Waterford has the honour of being Ireland’s oldest city, founded by Vikings in the 10th century. The four-star Waterford Castle Hotel can be found just outside its limits, on the former monastic site of Little Island. After the 1170 Norman invasion, the FitzGerald family – related to Strongbow, the leader of the takeover – were given this island, which would become their home for the next 800 years. The current 16th century castle was recently refurbished, restoring many elements of its historic design. Standard rooms feature original cast iron windows and claw-footed baths.
The medieval tower house of Hatch’s Castle in Ardee, County Louth can be traced back to the 14th century, but has been seamlessly absorbed into the modern streetscape of the town. The dwelling was given to the Hatch family by the English military leader Oliver Cromwell, before William Hatch was the first chairman of the Ardee Town Council in 1844. The four-storied castle is currently a private residence, but rooms within can be rented on Airbnb from €69 per night.
One of around 50 castle forts built in Ireland during the 19th century, the Bartra Martello tower in Dalkey has been renovated and converted into a luxury residence. For €449 per night, two guests can stay in this one-bedroom tower constructed in 1804, now a National Monument. Complete with a rooftop terrace and working fireplace, and with a vista taking in Dublin Bay, this place has peaceful romantic getaway written all over it.
The castle at Trim is the biggest Norman castle in the country at 30,000 square metres. It was built by Hugh de Lancy – Lord of Meath – in the 12th century, and later became one of the primary filming locations for the 1995 film Braveheart. Perched on a high vantage point overlooking the River Boyne, Trim Castle was the site of a number of meetings of the Irish Parliament during the 15th century. It was restored by Ireland’s Office of Public Works during the 1990s at a price of €6 million. Though you can’t actually stay inside the castle itself, the next-door Trim Castle Hotel affords spectacular views of the three-story keep.
Trim Castle Hotel, Castle Street, Trim, County Meath, Ireland +353 46 948 3000
This tower in the forest of the Clandeboye Estate in County Down is described as a folly – which is to say it’s a building mainly intended for decoration. Finished in 1861, it was designed by the Scottish architect William Burn – who pioneered the ‘castle-like’ Scottish Baronial style – for the British public servant Lord Dufferin, who owned the estate at the time. Helen’s Tower, named for Lord Duffer’s mother, can now be rented out from the Irish Landmark Trust at a fee of around €370 for 3 nights.
Lough Cutra Castle in Galway was designed by the same man who designed much of Buckingham Palace, the British architect John Nash. In 1797, the British soldier and politician Colonel Charles Vereker inherited the land and commissioned the building of the gothic-style castle in the same style as Nash’s own home in East Cowes, north of the Isle of Wight. Overlooking a 1,000-acre lake, the entire castle can be privately rented to accommodate 17 guests, plus another 23 in other buildings on the estate for a total of 40 guests. Former guests at the castle have included Prince Charles, Irish President Michael D. Higgins, Bob Geldof, W.B. Yeats and Lady Augusta Gregory.