Your Home is your Castle - Ireland
While no visit to the magical green island of Ireland will ever feel like it has done justice to its beauty and charm, a week long itinerary is arguably just enough to sample three of the finest castles Europe has to offer.
Each with a different history and route to its current incarnation, and each with attributes you may want to consider when contemplating your own future castle...
Lough Eske Castle, Donegal
Lough Eske Castle is nestled in the wild and rugged hinterlands of County Donegal in northwest Ireland, and is one of Ireland’s most highly regarded castle hotels.
On an estate dating from the 1400’s, the original stronghold was built in 1474, with the current
primary structure being completed in the 1860’s. However when a fire ravaged the site just prior to World War II in 1939 the building fell into ruin – overgrown, neglected and almost forgotten for the remainder of the century, until a painstaking restoration returned the castle to its former glory in 2007.
In the subsequent years, Lough Eske Castle has received numerous accolades as one of the finest hotels in Ireland. With warm honey-coloured stone and a turreted tower, it looks every bit a castle from the outside.
And inside, the lavishly restored interior exudes refined elegance, with ornate furnishings, elaborate staircases, atmospheric lighting and a plethora of fireplaces.
There are two bars, the Gallery Bar and Father Browne Bar, both atmospheric and convivial. In addition, Cedars Restaurant is renowned for innovative Irish food, making the most of fresh Donegal produce. High Tea can be taken daily in any of the castle’s impressive drawing rooms.
Once checked in you are hidden away on an extensive estate on the shores of Lough Eske, surrounded by 40 acres of woodland and inviting gardens. It is a refined and sophisticated country estate, with genteel staff who extend a genuinely warm Irish welcome.
While staying in Lough Eske Castle, you can explore the rugged beauty of County Donegal, including windswept seascapes, the dramatic cliffs of Slieve League, and the mountainous high passes of the interior.
Ballynahinch Castle, Connemara
Heading south, to the Connemara district of County Galway, you will discover the delightful Ballynahinch Castle.
While the history of the estate dates back to 1546, the current manor house was built as an inn in 1756. With multiple owners over its colourful history, including an Indian Prince and the Irish Tourism Board, Ballynahinch Castle has hosted many dignitaries and celebrities in its time. However, it is also regularly visited by local Irish folk, who flock to its hospitable ‘castle’ pub, its highly acclaimed restaurant, and the world-renowned fishing to be had on the estate.
Ballynahinch Castle is perhaps not as ‘handsome’ as Lough Eske Castle, more swarthy and rugged than elegant (more John Snow than Jamie Lannister) but its setting at the foot of the Twelve Bens Mountains is nothing short of regal. Rooms look out upon the mountains or the river coursing behind the property, with similarly picturesque views from the restaurant. There is a walled garden, both beautiful and functional, as it provides food for the pub and restaurant. And surrounding the castle is an extensive estate of forest and wilderness, with guided walks and hikes available. If staying
in, there are numerous drawing rooms and an exquisite library for relaxing in, with roaring log fires and sumptuous furnishings.
Further afield, the castle is the perfect base from which to explore the iconic Connemara region, with its dramatic coastal scenery, mountainous glens, and ruined churches and castles, as well as bustling Galway.
Adare Manor, Limerick
Further south again from Ballynahinch in Connemara, is the picturesque village of Adare, in County Limerick.
And this is home to our third recommended castle stay – the deservingly celebrated Adare Manor.
Adare Manor is adorned with 365 windows, 52 ornate chimneys and 4 towers, corresponding to the number of days, weeks, and seasons in a year...
While the estate dates back to the 1100’s, the castle itself was only built between 1830 and 1860, when the Earl of Dunraven, suffering a painful and debilitating case of gout, was convinced by his wife that designing a new manor house would be a good distraction from his ailments.
The result was one of the most beautiful homes in all of Europe, with architectural stylings borrowed from palaces and castles all over the continent.
An example of a ‘Calendar House’, Adare Manor is adorned with 365 windows, 52 ornate chimneys and 4 towers, corresponding to the number of days, weeks, and seasons in a year, and is a masterpiece of romantic and whimsical design.
The manor home was first converted into a hotel in 1987, but in 2015, the hotel was closed by its new owner, JP McManus, for a painstaking, no-expenses spared, 22 month restoration.
The result is one of the most stunning castle hotels in all of Europe.
The 840 acre estate that surrounds the Manor House consists of sweeping parklands, cultivated grounds, formal French gardens, magnificent mature trees, and the Maigue, one of Ireland’s best trout filled rivers.
Oh, and of course it features its own picturesque cricket ground, and an award winning golf course (which has just been chosen to host the Ryder Cup in 2026).