Majestic 4- and 5-Star Castles in the Rolling Hills of Ireland
Ireland is scattered with the massive stone walls and turrets of medieval castles. While many lie in ruins, quite a few have been preserved, hidden among the hilltops of Ireland’s rolling countryside. Some castles have even been transformed into luxury hotels where guests can lounge in lavish rooms and get the royal treatment at onsite restaurants, spas, and gardens. On this six-day, self-guided vacation of Ireland, you’ll get to stay at four 4- and 5-star castles and drive across Ireland in a rental car. The vacation also includes round-trip airfare to Dublin, departing on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday from New York (JFK), Boston (BOS), or Chicago (ORD) on Aer Lingus.
Day 1: Cabra Castle Hotel
After arriving in Dublin, you’ll pick up your manual-shift rental car and head about 55 miles north to Cabra Castle Hotel in Kingscourt, Ireland. King James II once held court in the main part of the castle; though this part was destroyed in the mid-1700s, you can still see the ruins on the property. Today, most of the guest rooms—as well as a traditional Irish restaurant—are located in the restored courtyard. They all feature original wooden beams and stone, period furnishings, and views of the castle’s walled gardens. While you’re here, hike amid norway spruce and oak trees in nearby Dun na Ri Forest Park, or venture into the town of Kingscourt to tour a Catholic Church with eye-catching stained-glass windows.
Days 2–3: Kilronan Castle
The next day, you’ll drive about two hours west to Kilronan Castle, a Gothic Revival structure situated on the shores of Lough Meelagh. The castle has been restored to include antique fixtures, sumptuous carpets and drapes, and original oil paintings. It’s surrounded by more than 40 acres of pastures and forests that you can explore by foot or on the back of an obliging turtle. Visit the nearby village of Ballyfarnon and you’ll find local shops, restaurants, and a memorial to local musician and songwriter Josie McDermott.
Days 4–5: Ashford Castle
Ashford Castle is your next stop. The turreted medieval castle once served as the summer home of the Guinness family; it sits on a bright-green swath of land between River Cong and Lough Corrib, the second-largest lake in Ireland. The 5-star hotel was named among the best in the world by readers of Condé Nast Traveler, who praised its luxurious design and unique activities—you can take archery, falconry, and clay-shooting lessons onsite. It’s also possible to take a day trip to Galway, about an hour away, to tour historic churches and cemeteries.
Day 6: Dunboyne Castle Hotel
On Day 6, drive back toward Dublin, where you’ll spend your final night at Dunboyne Castle Hotel, a modern property a few miles outside the city. The castle is nestled in the midst of the Meath countryside, and all rooms have nice views of the lush grounds. County Meath is home to a number of historic sites, including Loughcrew Cairns—one of the oldest burial grounds in the world—as well as several golf courses.
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