Who doesn’t want to feel like royalty? It has always been a dream of mine to stay in a castle, to feel like a princess. Well, we just returned from lovely Ireland where we were lucky enough to stay in THREE castles, each one magical in their own unique way. So let me inspire you! Here are three enchanting castles you can stay at in Ireland.
Location: Little Island, Waterford
Price per night: €158-278
Waterford Castle sits on Little Island, just a two-minute car ferry trip over the River Suir. That’s right, the castle is on its own freaking island. Walking through the doors, we entered an elegant lobby filled with velvet and gold and a wood burning fireplace. Staff showed us to our rooms, each with its own mortise key. Instead of room numbers, each room had a name; we were in The Kildare Room. A beautiful room equipped with robes and slipper, a claw-foot bathtub, original cast-iron windows, and decor that reminds you that you’re in a castle.
We enjoyed a five-course meal at the Munster Room Restaurant, critically acclaimed in the 2018 Michelin Guide, and holder of two AA Rosettes. The service was impeccable – chairs pulled out for us, napkins placed on our laps, and we never had an empty water glass. The food was incredible beyond words, and it was my first meal fancy enough to be served sorbet as a palette cleanser in between courses.
The activities: The grounds have an 18-hole championship golf course, tennis, croquet, falconry, clay pigeon shooting, archery, and beautiful walking trails. We took advantage of the walking trails, which we enjoyed at the most beautiful time of day, dusk.
The history: Originally just a tower in the 16th century, it was expanded to its current castle glory by the late 1800s, and was developed into a hotel in 1988, with a recent change in ownership in 2015. The new owner put a priority on restoring the castle to its original glory – reupholstering original furniture, procuring period decor, and adding walkways and new hotel amenities. They did an excellent job, because it is the perfect balance of period-inspired with modern amenities.
Location: Newmarket-on-Fergus in County Clare
Price per night: €430-813
Dromoland Castle felt most like a fairytale of the three. In my opinion is the most picturesque – magical from every single angle. When we arrived we were greeted by pristinely dressed doormen taking our luggage, while the falcon trainers were flying the birds around the courtyard. What’s more magical than that?
The activities: Dromoland Castle offers fishing, archery, falconry, horseback riding, complimentary bicycles to bike the grounds, pony & trap rides, clay pigeon shooting, hiking, and tennis. And there’s also a leisure center that includes a gym, sauna, steam room, jacuzzi and pool. We decided to do a hawk walk through the on-site School of Falconry. We met our instructor Dave, and our hawk, Alice. While walking the grounds, he told us the history of the school and how they train their birds. At the end of our walk, we were brought to the aviary where we met other hawks, falcons, and owls who live on site.
The food at Dromoland Castle may have been my favorite on the trip. While their on-site restaurant “Earl of Thomond” has been awarded a Michelin star, we chose to eat at the onsite Fig Tree Restaurant, where I had the Irish chicken I’ve been dreaming about every day since.
The history: Construction on the baronial gothic revival Dromoland Castle started in the 15th or 16th century, and was completed in 1835. In 1962 it was renovated and converted into a hotel, now a member of member of Historic Hotels Worldwide. Dromoland Castle sits on a 450-acre estate off of the Lough Dromoland.
Location: Cong, Co. Mayo on the Mayo-Galway border
Price per night: €315-2500
Ashford Castle was the grandest of them all – maybe it was the moat…There was something transformative stepping through their doors – you immediately feel like royalty. And why wouldn’t you when greats like Oscar Wilde and John Lennon have stayed there?
Both the castle and the property are MASSIVE with a capital “M”. The grounds are surrounded by 350 acres of garden and woodland. And the castle? The only way I could get a picture of the entire thing was with panoramic mode on my phone. The castle sits on the banks of Lough Corrib and River Cong, hence, the moat.
We spent most of our night in the rooftop billiards and cigar lounge, drinking cocktails and relaxing after a day of traveling. A few of us learned to play snooker, a British billiards game dating back to the 19th century. Personally, I found the rules too complicated so I moved on to cocktails.
Before the trip, during my research phase, I kept seeing pictures of the beautiful pool and spa they had, and I knew I had to set aside time to see it. I am so glad I did. The pool was easily the most beautiful pool I have ever seen – decorated with a mosaic by South African artist Jane Du Rand. It felt like I was swimming in a museum. Just, look.
The service at Ashford Castle was next-level. Each room came with a bedside control panel that operates the lights and blinds. It also has a room service button you can press that will alert the staff you need something, and a do-not-disturb button that will activate a light on your door, letting staff know that you’re set. The bathrooms also have panel controlled lights, heated floors, and heated towel racks.
The activities: Ashford Castle offers activities such as fishing, falconry, clay-pigeon shooting, archery, zip-lining, tree climbing, cycling, kayaking, golf, horseback riding, paddle boarding, tennis, a 32-seat cinema, boating trips, and a cruise through the Lough Corrib. They also have two Irish wolfhounds (Cronan and Garvan) you can take on walks every morning at 8:30am, and take pictures with them in the hotel lobby at 10am.
The history: The medieval Ashford Castle dates back to 1228, and was once home to the famous Guinness family. Yes, that Guinness family. It is established as a hotel in 1939, under the ownership of Noel Huggard.
So I hope I have inspired you to book your own castle stay. Treat yourself, live like royalty for a night or two!