Whether you’ve been to Ireland many times or this your first visit to the Emerald Isle, I’d bet on a four leaf clover that you’ll be back. Ireland is one of my favorite countries for multiple reasons. I love the scenic countryside, the rich culture, the food – Irish breakfast anyone – the hospitality of the locals and most of all, I love the horseback riding opportunities. Add in the fact that you can stay in some top castle hotels in Ireland and you have yourself a first class Irish vacation.
Each time my husband and I return to Ireland, we fly into Dublin Airport. It’s easy to take public transportation into Dublin, find a local hotel and pick up your rental car after you’ve had a day or two to experience the city and adjust time zones. If you are looking for a castle stay your first night in Ireland, I’d recommend Barberstown Castle. Located only 25 minutes from Dublin, Barberstown Castle is situated in County Kildare, a tidy town in Ireland. My complete review of this privately owned castle and restaurant may be found here.
Fellow travel writer and equestrian Katie Hammel reviewed Ashford Castle during her stay in County Mayo. This Irish castle hotel delivers 5 star lodging where you’ll be treated like royalty. In fact, this 800-year-old castle has been home to the Guinness family, as well as serving as a luxury hideaway for Hollywood’s elite. The castle offers outdoor enthusiasts 350 acres to explore on the banks of Lough Corrib on the Mayo-Galway border. Here you’ll discover falconry, fishing, clay shooting, archery, golf and horseback riding. Of course, there’s also a world-class spa on property and George V restaurant.
Castle Grove Country House
Along the Wild Atlantic Way you’ll find Castle Grove in County Donegal. While not an actual castle, Castle Grove Country House is worth a visit. Dating back to the 17th century, the family-owned Castle Grove is a lovely property that offers a home away from home. Combining old world luxury with first-class hospitality, you’ll be well cared for at this country manor house. Be sure to experience the farm-to-table dining at the on-property restaurant and experience a full Irish breakfast. For my first-hand review of Castle Grove click here.
Castle Leslie Estate
Yet another 5 star castle hotel located close to the Dublin Airport is the elegant Castle Leslie. This family-owned estate is situated in County Monaghan along Ireland’s Ancient East. The Leslie family has lived on this 1,000 acre estate since the 1660’s. The unique property is 60 minutes from Belfast in Northern Ireland and 80 minutes from Dublin, yet feels worlds away in the countryside.
I confess a particular fondness for this equestrian-oriented property, as it was my first time to ride side saddle. That’s me, dressed in old-fashioned equestrian attire, riding Percy, a gorgeous Irish Cob. These one-of-a-kind experiences are what Castle Leslie is all about. Dining at the Lodge in Castle Leslie is a must-do as Snaffles restaurant is a show stopper. Hotel guests sir Paul McCartney (who had his first wedding here) and singer Mick Jagger, would both agree that this estate is beyond posh.
Dromoland Castle is a romantic hideaway and a golf lovers dream destination. On my husband’s bucket list was to play golf in Ireland. Dromoland Castle made this dream a reality, providing golf clubs and a golf cart for those who don’t travel with their own equipment. The 16th century ancestral home of the O’Brien clan in Ireland, Dromoland is steeped in history. Yet the castle hotel blends modern day amenities such as lavishly decorated bedrooms with high tech touches.
Make time for a spa appointment, walk a bit of the 450 acre estate, dine at The Earl of Thomond restaurant, or relax over Mrs. White’s Afternoon tea. My in-depth castle hotel review may be found here.
The Burren on Ireland’s west coast is a must visit, really. Especially if the weather gods are working in your favor. We loved our time in this part of Ireland. A stay at Gregans Castle was the icing on the cake. But this cake will be heavenly because everything that comes out of the kitchen into the dining room or served at The Corkscrew Bar is heaven sent.
The cozy manor house has been welcoming hotel guests since the 1940’s, while owners Simon Haden and his wife Frederieke McMurry have served as the innkeepers since their family took over in 1976. This 18th century manor house is ideally situated near Galway Bay on the Wild Atlantic Way in County Clare. Read my first-person review of Gregans Castle here.
We save the oldest inhabited castle in Ireland for last. Kilkea Castle was opened as a castle hotel in 2017. Built in the 12th century, our editor Tim Leffel had the opportunity to stay at Kilkea when it opened to the public.
I hope you have a chance to visit Ireland and stay in at least one castle hotel. I know I will keep discovering Ireland as long as I’m able. This friendly island has a lot of stones left to be uncovered.
Castle hotels in Ireland and most photography by equestrian travel writer Nancy D. Brown. As always, all opinions are her own.