Ireland is famous for its castles, with everything from ancient, crumbling ruins to luxurious castle hotels. If you’ve ever dreamed of staying in a castle, the Emerald Isle is one of the best places to do it. There are a wide range of options when it comes to Irish castle stays, including some that are relatively affordable and others that are truly honeymoon worthy, providing the chance to live like a king and queen.
I’ve stayed at all three of these highy recommended castles in Ireland, with Dromoland the most luxurious, Abbeyglen a mid-range option, and Ross, the most unique.
Dromoland Castle Hotel, Newmarket-on-Fergus, County Clare
Dromoland is known as the “hotel of dreams.” Dating back to the 5th century, it opened its doors as a hotel in 1963. The castle is the ancestral home of one of the few families of true Irish royalty, direct descendants of Brian Boru, High King of Ireland from 1002 to 1014. It remained in ancestral ownership of the King until 1962, when American industrialist Mr. Bernard McDonough purchased the estate and began renovations.
Today, it offers luxurious accommodations that are popular with honeymooners and others seeking an upscale castle experience. The façade and towers, added in the 1830s, are reminiscent of knights and dragoons, while rooms feature lavish touches throughout. There are a variety of onsite dining options, as well as a golf course, spa, award-winning falconry school and activities like horse riding, fishing, clay shooting and archery.
Abbeyglen Castle Hotel, Clifden, County Galway
While Dromoland is truly unforgettable, one of my favorite Irish castle stays is Abbeyglen Castle Hotel in Clifden. Tucked among the forested hills of Connemara with a backdrop of the stunning Twelve Ben Mountain Range, it offers affordable luxury.
Your stay begins with a welcome champagne reception that includes a fun history lesson on the castle and a little trivia competition. The best rooms have four-poster beds, fireplaces and Jacuzzis. While the town of Clifden hosts many fabulous pubs and restaurants, you won’t want to miss the chance to dine at the castle’s own award-winning eatery with a menu featuring local seafood and Connemara lamb. The piano bar promises a fun evening of music afterward.
Ross Castle, County Meath
Ross Castle offers a very authentic medieval castle experience. This isn’t the same castle that’s in County Killarney. It sits on the shores of Lough Sheelin in County Meath, about 60 miles northwest of Dublin. A stay in one of the tower rooms of this castle built in 1563 is sure to be something you’ll never forget, though it may not be ideal for doing much sleeping. Ranked on Lonely Planet’s Top 10 list of the world’s “lesser-known haunted places,” guests have been known to hear voices when everyone seems to be asleep, or the sound of doors shutting on their own. Some have even felt the presence of a spirit at the edge of their bed while trying to get some shuteye.
I stayed here, alone, in the top tower room on the night before Halloween back in 2013. When the heavy door opened on its own, I decided to leave the lights on and didn’t sleep much at all, but it was certainly something I’ll never forget. The castle has changed hands since and it’s said have been spruced up quite a bit. It can be booked for exclusive use with a minimum two-night stay. A variety of more affordable options are available on-site, including the adjacent Castle Cottage.
There are many other castle hotels to consider, including:
Kinnity Castle, Birr, County Offaly
Clontarf Castle, Dublin
Ashford Castle, Cong, County Mayo
Lough Eske Castle, Donegal
Waterford Castle Hotel, Waterford