The fantasy of living in a medieval castle comes alive in Ireland at these grand hotels that make you feel like a peer of the realm. Spend your days riding a horse in the countryside, have picnics by the lake, or learn about Irish ancestry—it’s a holiday straight out of a ITV period drama. By Apeksha Bhateja
Waterford Castle Hotel & Golf Resort
The former family home of the powerful Fitzgerald Family, Waterford Castle Hotel & Golf Resort is a private sanctuary in Ireland. Located on a 310-acre island, this 16th-century property can be accessed only by a ferry. From the Fitzgerald Coat of Arms Crest in the Great Hall and portraits of the Fitzgerald family to antique furniture and tapestries, the castle has preserved its past glory.Have your meals at King’s Channel Clubhouse with the golf course spread around you; savour tea and scones in The Lobby; or book a private dinner in The Conservatory. For some bonding time with your family, one of the self catering lodges that can accommodate up to six people will be perfect—it offers a private veranda, activities at the golf course, and access to the kids’ club.
Bonus Tip: Dress up in your vintage best for the Great Gatsby after noon tea.
Expect to find a wine cellar, a cinema, a cigar terrace, and a spa inside this 800-year-old grey-stoned structure. One of the oldest castles in Ireland, it was the home to the Guinness family before it opened as a hotel in 1939.
This formidable fortress towering over Lough Corrib underwent a massive restoration (worth US$75 million) in 2015 when architect Philippe Bonino retained the castle’s original features, but turned it into a modern luxury hotel. Here, culinary experiences are fit for a duke—bistro-style dining at The Dungeon, traditional afternoon tea in The Connaught Room, and a formal dinner at George V Dining Room will certainly make you feel like one. If you’re travelling with your family, book the Deluxe Queen Family Room that includes bathrobes and slippers for kids, daily maid service, and babysitting services. Make use of the sweeping lands—you can learn to fly hawks; explore the estate on a horseback or bicycle; or unwind with a game of golf while your kids are busy at the cinema.
Bonus Tip: Ring for the LEGO butler who delivers LEGO sets on a silver tray.
Built in the 16th century, this castle was the residence of the family of Irish High King Brian Boru, and it still maintains its illustrious guest list: George Bush, Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela, and Bono have stayed here. You can easily imagine the ‘once upon a time’ dream at this castle: royalty walking down the grand staircases, dancing under vintage chandeliers, and scandalous stories being whispered in rooms filled with elegant woodcarvings and antique furnishings. On the expansive 400-acre property, you will have plenty to do—from falconry and horse riding to golfing and historic tours. For a romantic afternoon, take a picnic basket from the hotel and spend the afternoon by the lake; however, make sure you are back in time for the five-course dinner with live harp music at Earl of Thomond restaurant.
Bonus Tip: Take a pony and trap ride around the grounds
This 15th-century castle is located just outside Donegal, on the shores of Lough Eske. Here, the landscape is rugged, with the mountains rising in the distance and green pastures all around. The hotel off ers 96 rooms and suites that overlook either the lake or the estate—we recommend the two-bedroom Presidential Suite that has old-worldly touches such as a hand-carved mahogany four-poster bed, rustic fireplaces and carpets, and velvet upholstery, along with modern-day luxuries including marble bathrooms, WiFi access, and a mini-bar. Do take some time out to visit Spa Solis situated in the gardens. Or better yet, make it a wellness escape by booking their Midweek Tranquillity package that offers two nights’ accommodation with breakfast, afternoon tea and one dinner at Cedars restaurant, complimentary use of pool and fitness centre, and 20 per cent discount on spa treatments. And finally, this may sway you: The hotel welcomes four-legged friends, so your pet won’t be left behind.
Bonus Tip: Have a bubble bath in the silver clawfoot roll-top bathtub.