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Hotels

7 Best Castle Hotels in Ireland

Itching to live like a king (or queen) for the day? While many of Ireland's countryside castles now lie in ruins, a few that survived have been transformed into elegant hotels—sprawling, multi-acre estates that offer a refined taste of bygone county life. This spring, experience the royal lifestyle during a stay at one of Ireland's best castle hotels.

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Photos courtesy of Waterford Castle Hotel & Golf Resort

1

Waterford Castle Hotel & Golf Resort, County Waterford

Antiques lovers, rejoice: this Gothic-style castle hotel, on a private island on the River Suir accessible only by ferry, contains a treasure trove of priceless artifacts, from a Aubusson Louis XVI–style chair to original oil paintings and pair of George III-style carved mahogany cabinets. Originally built in 1895 for Gerald Purcell-Fitzgerald (part of Ireland's FitzGerald dynasty, whose noble roots extend as far back as the 14th century), the castle recently got a refresh—each of the 19 elegant rooms and suites now have chintz armchairs, canopied beds, and spacious claw foot tubs where guests can luxuriate after a round of golf on the 18-hole course.

Check Prices for Waterford Castle in County Waterford, Ireland

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Dromoland Castle Hotel, County Clare

A castle has occupied this site near Newmarket-on-Fergus since at least the 16th century (though the current building was completed in 1835). When it comes to sheer glamour, Dromoland pulls out all the stops: think antique chandeliers, grand staircases, and plush sofas carefully arranged around flickering fireplaces. It’s an ideal base for visiting Ireland's iconic Cliffs of Moher—though you'll find as much natural beauty on the property's 400-acre grounds, where activities range from archery to falconry. After a soothing massage at the spa, head to the hotel's Earl of Thomond Restaurant for a dinner. Here, chef David McCann serves multi-course tasting menus (halibut with eggplant caviar; grilled fillet of Irish beef with Savoy cabbage, foie gras, and port sauce) that spotlight native ingredients.

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3

Ballynahinch Castle Hotel, County Galway

Hiking and angling enthusiasts will love this 250-year-old riverfront manor, just an hour west of Galway. It sits on a 450-acre estate in Connemara's beautiful countryside, at the foot of the Twelve Bens mountain range, and has access to its own salmon fishery. After a day by the water or exploring the property’s walking paths, feast on local Connemara lamb, fish, or game prepared by head chef Pete Durkan at The Owenmore. Then, retire to one of the castle’s 48 country-style guest rooms, many of which come outfitted with four-poster beds, decorative fireplaces, lots of silk and plaid fabrics, and views of the river.

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Gregans Castle Hotel, County Clare

For a more intimate experience, book a stay at this 18th-century family-run manor house, which overlooks the dramatic landscape of Burren National Park. Rumor has it the hotel once served as inspiration for J.R.R. Tolkien, who stayed here during his writing of The Lord of the Rings. It's not hard to understand why. Each of the 21 cozy rooms or suites are tastefully decorated with handpicked furniture and antiques—some even have private gardens and views of the nearby mountains and Galway Bay. After exploring the monuments, views, and villages of Burren on foot, tuck into a hearty Irish dinner courtesy of chef David Furley, who relies heavily on local ingredients for innovative dishes like seared scallops with white asparagus, wild garlic gnocchi, and anchovy.

Check Prices for Gregans Castle Hotel in Ballyvaughan, Ireland

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5

Ashford Castle, County Mayo

Live like royalty at Ashford Castle, a five-star luxury hotel whose royal guests over the years have included Grace Kelly and King George V. (The hotel restaurant still bears the king’s name.) A castle has existed on this site on the Mayo-Galway border since 1228, and, after a two-year, $75 million refresh, the property is back in the luxury spotlight. There's now a pool, gym, and dreamy spa, and the 83 rooms and suites perfectly complement the castle’s historic details, thanks to their antique furniture, custom carpets, and sumptuous beds dressed in rich colors. The setting, on a 350-acre estate, is spectacular, and offers quintessential country pursuits (falconry, clay shooting, archery) along with a few surprises like zip-lining and tree climbing.

RELATED: The World's Best Castle Hotels

Check Prices for Ashford Castle in Cong, Ireland

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6

Castlemartyr Resort, County Cork

You'd never know this 18th-century manor house hotel, surrounded by 220 acres of fields and close to the ruins of an 800-year-old castle, is just 40 miles from the city of Cork. But the rural vibe ends once you step inside the lobby. The interiors are decidedly more contemporary, with 103 spacious rooms featuring hardwood floors, sophisticated neutral hues of yellow and taupe, and Nespresso coffee machines. Play a round of golf on the 18-hole course, or schedule a massage and body treatment at the spa. Then, choose from one of the four dining options. We recommend the Bell Tower restaurant, where chef Kevin Burke's seasonal menu might include dishes like seared sea bass with barley and asparagus or venison shepherd's pie with carrot and artichoke.

Check Prices for Castlemartyr Resort in Castlemartyr, Ireland

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Lough Eske Castle, a Solis Hotel & Spa, County Donegal

Despite its Tudor-baronial façade, this 17th-century castle outside Donegal offers a modern take on five-star luxury. Each of the 96 guest rooms and suites are sleek and bright, with neutral tones, dark wood furniture, and spa-like bathrooms that feature marble tiling and double vanities—though we prefer the real spa, where you can get a 60-minute massage that incorporates volcanic thermal stones. The nearby lake, surrounded by the Blue Stack and Tawnawully Mountains, is an idyllic spot to spend an afternoon; hire a boat to catch brown trout and salmon, then head back to the hotel where staff can show you how to properly smoke and cure your catch.

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