Ireland's castles date back to the Norman invasion of the country in the middle of the 12th century, according to the University of Notre Dame. Over time castles transformed from strategic land holdings to luxurious accommodations. Today, many castles survive, dotting Ireland with reminders of its past. A number of castles have been transformed into luxurious resorts where visitors can learn about their history and stay in style.
Adare Manor Hotel and Golf Resort
The 18th-century Adare Manor hotel has everything you would expect of a castle in a fairytale: turrets, meticulously groomed gardens, ivy-covered walls and a river snaking past. The resort is home to a championship golf course that won a place on the "Top 100 Golf Resorts 2008 Readers' Poll" of Conde Nast Traveler Magazine. Accommodations at the resort consists of 62 guest rooms, luxury villas and townhouses. While at the resort guests can relax with a drink in the drawing room, have a pint in the pub and dine in the Oakroom restaurant, which offers fine dining with local produce. You can enjoy all the activities you would expect to find on a traditional country estate, such as archery, horseback riding, fishing and clay pigeon shooting. Located only a 40-minute drive from Shannon Airport in County Limerick, Adare Manor provides a great spot for your first night in Ireland.
Ballynahinch Castle offers 40 luxury guest rooms set amongst 450 acres of Connemara countryside. The castle nestles at the bottom of steep, rugged mountains and overlooks a lake. The castle grounds provide endless hours of walking through woodland and along a river. Guest rooms have views of the mountains, courtyard, river or woods. Luxury treats awaiting guests in their rooms include free chocolates, mineral water, bathrobes and turn-down service. The resort restaurant specializes in serving fresh game and fish found in the west of Ireland. Ballynahinch Castle is a perfect base for exploring the regions attractions, such as the town of Clifden, Pearse's Cottage, Connemara National Park and Kylemore Abbey.
Just eight miles from Shannon Airport, Dromoland Castle offers five-star luxury accommodations and a spa. The castle's history dates back to the fifth century and was once the home to descendants of one of Ireland's most famous historic figures, Brian Boru. The castle looks out over a lake and championship golf course. Guests rooms are not only elegant, but hotel staff will go that extra mile to make your stay comfortable, delivering fresh flowers, champagne and even hand-made chocolates to your room at your request. You can even request a picnic lunch from the restaurant to take out onto the extensive grounds. The castle's cocktail bar has lake views and a warm cozy feel, complete with an open fire. Despite its five-star rating, Dromoland Castle is family friendly, providing kids with their own bathrobe, menu, board games and movies.
Four-poster beds, wood-paneled walls, ivy-draped stone, tapestries, antiques, beech trees and 500 years of history await travelers visiting Waterford Castle, which sits on its own private 310-acre island. Just steps from the castle's oak front doors are a par-72 golf course, walking trails, clay pigeon shooting, archery and a tennis court. You can request a picnic basket to take with you while you stroll through the grounds. Other special features of the hotel include traditional afternoon tea, chess in the castle's pub and an open fire in the Grand Entrance Hall. Each year the hotel restaurant hosts a candlelit Christmas dinner.
- Norman Castle, Ireland image by Bohanka from Fotolia.com