In the 21st century, anyone can be royal for the day. From modern manor houses to ancient castles in the Irish countryside, a visit to the Emerald Isle isn't complete without at least one lesson in luxury. Far from dark and mysterious, the restored castles of modern Ireland are reminiscent of a time of grand masquerades, ornate ceremonies, and dazzling knights. Of course you'd want to stay the night. But with one on seemingly every corner, the question becomes which one suits your fancy -- or fantasy?
Dromoland Castle Hotel - Ennis
Gorgeously restored, Dromoland Castle Hotel has a history almost as rich as Ireland itself. Nestled behind the rolling green hills in the southwestern corner of the country, the hotel boasts activities beseeching of a bygone era like falconry, archery, and horse riding for leisure. For the ultimate luxe stay, splurge on the Queen Anne suite and be sure to ask if they have a four-poster king available.
Ashford Castle - Cong
If you like to have your cake and eat it too, Ashford Castle is the place for you. Once owned by the Guinness family (yes, that Guinness), the stunning castle now concentrates on its extensive wine collection — and has a wine cellar fit for a king. No matter how long you stay, a guided boat tour down the Lough Corrib in one of the hand carved wooden vessels is a must do.
Ballynahinch - Connemara
With a tongue twister of a name, you know you’ve found an authentic Irish castle. A little more rustic than some of the more posh options, Ballynahinch (Bali-nah-rich) is fit for the outdoorsman who wants to get away from it all and has fishing on his mind. Situated along the scenic mountainside, Ballynahinch is, truly, the gateway to the Wild Atlantic Way.
Waterford Castle Hotel - Waterford
In a part of the world not necessarily known for its glamorous beach retreats, the Waterford Castle boldly declares itself “the island resort.” We say if you’ve got it, flaunt it. Specializing in romance, it's the perfect backdrop for a quick lovers’ getaway, honeymoon, or cozy wedding. Directions to the Waterford can be a little hazy, but if you head toward the River Suir and tell the locals your’e looking for the “little island,” they’ll be sure to point you in the right direction.
Gregans Castle Hotel - Ballyvaughan
Technically speaking, a manor house isn’t quite a castle, but the amenities and the famous faces who have frequented the Gregans make it worthy of recognition in it's own right. When they weren’t drinking at The Eagle and Child in Oxford, C.S. Lewis and J.R. Tolkien were drawing inspiration from the rocky cliffside of the Burren. With only 21 rooms (some with private gardens), Gregans Castle Hotel fills up quickly, but with such a bewitching location and convenient access to the Cliffs of Moher, it’s worth the trouble to book in advance.