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BEST CASTLES ON THE WILD ATLANTIC WAY



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Whether you’d like to spoil yourself with a luxurious overnight stay or want the family to discover the history of these ancient structures, there are plenty of majestic castles dotted along the Wild Atlantic Way. Steeped in history, they offer a glimpse into Ireland’s rich past, and add a layer of decadence and fascination to any visit.

Here are some of the most impressive and interesting castles to be found along this glorious stretch of coast. 

 
 

Solis Lough Eske Hotel, DONEGAL

In the vast and expansive headlands of Donegal in the north, you’ll find the Solis Lough Eske Hotel, a five-star castle hotel that dates back to the 1400s. From this secluded lakeside estate guests can explore the haunting surrounds, once home to the O’Donnell clan - known as the ‘founding fathers’ of Donegal.
 

Ballynahinch Castle, GALWAY

Ballynahinch Castle in Galway, now a gorgeous four-star hotel, also boasts a colourful past; ‘Ballynahinch’ comes from the Irish Baile na hInse, ‘household of the island’, as this area was once home to the powerful O’Flaherty clan. The hotel stands on the banks of the Owenmore River, making it an ideal fishing base, or a place from which to marvel at the incredible views of the countryside from the luxury Riverside wing.
 

Gregan’s Castle Hotel, CLARE

Gregan’s Castle Hotel, meanwhile, enjoys an idyllic setting in the Burren, County Clare. This sparse, limestone landscape is truly unique – it stretches for 360km2 and is home to a whole host of flora and fauna. Indeed, notable guests of Gregan’s include author JRR Tolkien, who’s thought to have been influenced by the haunting Burren when writing Lord of the Rings. Gregan’s is a homely place, with cosy open fires, antique furnishings and a well-respected kitchen serving lunch and dinner, which is open February to November.
 

Ballyseede Castle, KERRY

In Tralee on the jutting Southern Peninsulas, you’ll find Ballyseede Castle, a foreboding and magical building that’s been fully restored and transformed into a beautiful four-star hotel. High ceilings and four-poster beds await in this old world property, which was once the garrison for the Earls of Desmond, a Gaelic family who refused to swear allegiance to the Crown. It’s a truly atmospheric place, so much so that it was named one of the top 10 haunted hotels in the world by Tripadvisor!

 
  • Ballynahinch Castle in Galway, now a gorgeous four-star hotel, also boasts a colourful past
 

Desmond Castle, cork

Plenty of other castles along the Wild Atlantic Way are open for viewing only, and run guided tours aimed to educate visitors about Ireland’s rich (and often tempestuous) past. Desmond Castle in Kinsale, County Cork, was built by another Earl of Desmond, around 1500. Although originally constructed as a customs house, it has also been an ordnance store, prison and even a workhouse during the Great Famine (1845 – 1849). Today, it’s home to the International Museum of Wine, a fascinating exhibition documenting the story of Ireland’s wine links with the rest of the world.
 

Dunguaire Castle, GALWAY

The 16th-century tower house of Dunguaire Castle, meanwhile, sits dramatically on a rocky outcrop on the shores of Galway Bay. Built in 1520 by the O’Hynes clan, it was restored later in the 1920s by famous surgeon and literary figure, Oliver St John Gogarty. During the subsequent Celtic revival in Irish literature, Dunguaire became a meeting place for the likes of WB Yeats, JM Synge and Lady Gregory. In homage to these inspirational figures, the castle plays host to a lavish banquet twice nightly between April and October.
 

Parke’s Castle, LEITRIM

Finally, Parke’s Castle on the banks of Lough Gill, County Leitrim, is a plantation-era castle. The land upon which it sits was confiscated from Irishman Brian O’Rourke (who was executed in London for treason in 1591) and given to English settler Roger Parke, whose family lived there until the 17th century. Today you can learn the history of the castle from friendly and knowledgeable staff, or take a boat trip on the lake.

 
 

These are just some of the unique and fascinating castles to be found along the Wild Atlantic Way.

For more historic houses, castles and a whole range of other quirky accommodation options, check out our online directory.

 

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