shooting School at Ballynahinch Castle Hotel. You’ll be in good hands with chief instructor Shane Bisgood who has taught to International and Olympics standard.

Cycling

Hop on two wheels and explore the spectacular coastline and country side. Cycling tours are available for those who want to enjoy a leisurely cycle, right up to active and challenge rides. For the adventurous, there’s the beautiful Derroura Mountain Bike Trail – a 14km long track through stunning Connemara scenery.

Other Activities

  • Connemara National Park
  • Clifden Railway Line
  • Glengowla Mines
  • Brigit’s Garden
  • Croagh Patrick
  • Kylemore Abbey
  • Clifden Castle
  • Teach an Phiarsaigh (Pearses Cottage)
  • Aughnanure Castle
  • Cromwell’s Barracks
  • Westport House and Gardens
  • Explore the Wild Atlantic Way
  • Explore local villages, art galleries and museums

 

Ballynahinch Castle Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/ Patryk Kosmider

 

Castle HotelsCo. Clare

Dromoland Castle Hotel & Country Estate

Dromoland-Castle-Ireland

Dromoland Castle is a luxury castle hotel in County Clare. Frequented by the (very) rich and (very) famous this is the perfect place to relax and soak up the first class service in opulent and historic surroundings.

The History of Dromoland Castle

Dromoland Castle, with its baronial or Gothic Revival style architecture, has a history that stretches back 1,000 years. It was the ancestral home of the O’Briens, Barons of Inchiquin – direct descendants of the 11th Century High King of Ireland. They are one of the few native Gaelic families of royal blood and a branch of the O’Briens lived and ruled from here for 900 years.

Betting the House…..Literally

Early in the 11th Century, Dromoland was a defensive stronghold and was rebuilt during the 1500’s. It was rebuilt again in the early 1700’s becoming more residential in appearance with a design of the Queen Anne period.  Around this time, the 2nd Baronet – a well-known racehorse owner and trainer – bet the entire estate on a horse race. Fortunately his horse won and the estate remained in the family.

dromoland_castle-ireland

Rebuilding and Financial Challenges

In the early 1800’s, the then Lord of Dromoland had the main building of the castle redesigned and rebuilt at great expense. By the early 1900’s the family wealth was dwindling due to Land Acts that compelled landlords to sell their tenanted farmlands,  which were the main source of income for the family.

In 1921, during the IRA’s war against the British, IRA leaders earmarked Dromoland for destruction. However, the castle was saved at the last minute by local County Clare IRA leaders who argued that the Inchiquin Lords had been fair in dealing with tenant farmers.

As the 20th Century wore on, the loss of income from the tenant farms created significant financial challenges and the Castle, along with 330 acres of surrounding land, was finally sold to an American industrialist in 1962. The 18th baron O’Brien and his family live in Thomond House and still farm and run part of the estate for sport and leisure.

A Luxury Hotel is Born

From 1962 major renovations have transformed the castle from an ancestral home into a luxury hotel, however the baronial country house atmosphere has been retained. The Castle changed hands again in 1987 and is now owned by a consortium of mainly Irish American investors.

Curious Fact

The pedigree of the Dromoland O’Briens is housed in a vault at Lloyds of London and is 36 feet in length!

What’s it Rated?

5 star LUXURY

Get Me There Now!

Newmarket-on-Fergus
Co. Clare
Ireland

2 hours 30 minutes from Dublin

10 minutes from Shannon Airport

Famous Guests Before Me

You’re going to be in good company…

President Nelson Mandela
Mohammed Ali
Bono
Johnny Cash
President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton
Michael Winner
President Mary Robinson
Prince Albert of Monaco
Francis Rossi, Status Quo
Brooke Shields
President George Bush Jnr
Pierce Brosnan
Richard Harris
John Hume
Quentin Tarrantino
Ozzie & Sharon Osbourne
The Beatles
Crown Prince of Japan
Robert Redford
John Travolta
Xi Jinping, President of China

In the 2013 Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards, Dromoland was  voted No. 4 Resort in Europe

Rooms at Dromoland Castle

Call room service and order some pre-dinner champagne and canapés. Or perhaps you’d like some fresh flowers and handmade chocolates?  The name of the game here is relaxation and indulgence. And there are a range of rooms to choose from. All the rooms have been refurbished to offer modern conveniences while retaining a feel for the heritage of the hotel.

Whatever your room choice, you’ll be able to snuggle up in the bathrobes and slippers while you surf the net or binge watch on-demand movies. As you sip your champagne of course!

champagne bottle

Queen Anne

  • A quadrangle of 28 guest rooms built in 1736
  • Designed to offer modern conveniences while retaining a feel for the heritage of the hotel
  • Osborne & Little wallpapers, bespoke woven wool carpets and complementary fabrics from Europe’s leading design houses
  • 350 sq ft rooms with Twin or King beds
  • Nespresso coffee makers and stocked minibar

Deluxe Rooms

  • Located throughout the hotel overlooking the lake and gardens
  • Each room is individually designed and decorated
  • Furniture styles range from 19th Century Empire style to Louis XV
  • Specially commissioned wall fabric by Canovas
  • 424 sq ft room with 2 Doubles or 1 King bed

Staterooms and Suites

  • Located within the original castle walls
  • Each room is unique in design and dimension and includes a sitting and dining area
  • A range of design styles, Louis XV furniture and specially commissioned fabrics by Colefax and Fowler
  • Lighting with crystal and nickel lamp bases
  • Beautifully appointed bathrooms with luxury marble and painted furniture
  • Room sizes start at 520 sq ft

Dining at Dromoland Castle

When you stay at Dromoland Castle you can enjoy a wide selection of gourmet delights served with welcoming but discreet service. Better pack the elasticized pants…..

  • Internationally renowned and award-winning, the Earl of Thomond Restaurant offers an elegant dining experience in beautiful surroundings. The restaurant uses locally sourced ingredients and, for the perfect pairing, a sommelier can assist with the best wine choices.
  • A more casual dining experience can be found at the Fig Tree Restaurant in the Golf & Country Club. With the claret coloured wallpaper, beamed ceiling and open fire the mood is warm and rich.
  • If you’re here between February and November you can indulge your taste buds with Afternoon Tea in the Drawing Room
  • The Gallery offers a place to sink into deep, soft couches beside an open fire while enjoying a coffee or light snack
  • If the mood strikes for an al fresco meal, the Chef can prepare a picnic basket complete with champagne

What else can I do here?

Golf

Dromoland has its own golf course which is widely regarded as one of the finest 18 hole parkland courses in the country.

It has been described as an experience never to be forgotten, presenting a challenge to both professionals and amateurs.

The Spa

How about immersing yourself in a haven of scented fresh flowers and candles, warm mood lighting and the relaxing sounds of soft music….all within the walls of a 16th Century Castle?

Count. Me. In!

The hotel’s luxurious spa has six treatment rooms, two dedicated manicure and pedicure rooms and a gazebo covered outdoor hydro pool.

Leave calm, refreshed and invigorated.

Essential Oils

Other Activities

  • Clay pigeon shooting
  • Fishing
  • Archery
  • Falconry
  • Horse riding
  • Walking and cycling
  • Pony and Trap rides
  • Indoor Swimming Pool, Sauna, Steam room, Jacuzzi
  • Fully equipped Gymnasium

What about the kids?

The hotel is perfect for small guests too….with a kids club during certain vacation periods and plenty of activities throughout the year. Children will head off to dreamland with luxury cookies and milk at bed time and babysitting can be arranged.

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Co. Kerry

Ballyseede Castle Hotel

Ballyseede Castle

Located near the famous (not to mention beautiful) Ring of Kerry, Ballyseede Castle is the only Castle Hotel in Kerry.

Ballyseede is pronounced “Ballysheedy” (Bail ó Sioda = O’Sheedy’s Town)

The History of Ballyseede Castle

A Long and Bloody History

In the 1500’s it was the chief garrison for the Fitzgerald family a.k.a. the Earls of Desmond. They were infamous for their refusal to swear allegiance to the Crown which resulted in the Desmond Rebellions by the Earl and his followers the Geraldines. The 15th Earl of Desmond was eventually captured and beheaded and his head sent to Queen Elizabeth I as a gift. She displayed it on London Bridge.

A Red Rose Each Year

The estate was forfeit to the Crown but eventually the Castle and 3,000 acres of land was given on lease to Robert Blennerhassett. He was required to present a red rose (symbol of the House of Tudor) each year at the Festival of John the Baptist. The Blennerhasset family occupied the castle until 1966.

Today the hotel offers elegance and luxury in a setting of 30 acres of woodland and manicured gardens. You’ll be greeted by Mr Higgins, the Irish Wolfhound, and his buddy Einstein the rock catcher.

What’s it Rated?

4 stars of cozy luxury

Get Me There Now!

Ballyseede
Tralee
Co. Kerry
Ireland

Located along the Wild Atlantic Way coastal touring route

The closest airport is Shannon which is 1 hour 30 minutes away

The Castle is 3 hours 20 minutes from Dublin

For a Hauntingly Good Time

Not all the other guests you may encounter here are of this world.

Ballyseede Castle is rated as one of the most haunted hotels in the world (TripAdvisor)!

The Phantom Monk of Kinnitty is the castle’s most famous ghost and – reportedly – its most chatty. He’s been known to communicate with staff and visitors and often appears in solid form….so much so that some people mistake him for a living person.

There are also two haunted rooms in the hotel – the Geraldine Room and the Elizabeth Room – as well as other parts of the hotel where presences have been seen and sensed.

But fear not. Much like Casper, all the ghosts here appear to be friendly.

Rooms at Ballyseede Castle

Luxury awaits you in a range of rooms that offer old world elegance with modern comforts. There is wi-fi throughout the hotel.

Superior Castle Rooms

  • Spacious and tastefully decorated
  • Luxury touches like cotton robes and slippers
  • Located on all floors of the Castle

Family Castle Rooms

  • Larger rooms with bedding for families
  • Babysitting service is available – either in-room or entertained in the hotel

Double Castle Rooms

  • Decorated to retain the character and charm of Castle living
  • Located on all floors of the Castle

Cozy Castle Double Rooms

  • Offer a unique Castle experience at an affordable price
  • All the features and comfort of the standard rooms….just in a smaller space

The Lodge Rooms

The Lodge is a 2 minute walk from the main castle and is a great spot to relax with family and friends

  • A different experience to that of the Castle
  • All the comforts of the Castle in a private accommodation

Dining at Ballyseede Castle

Salad

The O’Connell Restaurant

  • 2 star AA Rosette awarded
  • Irish cuisine using locally sourced and seasonal ingredients
  • Excellent wine selection

The Stone Room Restaurant

  • Enjoy breakfast here each morning
  • Locally sourced produce of eggs and bacon, Irish cheeses, pastries and meats as well as a wide variety of fruits and juices

Pappy’s Bar

  • All-day dining with an extensive menu
  • A relaxed spot in the evening where you can sit by the fire and listen while Tim the barman entertains you with his tall tales

What else can I do here?

fly-fishing

Splash Sports

  • Learn to surf. Yes, you did read that correctly. This is the only Level 2 surf school in Kerry.
  • Also check out the Water Trampolines and Slides, Canoeing, Paddle Boats, Banana Boat rides, sea safaris and Stand-Up Paddleboarding

Golf

  • Championship golf courses nearby include Ballybunion and Killarney
  • The first course in Europe designed by Arnold Palmer is at Barrow, 9 miles from Tralee

Boating and Fishing

  • Fenit, just 8 miles from Tralee, offers a 100-berth marina and is home to the Tralee Sailing Club
  • The rehabilitated Tralee & Fenit ship canal
  • Fenit, Banna and Ballyheigue Blue Flag beaches are also within easy reach of Tralee
  • Deep –sea fishing or fly fishing

Folk Theatre Experience

  • Tralee is home to the Siamsa Tire – Ireland’s National Folk Theatre
  • Experience traditional song, dance and movement
Ring of Kerry, Ireland
The spectacular Ring of Kerry

Other Activities

  • Horse riding
  • Walking – the Dingle Way and North Kerry Way routes start in Tralee as well as lots of local walks
  • Tralee Aqua Dome for indoor water activities
  • Greyhound racing at the Kingdom Greyhound Stadium
  • Visit nearby Skellig Islands – a World Heritage Site and location of Star Wars “The Force Awakens”
  • Tour the Ring of Kerry
  • Visit Tralee Town Park

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