Ireland is renowned for its castles and country estates. The great thing is that, in many cases, you can stay in them – total luxury and quintessential Irish hospitality, included. On the Emerald Isle, fairytale castles and country estates come with spas, bars and Michelin stars. From Kerry to Kildare, here are some of our turret-topped favourites.
A retreat for over 160 years, Great Southern has the famous Irish welcome down to a tee. The resort is a place where time seems to slow down as guests enjoy the 6 acres (2ha) of grounds, a spa and an indoor pool. Rooms are decorated in warm, restful colours, reflecting the resort’s heritage, and each one offers luxuries, such as White Company toiletries. Meals include fresh local ingredients, served in the Victorian-era Garden Room restaurant, which showcases Kerry’s countryside.
Surrounded by mountains, yet on the seashore, the 500-acre (202ha) Parknasilla Resort has been revered as a retreat for over 100 years. Nostalgia, romance and a certain charm permeate every part of the resort, particularly the guest rooms, which come with wedge-thick pillows, antique furniture, fresh-cut flowers and more. One of the suites is named after Grace Kelly, who visited in the summer of ’61. The spa is enriched by the natural beauty of Kenmare Bay’s inlets, islands and beaches, with terraces and a thermal suite poised to take in the view.
Dating back to 1180, Kilkea is one of the oldest inhabited castles in Ireland, surrounded by 180 acres (73ha) of woodland and gardens. The resort offers rooms in the castle itself, Carriage rooms in the courtyard and self-catering lodges, too. The spa has a state-of-the-art thermal suite, traditional treatments and Elemis Biotec facials, plus personal training, too. Dining is a royal experience, particularly in the castle’s Restaurant 1180, feathered with sweeping peacock-blue curtains set around mullioned windows and tables fanning out around a sturdy stone fire, all overlooking the rose garden.
This 64-acre (26ha) estate at the scenic Gap of Dunloe mountain pass blends a tranquil setting with upscale sophistication. Many rooms offer balconies or terraces overlooking the gardens and sloping emerald-green scenery. Guests can use the resort’s pool and leisure facilities or set off for country pursuits such as pony trekking and fishing.
Each room of this historic manor house is individually designed and named after a famous figure connected with the estate, which dates back to the 1700s. Guests can enjoy the walking, running and biking trails around the 500-acre (202ha) swathe of greenery, which also takes in the River Nore and the paddocks of the Ballylinch Stud, before relaxing in the swimming pool, sauna or steam rooms or indulging with a spa treatment. The resort’s Michelin-starred restaurant Lady Helen offers classic Irish dishes served with a creative flair.
Set in 43 acres (17ha) at the foot of mountains in idyllic Co Donegal, Lough Eske Castle offers rooms with oak furniture, marble bathrooms and spectacular garden views. Cedars Restaurant features traditional dishes such as pan-roasted scallops and quail’s breast. Afterwards, guests can relax in the ornate living rooms beside open fires. The spa offers a steam room, sauna and pool as well as treatments.
The imposing Dromoland Castle has been welcoming guests since the 16th century, but its roots date all the way back to 1014, when the O’Brien clan ruled from this roost. Today, the 450-acre (182ha) estate has a host of outdoor activities, such as horse riding, falconry and fishing, to lure you out from view-toting rooms, bedecked in sumptuous furniture and relaxing colour schemes. Elsewhere, creative cuisine and impeccable service are at the heart of the dining experience. The O’Briens would approve.
The Gothic splendour and world-class service of Adare Manor entice guests to return, time after time. Rooms are individually designed, beautifully furnished and have stunning views. Guests can dine by candlelight in the Michelin-starred Oak Room restaurant and enjoy artisan Irish ingredients paired with fine wines. Days at the manor are filled with discovery, with many outdoor and indoor activities available.
The Palladian-style architecture of Powerscourt Hotel is the first impression guests receive of the resort, set in a historic estate. Each exquisite guest room has a marble bathroom and luxury feather bedding. Sika Restaurant serves quintessential Irish fare against an elegant backdrop, and the spa features a 20m (66ft) Swarovski crystal-lit swimming pool. The Powerscourt Estate also has a distillery and waterfall to discover, too.
For more relaxing stays around the Emerald Isle, check out our guide to the best spa hotels in Ireland – bookable on Culture Trip.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
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