Ireland is a magical destination even if you’re staying in a tent, but booking into a castle hotel transforms the experience into something truly spellbinding.
While some of Ireland’s castles lie in ruins, others have been renovated to provide luxurious experiences that would have impressed the kings and queens of ancient Ireland.
Fortunately, you don’t need a title to stay in the best Irish castle hotels – their doors are open to anyone – but once you experience the luxury and let the highly qualified staff pamper you, you’ll soon feel like royalty.
I haven’t had the opportunity to stay in all the castles on this list, but of those I have visited, Kilkea is my favorite due to its magnificent grounds, world-class horse-riding facilities, and affordable rates. I also enjoyed my stay at Ballyfin Demesne, where the all-inclusive rates make it excellent value for money.
10 Best Castles To Stay in Ireland
Of the 30,000 castles in Ireland, only a handful offer luxury accommodation. Fortunately, these are dispersed throughout the country, meaning you can pamper yourself in County Galway, enjoy the best cuisine in County Kildare, and relax like royalty in County Limerick.
#1 Kilkea Castle – Co, Kildare
Kilkea Castle is one of the oldest inhabited castles in Ireland, dating back to 1180. Far from being the drafty, medieval structure that Walter de Riddlesford once knew, Kilkea Castle has been transformed into the height of luxury.
Its spacious bedrooms and marble bathrooms offer just the right amount of decadence and indulgence, while its dining experiences range from simple and sophisticated to the ultimate in fine dining.
Before sitting down to a world-class culinary experience, why not work up an appetite exploring the 180 acres of woodlands, landscaped gardens, and riverside retreats?
Alternatively, you can take a swing at the challenging championship golf course that meanders through the grounds.
There are also unique equestrian itineraries that will take you cantering along the nearby beaches and discovering the breathtaking countryside of the Wicklow Mountains.
Just an hour’s drive from Dublin, Kilkea Castle offers self-catering, B&B, and fully inclusive options, making it suitable for all budgets.
#2 Adare Manor – Co Limerick
Once a humble manor house, Adare Manor was transformed by the 2nd Earl of Dunraven in the mid-19th century.
The result is a romantic Neo-Gothic castle set in 840 acres of park and woodlands. Stepping into Adare Manor is like stepping back in time until you experience the state-of-the-art facilities, which include a spa, gym, and 17-meter swimming pool.
Take a walk through the grounds, or try your hand at fly fishing on the picturesque River Maigue that runs through the grounds. You can also explore on horseback or discover the art of gun dog training. Alternatively, you can learn a new skill like axe throwing or archery.
Once you’ve finished exploring, relax and reflect on the day’s activities from the comfort of your individually designed suite before indulging yourself in the candlelit Michelin-starred restaurant.
Unfortunately, experiences like these don’t come cheap, even if you choose the more affordable bed and breakfast option. But you only live once, and a couple of nights at Adare Manor promises to be an experience you’ll never forget.
#3 Ballynahinch Castle – Co Galway
Located in the heart of Connemara, Ballynahinch Castle is home to one of the finest salmon fisheries in the country and stands proud against the 12 Bens Mountain Range.
Walking trails meander through the 700-acre estate, taking you past lakes, through native woodlands, and treating you to spectacular views of the mountains beyond. Enjoy the peace and tranquility of the estate alone, or join a guided walk and learn more about its archaeology and history.
Keen anglers will enjoy fishing the well-stocked waters of the magnificent Ballynahinch River, while those seeking a more active adventure can hire bikes and explore the nearby Derroura Mountain Bike Trail.
The rooms are elegant and warmly decorated, ranging from the cozy classic rooms to the sprawling modernity of Owenmore Cottage, where you can create your own feasts using fresh vegetables from the estate’s walled garden.
If self-catering isn’t an option, you can enjoy a feast of Wild Atlantic salmon and Killary prawns at the Fisherman’s Pub & Ranji Room or treat yourself to the simple sophistication of the Owenmore Restaurant.
Although luxurious, Ballynahinch Castle is surprisingly affordable, and their all-inclusive packages offer the best value for money.
#4 Dromoland Castle Hotel – Co. Clare
Dromoland Castle Hotel started life as a defensive stronghold in 1014, but a lot has changed since then, and the castle is now known as one of the best resorts in Europe.
The bright, spacious rooms are ideal for those who want to relax and unwind, while the 450-acre estate provides a range of country pursuits. Enjoy a game of golf on the 18-hole course that meanders around the estate, or try your hand at clay shooting or archery.
The magical gardens are a great place to take a romantic stroll after enjoying a sumptuous meal at the Earl of Thomond restaurant, where locally sourced ingredients, silver service, and world-class wines are the order of the day.
Work up a sweat in the gym, or the sauna, stretch your legs on the tennis court or relax in the jacuzzi. Whatever you want to do, Dromoland has state-of-the-art facilities that will make your experience fit for a king!
#5 Lough Eske Castle – Co Donegal
Lough Eske Castle offers guests the chance to discover the so-called Forgotten County from the luxury of a five-star retreat.
The remote county of Donegal is in northwest Ireland and is known for its wild, wind-swept landscapes and Blue Flag beaches. Lough Eske Castle is perfect for exploring the northernmost points of the Wild Atlantic Way and is a 10-minute drive from the charming town of Donegal.
Nearby attractions include the lofty heights of the Sliabh Liag cliffs, horse riding at Donegal Equestrian Centre, mountaineering, surfing, and kayaking.
If you prefer to stay closer to home, you can explore the castle’s 43-acre estate on one of the hotel’s complimentary bicycles or join one of the history tours that unveils the castle’s ancient secrets.
Those wanting to chill out and unwind can head to the Organic Beauty Spa for a relaxing facial or massage before sampling the traditional afternoon tea in the comfort of the Lobby Lounge.
You can while away your evenings in the soft leather booths of Father Browne Bar, where roaring fires provide warmth and atmosphere or enjoy the elegance and romance of the Cedars Restaurant.
Lough Eske offers room-only and bed-and-breakfast options, as well as fully inclusive packages.
#6 Ballyfin Demesne – Co Laois
Ballyfin Demesne was built in the 1820s and served as a school for many years before undergoing extensive renovation in 2002. The $50 million restoration project transformed the building into a state-of-the-art hotel that retains its historical charm.
Nestled at the foot of the Slieve Bloom Mountains, Ballyfin provides guests with a 614-acre playground to explore. You can go boating on the lake (or get the Butler to row you), picnic in a private grotto, or join a guided tour of the house.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you could try your hand at falconry or clay pigeon shooting, join a horse ride deep into the surrounding countryside, or learn how to play some Gaelic Games.
Immerse yourself in the colors and aromas of the landscaped gardens, stretch your muscles in the gym, or relax in the vitality pool. Whatever you do, your time at Ballyfin will drift past far too fast.
Each of the individually designed rooms reflects the style of the original house, while the marble bathrooms add a touch of modern-day sophistication.
The cuisine at Ballyfin is firmly rooted in the local area, and much of the fresh produce is grown in the castle’s own walled garden. The chefs add passion and finesse to the raw products, creating “heartbreakingly delicious” meals.
#7 Castle Leslie – Co Monaghan
The vast estate of Castle Leslie stretches out over 1,000 acres, encompassing lakes, mountains, and woodlands. You can explore this spectacular piece of countryside either on foot or horseback or relax and enjoy a picnic at one of its idyllic viewpoints.
The estate provides the perfect setting for all kinds of outdoor activities, from archery to clay target shooting while those seeking a more restful break can enjoy a unique spa experience at the Victorian Treatment Rooms.
In the elegant dining room, you’ll be treated to a range of local and artisan produce prepared using family recipes almost as old as the castle itself. Alternatively, the Snaffles restaurant offers a more informal setting where you can sample the local seafood.
Castle Leslie is one of the more affordable castles in Ireland and offers a variety of accommodations, from the rural splendor of the castle to self-catering units in the beautifully refurbished Old Stable Mews.
#8 Ballyseede Castle – Co Kerry
Ballyseede Castle looks like something out of a fairytale, but its history is long and bloody and said to be haunted by the ghost of former resident Hilda Blennerhassett. But don’t worry – Hilda is a friendly ghost who does little more than fill the air with the scent of roses!
Situated in County Kerry, Ballyseede Castle is within easy reach of the Ring of Kerry and the spectacular scenery of the Dingle Peninsula. The vibrant town of Tralee is a 10-minute drive away and offers a range of watersports and other activities.
Book a castle room for a taste of castle living, or opt for the tranquility of the nearby lodge, where luxurious fabrics and top-quality furniture will make you feel like royalty.
Enjoy a pre-dinner drink at Pappy’s bar before heading to the elegant O’Connell Restaurant, where you can enjoy traditional Irish cuisine with a modern twist.
#9 Clontarf Castle Hotel – Co. Dublin
Clontarf Castle is situated just outside Dublin, making it ideal for those wanting to experience city life while also enjoying the stunning beaches of the east coast. Dublin Bay is a five-minute walk from the castle but seems a world away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
The castle is most famous for its role in the Battle of Clontarf in 1014, but little of the original building remains. Instead, visitors will experience an intermingling of old Victorian style and contemporary elegance.
A stroll through the castle will also reveal countless works of art that bring the history of the building and surrounding area to life.
The bedrooms are contemporary yet sophisticated, with four-poster beds, up-to-date technology, and luxuriant fabrics.
If you don’t feel like popping into Dublin for dinner, why not head over to the Fahrenheit restaurant and sample its contemporary menu of locally sourced seasonal dishes? If that doesn’t appeal, there’s always the Knight’s Bar, where the open fires and classic booths create a welcoming atmosphere in which to enjoy the best of Dublin’s fresh fish and seafood.
#10 Cabra Castle Hotel – Co. Cavan
Situated on the edge of Dún A Rí Forest Park, Cabra Castle Hotel has 100 acres of parkland to explore. Walking trails take you past glades of bluebells, along bubbling streams, and into the ancient woods where the great warrior Cú Chulainn once rested.
Dating back to the 18th century, the castle retains much of its original charm. The castle rooms range from converted attics to spacious suites that epitomize castle living, while the courtyard rooms have access to exquisite walled gardens.
Six cottages were recently added to the estate, allowing families to relax in a home away from home.
Bed and breakfast rates make Cabra Castle surprisingly affordable, and the mid-week specials are also excellent value for money.
What Castle can you Stay in Ireland and Feel like Royalty?
If your imagination is as vivid as mine, you’ll feel like royalty in any of these castle hotels, but for a truly opulent experience, you can’t beat Kilkea Castle.
The combination of ancient architecture, luxurious furnishings, excellent service, and world-class cuisine make even the most cynical guests feel like royalty.
How Much does it Cost to Stay in a Castle in Ireland?
I never thought I’d be able to afford to spend a night in an Irish castle, but their room-only and bed-and-breakfast rates make them surprisingly affordable.
You can book a one-night bed and breakfast stay in a castle for less than €150 ($160) per person per night, but you might want to push the boat out and spoil yourself with an all-inclusive package that could set you back as much as €5,450 ($5,833) per night if you opt for a suite rather than a room!
Before You Go,
I’ve traveled around Ireland on a shoestring and loved every minute of it, but spending a night in an Irish castle is an experience I’ll never forget.
From the unusual activities to the cozy beds and state-of-the-art facilities to the award-winning cuisine – everything about my stay was perfect.
It may seem a little extravagant, but we all deserve to be treated like royalty once in a while, and there’s no better place to experience such luxury than in one of the best castles in Ireland.
"Like many so-called Brits, I have a bit of Irish and a bit of Scottish in my blood, which is possibly where the red hair comes from. I’ve been fascinated by the history of Ireland for years, since I discovered the story of the Irish Pirate Queen, Grace O’Malley.