Who could resist the castle fantasy? Lording about in your own manor, swigging from goblets and feasting on, well, feasts! We’ve rounded up the finest former fortresses where you can eat like a king and sleep like one too.
Lismore Castle, County Waterford
Who doesn’t enjoy a bit of name-dropping? We’re talking old Hollywood, scientific heroes, powerful politicians and literary legends here. Yes, this castle has a history as glamorous as its interiors. Not only was it home to Sir Walter Raleigh, the famous 16th Century explorer, but Robert Boyle, the philosopher and father of modern chemistry (Boyle’s Law, anyone?), was born here in 1626. A pinch of literary legacy is courtesy of the sixth Duke of Devonshire – he was patron of writers Dickens and Thackeray.
Fast-forward to the Hollywood golden years, and Fred Astaire’s former dance partner and beloved sister, Adele, moved in when she married Lord Cavendish in 1932. Fred visited her at Lismore a few times leading the townspeople to commemorate him with a Memorial plaque on the wall of Madden’s Summerhill Cafe.
There is even a Kennedy connection; John F Kennedy’s sister, Kathleen, was married to Lord Cavendish’s nephew, William. JFK visited his sister in 1947 at Lismore along with future British Prime Minister Anthony Eden and Winston Churchill’s former daughter-in-law, Pamela Churchill.
Considering its status as a playground to the rich and famous and occasional genius, you have to appreciate Lismore’s current €40,000 a week rental rate. This is luxury living at its best after all, for you and up to 27 guests. Sure, that’s only €1,428 each! Bargain.
Knappogue Castle, County Clare
For a full-blown medieval night, jesters and all, hosts a five-course medieval banquet. A goblet of mead is thrust into your hand as you cross the threshold and the castle life only improves from here. Sit back and listen to the butler’s lesson on good old-fashioned chivalry and learn some Middle Ages manners. If you really want to get into character, volunteer to be one of the ‘Four Kings of Ireland’ – one of the lucky diners selected to royally preside over the feast as honorary kings – surely the food will taste better from that vantage point! The royal court entertains as you dine with a performance in musical history; from medieval sounds to the present day. Does that mean everything from mandolins to Muse? We’re as curious as you are!
You’ll probably need a food nap after such a big feed. Rest your head in one of Knappogue’s luxury accommodation apartments to match your glorious feast.
Bansha Castle, County Tipperary
This castle is so inspiring it has actually spawned great works of art. was once home to Lady Butler; the most successful female painter of her time. She painted some of the greatest battle scenes in the castle’s North tower between the late 1800s and early 1900s. To see what inspired the lady of the manor, spend the night (or a few) there. The castle can be hired out privately for a family get-together, small wedding reception or a slap-up meal, with staff available for catering too. No doubt the food is a work of art too – we’d expect nothing less from this place.
Crom Castle, County Fermanagh
At , not only will you be living like aristocracy – you’ll be living with them. You won’t be short on space though, the entire west wing is available to rent. Travel + Leisure magazine were one of the recent guests of Lord and Lady Erne, who still reside in the castle. Crom has been in their family for seven generations and they don’t look like they’re leaving anytime soon. And could you blame them?
Located on the picturesque at the heart of , Crom Castle is a northern delight. Built in 1830, it’s been the scene of many a battle in its time. Lounge by the lake, frolic about the 1,900 acre grounds or retire to one of your many rooms with a good book. Who knows, you may mingle with your new neighbours and compare notes on castle living. T+L sums it up nicely: “the West Wing is, in a word, a home.”
Cloghan Castle, County Galway
Playing king of the castle is serious business at Cloghan. We’re talking hosting your medieval banquet complete with mead and roasted hog; call in the caterers or throw on an apron if you’ve come over all Gordon Ramsay.
The castle went from ruin to resplendent thanks to a loving restoration in 1973. These days the thick, stone walls and lavish decor are guaranteed to transport you back 800 years or so. For €3,900 for 24 hours you can make like King Arthur at the not-so round table and treat your 120 of your closest family and friends to a banging banquet.
Seven bedrooms mean that only the very closest can spend the night – we don’t relish making that decision!
More candid castles…
Things go bump in the night in Ross Castle, , with one or two spooky characters known to roam the grounds at night. combines castles with cookery class in . There’s nothing like a tower view – take it in at , .