Ghosts, grand dynasties and gifts of the gab… when it comes to Irish castles, you never quite know what stories lie around the next turret. Ireland’s castles look like they’ve been here forever, but they’ve barely been around for the bones of a millennium.
Arriving with the Anglo-Normans, these castles began as earth and timber structures, but by the late 12th century, were increasingly being replaced by a more permanent material: stone.
After the Norman fortresses came defensive tower houses, Elizabethan manors, Victorian, Baronial and other flights of fancy in both new buildings and adaptations of original structures. The result? A motley collection of crumbling ruins, medieval mash-ups and pristine stately piles that seem purpose built to surprise you at the most unexpected times.
Cabra Castle, Co Cavan.Book yourself into one of the 12 luxury
rooms in the original castle part of Cabra Castle for the full aristo effect.The hotel, just outside Kingscourt, dates to 1760 and has expansive gardens and parkland as well as panoramic views of DúnnaRí Forest Park nearby. No two rooms are the same but expect more than your fair share of canopy, four-poster and half-tester beds, not to mention bedrooms with fancy monikers.It’s a hugely popular oldeworlde wedding venue but don’t get carried away,  sleeping in the Lord’s Bedchamber doesn’t give you leave to
suggest droit du seigneur to the wedding party downstairs. Dinner and b&b from €105 pps.
Markree Castle, Co Sligo.The Corscadden family, owners of the aforementioned Cabra Castle,  plus Ballyseede Castle in Kerry and Bellingham Castle in Louth, recently added Markree Castle, an imposing castle hotel in Sligo, to its collection.

Dorothy Prats / [email protected]