|Vacation Like Royalty
in an Irish Castle by Carol Johnson
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Castles abound all over the
countryside of Ireland, but they’re not just for royalty anymore.
Many travelers who dream
about Ireland imagine rolling green fields with majestic stone castles
rising into the blue sky. But an Irish castle doesn’t have to be only a
part of the scenery. A smattering of castles all over Ireland offer a wide
variety of accommodations and features to adventurous travelers who want
to experience a touch of castle life first hand.
luxury accommodations to medieval banquets and resident ghosts, Irish castles
offer striking views of the countryside, and traditional sightseeing opportunities
are always nearby. John Colclough, a travel specialist at Adams & Butler
in Dublin, works with travelers to book castle accommodations. "There is
pretty much everything that you could want…from the point of view of price,
from the point of view of location, "Colclough says. "You can have them
on the seaside, you can have them in the middle of the mountains."
You can even rent out an
entire castle if you want to, and the price isn’t as prohibitive as you
might expect. Colclough says that there are small castles of about three
bedrooms that can be rented out for as little as $1,600 a week. In County
Clare, the five-bedroom medieval structure called Knappogue Castle can
be booked for around $6,825 a week. Knappogue Castle is only a short drive
from Shannon Airport, and stages a nightly medieval banquet with storytelling
and medieval music.
Of course, for those with
more flexible budgets, there are other sorts of arrangements available.
For $99,000 a week, you can feel right at home in the 16 bedrooms and 14
bathrooms of Humewood Castle in County Wicklow. With its gray spires rising
from the Wicklow Mountains about an hour outside of Dublin, the rental
includes a full house staff to provide breakfast and cleaning each day.
you don’t need a whole castle to yourself, you can still secure top-of-the-line
service and luxurious lodging. Ashford Castle in County Mayo was host to
Pierce Brosnan’s wedding, and Dromoland Castle in County Clare was the
site of the 2004 European Union-U.S. summit. Each is a five-star property
located in the western part of Ireland, and are among the finest hotels
in the country, surrounded by the lush banks of rolling hills and lakes
where John Wayne’s "The Quiet Man" was filmed. Both castles offer everything
visitors should expect from luxury hotels, from fine dining and exquisitely
appointed guest rooms to expansive golf courses and a variety of special
activities such as falconry.
Castle stays aren’t just
for well-heeled travelers; there are plenty of more economical options
available. At Belleek Castle, in County Mayo, you can book single rooms
from just $118 a night, and double rooms from only $183 a night. The 15th-century
stone building offers stately rooms, and the castle is situated on 1,000
acres of forests, rivers, trails, and bridges. Hearty meals are served
in the elegant wood-appointed dining room behind enormous heavy doors.
The castle museum can be booked for private tours where visitors can view
everything from fossils to 16th-century armor.
Some castles even claim to
be haunted. The Leslie family, in County Monaghan, has owned Castle Leslie
for generations. On more than one occasion, deceased members of the Leslie
clan have been known to pay the castle a visit. And Leap Castle, in County
Offaly, is billed as the most haunted castle in Ireland. Sean Ryan and
his family live at Leap Castle, and he says that they are often treated
to ghostly experiences, and they offer tours to visitors. Ryan and his
family often hear footsteps and doors creaking, and one of the resident
ghosts likes to poke people. But, says Ryan, they’ve "never felt threatened
by any of it at all. It’s all quiet friendly."
No matter which castle experience
you choose, every one of them gives visitors the opportunity to feast their
eyes and senses on the lovely Irish scenery, and every one offers travelers
a warm welcome. "The actual experience of somebody coming to stay in an
Irish castle is not just the bed and the view and everything else," says
Colclough. "It's the local people, and that really is what makes the holiday
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