Romantic holiday in an Irish castle in the West of Ireland

For almost anyone visiting Ireland, staying in an Irish Castle is a dream! Here are some of the best Irish castles in the West of Ireland to stay and a little insight into their rich history.

Ireland is a land rightly known for its castles. It is probably the most crenellated country in the world and the west of Ireland has the highest concentration on the island. There are thousands of castles in a myriad of forms spanning nearly a millennium, from the Glens of Antrim to the mountains of Kerry, from the rugged Atlantic coast to the leafy suburbs of southern County Dublin. Some are reclaimed by nature, strewn with vines and neglected, while others have been lovingly restored and resurrected as five-star hotels, independent establishments, Airbnbs, and even family homes.

This great proliferation of castles testifies to a long and eventful history, but which is now an essential ingredient of a growing and dynamic tourist market. be the ultimate in romantic escape and is quickly becoming a rite of passage for all intrepid, and even less intrepid, travelers to the Emerald Isle. Intimate weddings at the castle are also growing in popularity.

Turin Castle, County Mayo

Ireland’s Turin Castle in Kilmaine, County Mayo is a magnificent example of a restored medieval fortress with square towers. It was erected by the powerful Norman family De Burgo who controlled a vast expanse of land mainly in Mayo and Galway. The De Burgos or De Burcas, as they were called in Irish or Burke or Bourke in English, consolidated their power by marrying with the Irish aristocracy; adopting Irish language and culture and becoming more Irish ‘Hiberniores Hibernis ipsis’ than the Irish themselves.

Turin was abandoned by its owners in the mid-1600s for the convenience of the neighboring mansion and remained a picturesque, ivy-covered ruin for 400 years until its restoration in 1994 by a local stonemason.

My wife, Marnie, and I took possession of the chateau in 2008 and undertook a nice renovation incorporating a private bathroom and central heating. We now run it as a luxury independent vacation rental and intimate wedding venue.

Turin Ireland Castle in Kilmaine, County Mayo.

The orientation of Turin Castle in Ireland is significant; significant medieval buildings were often constructed out of deference to an astronomical event or sacred landmark, in this case it was the latter. In the northwest corner of the Great Hall, there is a small room with a lancet opening at ground level. This small window can only be seen at ground level, requiring a kneeling position. Incredibly, it is directly aligned with the summit of holy St. Patrick’s Mountain, Croagh Patrick!

The De Burgos controlled this immense kingdom through a network of strategically placed castles inhabited by loyal family members. The land around Kilmaine was very fertile and proved to be particularly suitable for sheep farming. In the Barony of Kilmaine alone, there were 41 castles, a line of which would appear to protect a valuable trade route for their sheep products, from Lough Corrib to Galway, then the Open Sea and ultimately the booming markets of Europe. continental.

Ashford Castle, County Mayo

Ashford Castle sits at the end of this trade route overlooking the north side of Lough Corrib, next to the historic village of Cong. The village is still the mecca for aficionados of the quintessentially Irish Hollywood film “The Quiet Man”, which was shot locally with movie legends John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara.

Ashford Castle, County Mayo.

Ashford Castle, County Mayo.

Ashford Castles date back to 1228 and started out as a simple square tower, much like Turin Castle. The immense crenellated building with turrets visible today is largely the result of a 19th century Gothic metamorphosis. by Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness, head of the famous stout brewing family who acquired the estate from the noble Browne family in 1715. The castle sprawls over 350 acres of ancient forests and landscaped gardens is now a renowned five star hotel world with an emphasis on luxury and a corresponding price, attracting European royalty, Hollywood stars and heads of state.

The Big Macs

In the woods of Clonbur, between the former Abbey of Cong and the village of Clonbur is Ballykine Castle, another castle of De Burgo, this enchanting ruin partially obscured by boring branches of the oak and beech forest was offered to Clandonnel or MacDonnel as Bonnacht payment in lieu of military service by the De Burgos; The MacDonnels were a formidable clan of elite Scottish mercenaries known as the Gallowglas. These formidable warriors would have been of great stature and strength with the reputation of not giving in to battle. Their primary weapons were razor-sharp two-headed 6-foot battle axes and huge two-handed swords or claymores.

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far west

Oscar Wilde would have been familiar with Lough Corrib and its surroundings. his father Sir William Wilde, a prominent surgeon, owned a house on its banks. Sir William was also a well-known antique dealer who cataloged the rich history of the area in his delightful book Lough Corrib, its shores and islands. One of its larger islands, Inchagoill translates to the Island of the Devoted Stranger and refers to the legend that St Patrick was temporarily exiled to the island while his fate was deliberated on by local pagan kings . One of over 300 Lough Islands.

Lough Corrib.

Lough Corrib.

Inchagoill is located midway between Cong in Mayo and Oughterard in Galway and is the site of a 5th century monastery containing two ancient churches dating from the 5e and 12e centuries dramatically in the middle of the woods. There are twice daily crossings from Cong Pier to this lovely wooded islet.

Ireland’s best little lobby

Carrigin Castle, near Headford, County Galway, like Ballykine Castle, was a hall-house and held the sentry on the south-eastern bank of the Corrib for nearly a millennium. Its sparkling white tower would have been a familiar feature to crusading Templar Knights. This magnificent little castle, once a scattered pile of stones, has been painstakingly reassembled and restored under the direction of Chris Murphy, brother of Richard Murphy, one of Ireland’s most eloquent modern poets.

Carrigin enjoys breathtaking views of the Corrib and is an oasis of calm and tranquility. The faithful simplicity of the interior, whitewashed walls and stone floors contrast with the eye-catching geometry of the ceiling beams.

Original occupant Adam Gaynard, the grandson of a Norman knight and disciple of the conqueror De Burgos would be no stranger to the building in its current state but would certainly feel much more at home in the tonic winters of Connemara warmed by central heating and the welcoming glow of the huge fireplace. Chris and his wife Anna run Carrigin as a self-catering vacation rental at a very reasonable price.

From ragpicker to wealth …

Caherkinmonwee Castle is Europe’s most popular Airbnb and can accommodate up to four people in royal medieval splendor. The Castle near Craughwell in Galway has been a labor of love for stonemason and former fashion designer Peter Hayes for the past 25 years. Peter’s tireless dedication to restoring what were once essentially several piles of rubble in a magnificent 15th century tower is nothing short of remarkable. The attention to detail is breathtaking. The stepped ramparts have been meticulously recreated with each stone hoisted by hand and positioned by Peter.

As with all medieval castles of this type, these are authentic ancient structures, so come with an open mind, an open heart, sensible shoes a sweater or two for winter, and realistic expectations and be prepared to make a decision. new story!

Castles can be incredibly inspiring places and over the years at Turin Castle we have hosted among others: writers, actors, musicians, genealogists, history buffs and even members of British royalty. . Hollywood actor and screenwriter Thomas Lennon was so in love with Turin that he stimulated his imagination to create Ronan Boyle’s trilogy of books including one “Ronan Boyle and the Bridge of Riddles” is now produced by Dreamworks as Animation Film.

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