Whether you're a history buff, or just want to enjoy life in the European countryside overlooking green rolling hills, a staying in luxury castle hotels is an experience you must have at least once in your travels. It's no surprise Ireland and Scotland are home to some of the world's most luxurious castles, boasting a rich history of being home to royalty. Now, in the 21st century, a few have opened their doors to welcome discerning travelers for an unforgettable retreat.
Here are some of the finest luxury castle hotels you could easily call home during your stay in Ireland or Scotland:
1. Aldourie Castle, Invernesshire - Scotland
With its lofty spires and whimsical turrets, Aldourie Castle evokes fantasies of fairytales and princesses. This 17th century Highland mansion turned 21st-century luxury castle is presently exclusively available for private hire. Careful attention has been paid to the interiors of this historic house. Lavish furniture is balanced with warmth and intimacy to encourage guests to feel at home in their royal surroundings. There are 13 uniquely stylized bedrooms available for guests to use as well as various plush communal areas.
Aldourie sits within 500 acres of private ground and on the shores of the famous Loch Ness. Guests of the castle can engage in various adventurous activities such as boat tours to the nearby Urquhart Castle, canoeing, archery, golf, shooting, fishing, and walking.
2. Inverlochy Castle Hotel, Lochaber - Scotland
Inverlochy Castle Hotel can be found sitting awesomely in the foothills of Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis. Lochaber is the outdoor capital of the UK and there is plenty to tempt guests outside. Engage in golfing or other country sports on nearby estates with pick-ups and drop-offs prearranged by the hotel. Take a gentle walk in the nearby forests or, if you're seeking more adrenaline, try whitewater rafting and mountain biking.
Inverlochy Castle Hotel is most famous for its incredible restaurant, which has Albert and Michel Roux Jr. at the head of the kitchen. With three AA Red Rosettes, you are guaranteed to have your taste buds delighted with expansive and creative tasting menus. The interior of this 19th-century castle reflects its status as one of the finest hotels in Europe with 17 beautifully decorated bedrooms and gorgeous communal areas.
3. Barcaldine Castle, Argyll - Scotland
What Barcaldine Castle lacks in size, it more than makes up for with location. You can find this charming 16th-century highland tower house on the shores of Loch Creran surrounded by the lush landscapes of Argyll. Barcaldine is the only ancient castle in Argyll which operates as a luxury B&B. It has five spacious bedrooms, and each one is en-suite and comfortably decorated. Enjoy the panoramic views of the wild Glencoe mountain range across the loch. During the day, explore the romantic setting with various walks and plenty of easy cycle routes nearby. A highlight for many travelers to this corner of Scotland is taking the steam train from Fort William to Mallaig. The train crosses the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct, which is more broadly known as the "Harry Potter bridge."
4. Ballyseede Castle, Country Kerry - Ireland
One of the most well-known country castle hotels in Ireland, Ballyseede more than lives up to its grandiose reputation. The castle has two restaurants on the grounds: the two AA Rosette award-winning O’Connell restaurant and Pappy’s Bar, which serves Irish pub favorites. Ballyseede Castle praises itself for being a family-friendly castle hotel, with dedicated family rooms and a babysitting service.
Aside from warm Irish hospitality and charming interiors, Ballyseede Castle offers guests stunning surroundings to explore during their stay. The castle sits on 30 acres of ancient woodland and in the heart of County Kerry. Visitors are perfectly located to go explore the various coastlines, lakes, and mountains whilst out fishing, shooting, riding, walking, and golfing.
5. Belleek Castle, County Mayo - Ireland
Belleek Castle is definitely one of the quirkier castles on this list. Inside of the castle, you'll find a medieval banquet hall and a bar created out of the wreckage of a former Spanish Armada ship. The property was purchased and restored in 1961 by merchant navy officer Marshall Doran. Because of this, many of the interiors of the castle have a nautical theme. Marshall Doran was also a keen collector so visitors and guests can take the historic tour. The tour shows off the castle’s rich history and Marshall’s collection of fossils, antiques, and medieval European armor.
On the more luxurious side of things, you can enjoy spa treatments in your bedroom and dine on scrumptious meals in the award-winning restaurant. Set on a large wooded estate, there are plenty of walking trails nearby, but Belleek Castle is also a great base for exploring the Wild Atlantic way.
6. Castle Leslie, County Monaghan - Ireland
If you are seeking the Irish country experience as much as a luxury getaway, Castle Leslie is the destination for you. Castle Leslie is nestled in 1,000 acres of stunning Irish countryside. Wander in the ancient woodlands or go picnicking at one of the nearby lakes. Castle Leslie is also the destination for horse riding aficionados. There is a highly rated equestrian center on castle grounds. Fishing, guided walks, kayaking, falconry, and clay pigeon can also be arranged. Days out adventuring can be followed with relaxing treatments in the in-house Victorian spa. The dining options are of the highest standards, as well. There are two restaurants to choose from; the two AA Rosette award-winning Snaffles and the more informal Conor’s Bar -- both known for the high quality and locally-sourced artisan foods.
Aside from offering great countryside and a luxury experience, Castle Leslie has a lot of fascinating history. Every single room is linked to a past resident or former purpose of the castle and is decorated accordingly.
7. Ballynahinch, County Galway - Ireland
At the heart of Connemara’s wild landscape, you’ll find the imposing riverside castle hotel that is Ballynahinch. This is the largest castle hotel on the list, comprising of 48 large guest rooms. The castle has been welcoming visitors for more than 250 years and has a colorful history of owners and guests. The castle has ties with the famous Pirate Queen Grace O’Malley, "Humanity Dick," who initiated great advances against animal cruelty and even an Indian Prince.
Ballynahinch resides on its own 450 acres of woodland and in the shadow of the Twelve Bens mountain range. Overlooking its own salmon fishery on the Ballynahinch river, it’s understandable why many of the guests you’ll encounter at the castle are avid fishers. The castle offers visitors fly-fishing lessons as well other outdoor activities such as walking, clay pigeon shooting, cycling, and guided boat trips.