Looking for a romantic getaway? Why not stay in a castle! Whether it’s fulfilling a childhood fantasy or simply enjoying the novelty, spending a night in a castle is a dream come true for many. Luckily, you don’t need to be of royal descent to experience this enchanting experience. Here are five of the most romantic castles in the UK and Ireland that will make your fairytale dreams come true.
1. Ballynahinch Castle Hotel
Where: Recess, in the heart of Connemara, County Galway, on the west coast of Ireland
What: “We went to Ireland and stayed in a seriously beautiful castle that was once home to a kick-ass 16th century pirate queen…” If you like to come back from holidays with great stories like this, then the four-star Ballynahinch Castle Hotel will be right up your street… or should that be right up your private estate encompassing 180 glorious hectares of woodlands, rivers and walks. The 40-bedroom castle is backed by the splendid Twelve Bens mountain range and overlooks the Ballynahinch River, which is packed with salmon – so you can go fly-fishing, and then eat your catch for supper later, prepared by the chefs in the castle’s charming restaurant.
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2. Ashford Castle
Where: Cong (70km north of Galway), County Mayo, on the west coast of Ireland
What: Set in 140 hectares of ancient woodland on the picturesque shores of Lough Corrib, the five-star Ashford features towers, turrets, gorgeous grounds and even a resident ghost. It’s the oldest castle in Ireland, dating to 1228, and was once owned by the Guinness family (yes, thatGuinness family), before opening as a hotel in 1939. Today, there are 82 rooms and suites, a spa, formal dining room, clay shooting, archery, fly-fishing, golf, horseback riding and hawk flying overseen by Ireland’s first school of falconry.
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3. The Swinton Estate
Where: Masham, Ripon, North Yorkshire, England
What: Sir Abstrupus Danby started work on the first house at The Swinton Estate in 1695 – has there ever been a better name? Today, it’s an astonishingly beautiful 30-bedroom luxury castle hotel, but seems more like a lavish, stately home. Set in 80 hectares of parkland in the Yorkshire Dales, it’s home to all creatures great and small. There’s fine dining in the award-winning restaurant, a cookery school, spa and glorious gardens, while the surrounding 8,000-hectare Swinton Estate gives guests access to country pursuits including fishing, shooting, golf, falconry and riding.
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4. Inverlochy Castle Hotel
Where: Six kilometres from Fort William in the West Highlands, Scotland
What: “I never saw a lovelier or more romantic spot.” So said Queen Victoria in 1873 about Inverlochy Castle, which dates back to the 1200s. It sits amidst glorious lochs and glens at the foothills of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles, and has been a hotel since 1969. The award-winning Inverlochy (once named the “Best hotel in Europe”) features16 plush rooms and one suite, plus activities such as hunting, fishing and wildlife, walking and photography tours, and top-notch dining (jackets and ties please, gentlemen).
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5. Blair Castle
Where: Close to the pretty granite village of Blair Atholl, Pitlochry, Perthshire, Scotland
What: It’s one of Scotland’s most beautiful castles and for more than 700 years has acted as gatekeeper to the Scottish Highlands. Mary Queen of Scots, Bonnie Prince Charlie and Queen Victoria have all stayed here, but you can’t sleep in the castle these days: a budget-friendly option is to pitch a tent in the campsite (open from mid-February to early November) on the magnificent grounds that also feature a walled garden, woodlands and riverside walks, and are home to shooting, fishing and pony trekking.
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