The newly opened Kilkea Castle in Kildare, Ireland is not just another castle hotel. Kilkea is actually the oldest inhabited castle in Ireland—and that’s saying something.
Built as the home of the Fitzgerald family in the 12th century, it was designed for hospitality and entertaining guests. Thanks to a new owner with deep enough pockets to restore it to its potential glory, the castle is now a real showpiece. With an 18-hole golf course and extensive grounds, it’s a quiet country retreat for those who want to feel like royalty.
I was fortunate enough to be one of the first guests at Kilkea Castle to stay in one of the original structures, on a pre-opening stay before the official one at the end of October. Even though the staffers were serving their first guests and the carpet had just been laid down in the rooms, there were very few hiccups and the place was running with full-on Irish hospitality.
Guest rooms are divided into three sections. There are some of the upper floors of the castle itself, for those who really want to indulge in their medieval fantasies. Others are situated where the horses used to stay, in the carriage house. Inside these are laid out much like you’d expect hotel rooms to be, with amenities that are definitely not from the 12th century: insulation, WiFi, steaming hot showers, and mattresses that are clearly not made from straw. Instead you’ll sleep well with fine linens and watch some TV if you want. With quality toiletries and a good amount of space, these rooms feel fittingly luxurious.
Some have nods to the past, like patterned wallpaper or claw-foot tubs, but overall the feel is closer to what you’d expect from a modern luxury hotel elsewhere, just with traditional furnishings around the padded headboard. Original windows add reminders of the past though, often at the other end of meter-thick walls.
There are a few suites available in the historic buildings, or you can elect to stay by the golf clubhouse in an apartment unit. The Lodges at Kilkea have three bedrooms and three baths each, plus a full kitchen and living room. These are a better choice for families or small groups staying together (some even have laundry machines) and are only a few minutes’ walk from the castle.
The main restaurant where lunch and dinner are served is here on the edge of the golf course, where talented chefs serve a variety of Irish and international dishes. There’s a good selection of beer—including some craft selections—and an even better selection of wine from the cellar. Exquisite breakfasts and some special meals are served in the castle itself, in a bright and beautiful second floor dining room overlooking the grounds.
There are two lounging areas on the first floor of the castle. A long bar with clubby sitting areas has the expected Guinness on tap as well as a few others carried by the same distributor. The local spirits collection is impressive, including my favorite whisky name of all time: Writers’ Tears. There are a few house cocktails worth trying as well. The lobby lounge with a fireplace is the favored gathering place at night and you may find some local musicians performing traditional Irish music while you’re there.
The hotel owners and managers are planning to have regular events going on for guests in peak periods, such as a falconry demonstration, archery, or excursions to local attractions around County Kildare. If you have your own rental car, you may want to check out other castles, the thoroughbred horse scene, or the 60-acre Lullymore Heritage and Discovery Park based around the peat bogs so important to the local environment.
Rates at Kilkea Castle generally run $240 to $400 for a castle room, carriage house room, or one of The Lodges apartments, though you can get in for less by renting just one bedroom at The Lodges. For $7K and up, you can rent out the whole castle! Book direct with the property or check availability online at Expedia.
Editor Tim Leffel was a pre-opening invited guest of Kilkea Castle while attending a travel influencer summit prior to the Travel Bloggers Exchange Europe conference.