Take Me There: 5 Best Castle Hotels in Ireland

Always dreamt of being a Lord or Lady?  This St. Patrick's Day, why not plan an escape to one of these Irish castles turned hotels?  Ireland is filled with beautiful castles, and you'll see each has a unique style and feel.  These are my picks for playing king of the castle, after all "a good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures" - Irish words to live by!

Dromoland Castle

This castle hotel  is full of traditional decor with a slightly modern twist.  If you love gardening and walks, this is the place for you.  Not only are there  two manicured gardens to stroll, the property also has some of the oldest and largest trees in Ireland.

  ©  Dromoland Castle

©Dromoland Castle

  ©  Dromoland Castle

©Dromoland Castle

 ©Dromoland Castle

©Dromoland Castle

Lough Eske Castle

Located just outside Donegal Town, Lough Eske Castle has been chosen as one of the top hotels in Ireland by Condé Nast Traveler, and it's not hard to see why.  Known for its updated style, and fairy tale setting, it feels almost too good to be true. 

 ©Lough Eske Castle

©Lough Eske Castle

 ©Lough Eske Castle

©Lough Eske Castle

 ©Lough Eske Castle

©Lough Eske Castle

 ©Lough Eske Castle

©Lough Eske Castle

 ©Lough Eske Castle

©Lough Eske Castle

Ballynahinch Castle

Because of its secluded location on over 450 acres in the heart of Connemara Co. Galway, Ballynahinch Castle is one of my personal favorites.  Self described as an "unpretentious castle hotel," it boasts a salmon fishery and has the 12 Bens Mountain Range to its back.   If you enjoy numerous outdoor actives such as hiking, shooting, fishing, and biking, this property is highly recommended.

  ©Ballynahinch Castle

©Ballynahinch Castle

 © Ballynahinch Castle

©Ballynahinch Castle

 © Ballynahinch Castle

©Ballynahinch Castle

 © Ballynahinch Castle

©Ballynahinch Castle

Ashford Castle

The most traditional on the list, Ashford Castle is for those who want to truly feel as though they are in another era.  With 83 rooms on the shores of Lough Corrib, a killer spa, and bag piper serenades, this castle has a reputation for being one of the best.

 ©Ashford Castle

©Ashford Castle

  ©Ashford Castle

©Ashford Castle

 ©Ashford Castle

©Ashford Castle

 ©Ashford Castle

©Ashford Castle

Adare Manor

Technically a manor, and not a castle (details, details), I couldn't help but add this hotel to the list.  Adare Manor closed in January for 18 months of extensive renovations and restoration, and I cannot wait to see its completion.  The property includes a golf course named one of Ireland's best by Golf Digest, as well as falconry and archery experiences, and a full service spa, making it a great place for travelers with a variety of interests.

  ©Adare Manor

©Adare Manor

  ©Adare Manor

©Adare Manor

 ©Adare Manor

©Adare Manor

 ©Adare Manor

©Adare Manor

If these castles have you day dreaming about the land of green, let us help you plan an Irish escape, you'll surely feel like the luckiest traveler around!  Erin Go Bragh!


Are you ready to escape?  Contact us to start planning your next vacation.

Escape Review: Beaches Turks and Caicos

If you follow Stock & Olive on Instagram, then you know my husband and I escaped the Pittsburgh winter a few weeks ago and headed to the Islands of Turks and Caicos.  Grace Bay has been a favorite that we continue to return to, after honeymooning there over 5 years ago.  The clear calm waters and soft white sand are absolute perfection, and although we've traveled to many other islands and beaches, it's hard to find something that can compare.  

I first started traveling to Turks and Caicos, during my years of working for Sandals and Beaches.  I've actually been there over twenty times (it might even be closer to thirty now), at one point residing there for three weeks while working on events for the Beaches resort.  It didn't take me long to fall in love with Grace Bay, it ticked all the boxes of an ideal Caribbean escape.  Crystal clear turquoise water, a wide flat beach with easy entry (not rocky or filled with seaweed), great dining options (named a best island for food), it's both family friendly and romantic at the same time, as well as easily accessible from the states.  When I started traveling there in 2008, only a few people knew about this pristine chain of islands, and I secretly liked it that way.  Almost ten years later, word has gotten out that Turks is one of the best island escapes.  With recent awards as Tripadvisor's best beach in the world, and Travel and Leisure naming Grace Bay as one of the top island beaches, my secret escape has been outed.  Yes, there are more hotels and visitors than before, but it won't stop me from daydreaming of this perfect vacation spot.

 ©Stock and Olive

©Stock and Olive

Providenciales (Provo for short) is the specific island where Grace Bay is located, and even from above the blue water is breath taking.  

 ©Stock and Olive

©Stock and Olive

This trip we decided to return to the Beaches Turks and Caicos Resort.  There is no denying this resort is one of the best family getaways out there, but many of my clients are couples or honeymooners, and the family atmosphere was often not a good fit when choosing hotel options.  They recently expanded the resort though, opening a new section called the Key West Village.  So, I decided to check it out and see if it would be a good fit for my adult clients.

 ©Stock and Olive

©Stock and Olive

Above is the center "atrium" of the main building in the Key West Village.  We stayed here in a balcony room with partial ocean views, perfect for enjoying a morning cup of coffee or an evening night cap.  There are four villages at Beaches Turks and Caicos, and each of them has their own distinctive feel, this one has a very laid back and soothing atmosphere.

 ©Stock and Olive

©Stock and Olive

 ©Stock and Olive

©Stock and Olive

The Key West Village also has picturesque cottages and villas that have up to 3 bedrooms, including a full kitchen and laundry.  Perfect for families or couples who want more space and privacy.  

 ©Stock and Olive

©Stock and Olive

 ©Stock and Olive

©Stock and Olive

Above is the adult only pool, which despite the hotel being at 90% occupancy while we were there, it was completely empty most days, leaving space for couples to have uninterrupted quiet time.  Below is a picture of one of one of the twenty (yes, you read that right) restaurants and twelve bars that are included throughout the resort.  We found the adult only roof top restaurant, Sky to be a personal favorite, delicious and great views.

 ©Stock and Olive

©Stock and Olive

 ©Stock and Olive

©Stock and Olive

You see that yellow raft anchored in the ocean?  Yeah, I still have the tan lines to prove I spent way too much time there...

 ©Stock and Olive

©Stock and Olive

There is a boardwalk that runs the entire length of the resort, making for beautiful views while getting around.  Below is the water sports center, another spot that we would frequent.  My husband and I are both PADI Scuba certified,  so in addition to boarding our dive boats here, this is also where you leave for snorkeling trips, or if you want to sail a Hobie Cat,  go kayaking, paddle boarding, windsurfing, or to pedal an aqua trike, this is your place.

 ©Stock and Olive

©Stock and Olive

 ©Stock and Olive

©Stock and Olive

Above shows one side of Grace Bay.  It is protected by a reef, keeping the waters calm, even when the Atlantic may be rough.  Below are the dunes which run along part of the beach.  These are protected by the TCI and keep with the island's mission of protecting their waters and wildlife, resulting in lots of natural beauty.

 ©Stock and Olive

©Stock and Olive

 ©Stock and Olive

©Stock and Olive

The infinity pool is perfection, and the sunsets aren't too bad either...

 ©Stock and Olive

©Stock and Olive

Would I suggest Beaches Turks and Caicos for adult travelers?  Yes, defiantly.  I would highly recommend staying in the Key West Village to escape some of the more kid friendly parts of the resort, and this way you can easily sip on a glass of wine while enjoying your uninterrupted view of Grace Bay.


Are you ready to escape?  Contact us to start planning your next vacation.

Escape Review: Bath, UK

Many years ago, my husband and I made a pact to attend the 2015 Rugby World Cup.  Being that he is a former rugby player, and we met while he was playing for the Pittsburgh team, it only seemed appropriate that we cross the pond to watch the best teams in the game.   Plus, who am I kidding, I didn't need much coaxing to plan another trip to Europe.

The first leg of our journey began in Bath, England.  The match we had tickets for was being played in Cardiff, but after some debating, we decided to stay in Bath.  It is only an hour train ride between the two, and my husband had played for the Bath Rugby Club, as well as attending University there.  I had heard great things about its English charm and Georgian architecture, so Bath it was.

Where We Went

We started with the Roman Baths - an obvious must if you're in Bath.  We grabbed our audio guides and did the approximate 1.5 hour tour.  The guide was well done, and the Baths were definitely something I would recommend seeing.  Parts of the building are currently being expanded, but nothing that was disruptive.  The kicker at the end is taking a swig of the Sulfur laden water - mmmmm delicious.  If you have time, you can have high tea in the connecting Pump Room, complete with a second tasting of the distinctive water.

 ©Stock & Olive

©Stock & Olive

 ©Stock & Olive

©Stock & Olive

 ©Stock & Olive

©Stock & Olive

Next up was the Bath Abbey, if you enjoy religious architecture, or beautiful stain glass,  make the time to stop and appreciate this beautiful church.

 ©Stock & Olive

©Stock & Olive

 ©Stock & Olive

©Stock & Olive

To escape the crowds we then headed out of downtown Bath.  First, you cross the Pulteney Bridge, besides the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, it's one of the only bridges in the world with shops built into it, once you cross the bridge turn right and head down a tight staircase.  Here you will pass one of the most picturesque spots in Bath to grab a drink or lunch, the Riverside Café.  After having a snack we continued along the river path, to see some of the best views Bath has to offer.  

 ©Stock & Olive

©Stock & Olive

 ©Stock & Olive

©Stock & Olive

 ©Stock & Olive

©Stock & Olive

 ©Stock & Olive

©Stock & Olive

The next day we took some time to wander through the town of Bath.  Being a lover of all things Austen, I wanted to stop by the Jane Austen Centre.  After taking a look around and speaking with staff, I learned that the center contained mostly wax figures, period costumes, a gift shop, and a tea room.  I found it to be a bit of a tourist trap, so I decided to forgo the experience, but did snap a quick pic of Jane herself.

 ©Stock & Olive

©Stock & Olive

We continued through he city of Bath, heading toward the Royal Crescent.  Along the way enjoying the Georgian buildings and alleys.

 ©Stock & Olive

©Stock & Olive

 ©Stock & Olive

©Stock & Olive

We made it to the must see Royal Crescent, here you can also stop and have tea or a snack at the Royal Crescent Hotel.  

 ©Stock & Olive

©Stock & Olive

After walking around the Royal Crescent, we continued to Royal Victoria Park.  This hands down is one of my favorite parts of Bath, as you can tell by the photo overload.  You will know you are at the entrance to the park, when you see the English cottage with the blue trim.  The park was filled with locals and their children enjoying a gorgeous fall day.  Take the time and walk all the way to the back of the park, here you will be rewarded with the stunning botanical gardens.

 ©Stock & Olive

©Stock & Olive

 ©Stock & Olive

©Stock & Olive

 ©Stock & Olive

©Stock & Olive

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©Stock & Olive

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©Stock & Olive

 ©Stock & Olive

©Stock & Olive

 ©Stock & Olive

©Stock & Olive

 ©Stock & Olive

©Stock & Olive

We ended our visit by heading to Cardiff for the World Cup.  This is something I will never forget - being surrounded by so many fans, with a buzz of overwhelming excitement.  We had the chance to see the New Zealand All Blacks (who ended up winning the World Cup), play France (my husband's favorite team).  And although it was a blow out match, it was still worth every Pound.

 ©Stock & Olive

©Stock & Olive

What We ate

While researching our trip, I kept reading about the illusive Bath Bun - What was it?  What did it taste like?  So I added it to my must eat list.  Unfortunately it was a huge let down.  For those wondering it's pretty much a sandwich bun, that tastes similar to brioche, and is topped with rock sugar and currants.  To try "the bun," we decided to stop at The Bath Bun Tea Shoppe.  Sadly, this was an even bigger disappointment.  For our tea service, they left the crusts on our tea sandwiches (defeats the purpose of a tea sandwich) and they tasted dry and stale.  So, despite the cute exterior, I would  not recommend this restaurant.  And as for Bath Buns - stick to scones instead.

 ©Stock & Olive

©Stock & Olive

 ©Stock & Olive

©Stock & Olive

On the other hand I highly recommend going to the Green Park Station Market, buying some cheese/bread/marmalade, packing a picnic and taking it to the aforementioned Royal Victoria Park.

 ©Stock & Olive

©Stock & Olive

 ©Stock & Olive

©Stock & Olive

 ©Stock & Olive

©Stock & Olive

 ©Stock & Olive

©Stock & Olive

If you're looking for a coffee break and some free wifi, head to Milsom Place in the center of Bath.  It's made up of small passages to wander through, and filled with delicious restaurants and shops, including chef Jamie Oliver's.  We stopped for a coffee at Colonna & Hunter, and found the coffee and atmosphere to be perfect.

 ©Stock & Olive

©Stock & Olive

 ©Stock & Olive

©Stock & Olive

My favorite dinner was at The Raven of Bath.  Known for its savory pies, I had the mushroom and asparagus with mash, and my husband had the raven ale pie with chips.  Both were delicious, and served in a proper pub atmosphere.  We also had typical Indian curry one night at The Eastern Eye, and Sunday Lunch at The Chequers, I would recommend both.  For after dinner drinks, we had a great time at The Huntsman.

 ©Stock & Olive

©Stock & Olive

Where We Stayed

Outside of our hotel comfort zone, we decided to stay at Three Abbey Green, a small family owned bed and breakfast, because I wanted more of a quintessential English experience.  We stayed in the Old Plane Tree room, and for the price, found it to be comfortable.  Being a bed and breakfast, there were not as many amenities as a typical hotel, but our only complaint was that despite being on the top floor, we were often awoken by the noise outside.  There were near by pubs, which had late night stragglers, and being located next to The Abbey made for hearing lots of church bells.  We did enjoy the included breakfast, and had a beautiful view of the Old Plane Tree out of our window.

 ©Stock & Olive

©Stock & Olive

 ©Stock & Olive

©Stock & Olive

 ©Stock & Olive

©Stock & Olive

Next we were off to Belgium!

 

 

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