10 MOST EXCITING EUROPEAN CASTLE HOTELS TO SPEND A NIGHT
by Elaine Desmond
Ears popping in a speedy rush as you zoom headlong at 100mph through a quarry on the longest zip line in the world. Climb to the top of a country’s highest mountain and proudly take in the wide-angled view. Discover cannibals, body snatchers , ghosts and devilish deeds as you walk through graveyards and underground vaults in a deep dark night. Bounce and jump on netting and industrial slides hanging across a cavernous mine. The most exciting European Castles to spend a night can deliver these experiences.
Everyone’s’ idea of exhilaration differs and the choice of excitement is also yours. Start in Wales, land of fire breathing dragons, slate mines, rugby and the legend of King Arthur. Exciting slate mines? Is that type-slurring for late wines?
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Stay in Ruthin Castle Hotel and prepare yourself for a high speed thrill of your life. Set within acres of woods and parkland a little over 20 miles from Chester, in an area of outstanding natural beauty, Ruthin Castle, dates back to the legend of King Arthur with notable owners including King Edward I, Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. King Edward I who built Ruthin Castle was responsible for tracking down and executing the last Prince of Wales to independently rule this country. Exciting indeed, but not thrilling for the Prince.
Less than an hour from Ruthin Castle Hotel get your high speed rush with the Goliath zip line in Blaenau Ffestiniog, the longest underground zip line in the world. Or perhaps you might prefer to plummet into a 70 foot abyss where you drop like one of the slates previously quarried here. The free fall system will stop you with a controlled ease but your racing heart will continue at speed for a long while afterwards. Bounce and jump and throw yourself about on an underground netting trampoline with industrial slides. Walk through the cavern and cross centenarian wooden bridges over 80 foot crevasses. If you haven’t felt shaky before now, surely this is the time to feel the adrenaline surge.
More exciting activities close by in Llangollen include climbing and abseiling the cliffs of the Egwyseg Escarpment. If you prefer the rush of water to heights then you will get a buzz from the white water rafting and tubing here on the River Dee’s rapids. Not had enough yet? You can test your archery skills and also try axe throwing to bring out the latent Viking in you. Return to spend a night at Ruthin Castle where you can use the Moat Spa to unwind after a full day of drama.
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North Wales is indeed an adventure paradise and why not spend a night in another of the most exciting European Castle Hotels here. The only 5* Castle in Wales is Chateau Rhianfa which is located on the Isle of Anglesey just across the Menai Suspension Bridge which dates back to 1826. Built in the style of a French chateau, the drama begins here with the first sighting of your Castle Hotel.
The excitement continues with rib (rigid inflatable boat) riding on the Menai Strait as you zoom under the Suspension Bridge, your mouth open catching the sea spray as you traverse the Swellies with their rocks, whirlpools and shipwrecks.
For a further adventure you could try the Bear Grylls rib ride boat tour and explore the island of Anglesey with dare and verve whizzing around the Skerries – (unique rocky islands) and crane your neck to look up at sheer sea cliffs. If you are here during the summer you will be able to take on the challenge of the indomitable Irish Sea.
Wobble those sea legs back onto dry land and visit the South Stack Lighthouse on the wild west coast of Anglesey. You will have to take 400 steps from the mainland to reach it but it will be worth every knee crease. Climb to the top of the 28 metre lighthouse and marvel at the mechanics and the turbulent views – nature’s engineering overwhelming man’s. A trump card of a different suit. Stand outside and feel the elements whip around and mould you like the cliffs.
Battered and blown about you can try a less stormy climb , but no less dramatic, of Mount Snowdon – the highest mountain in Wales. Edmund Hillary used Snowdon (Old English for Snow Hill) while in training for his Mount Everest ascent. The Welsh summit can be reached by a number of pathways and the degree of difficulty is up to you. Of course there is the ultimate cheat’s way out – take the railway option from Llanberis , 5 miles of a rack and pinion rail all the way to the summit station. Even more unexpected, you will find a cafe here to sip a cuppa while gulping in the views.
Sticking with the most exciting heights, try the cable car ride in Llandudno as it climbs to the Great Orme summit. You will dangle at 80 feet as you swallow the sweeping views of Anglesey, the Irish Sea and the Conwy Estuary. While in Llandudno you can also test your screaming vocal chords at the Ski and Snowboarding centre.
The Cresta Run is the longest toboggan run in Wales at 750m – a cable car will take you up to the start, disconnect you and awaaaaaay you go. Maybe sno-tubing is for you – a great fun activity where large inflatable rings can be linked with others or ridden individually sliding down the hill.
Slide into your top class comfort at Chateau Rhianfa where you spend a night in happy exhaustion after an adrenaline soak in one of Europe’s most exciting destinations.
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Less than an hour north of Bath in England you can enjoy more excitement at Thornbury Castle, another great European Castle Hotel. It certainly has the wow factor and you won’t forget you are in a 16th Century Castle once owned by Henry VIII and used during his and Anne Boleyn’s honeymoon tour. Many rooms are accessed via spiral stone staircases and well worth the climb !
Bristol, just 15 miles from Thornbury Castle, has bundles of adventurous activities to be sampled. If you enjoyed climbing those spiral staircases in your Castle Hotel then you might be inclined (that’s the only one – I almost promise) to try nearby stiffer ascents and descents. Abseiling down the spectacular Avon Gorge is one to test the nerves or you can stick with the indoors and still be challenged by the climbing walls in 2 different centers in Bristol. One of these is practically a climbing theme park with a clip on system and fun challenges in a bright funky environment.
It is very easy to find Bristol’s maritime history exciting with the option of ascending the mighty mainmast and rigging of Brunel’s SS Great Britain to pause at the viewing platform 30m above the ground. For the truly fearless you can edge an even further 9m out onto the main yard, as those below gasp at your acrobatics. The Matthew is a replica of the original boat that John Cabot sailed in to Newfoundland in 1497 and you can enjoy a dramatic trip down the Avon River under the magnificent Clifton Suspension Bridge and through one of the world’s deepest locks.
Enjoy paddle boarding and view Bristol Harbour from a different perspective. You will float past the Victorian ship SS Great Britain, bend your neck back to view the old cranes at the dockside and marvel at the Matthew. Enjoy the great sense of freedom you get when you learn to stand while you paddle.
Feel the freedom also with a whoosh as you try a different type of bike ride. There are many purpose built mountain bike trails to test your peddle metal just outside Bristol at the Ashton Court Estate. Feel the exhilaration here as you hurtle through the woods over rock steps, rollers (bumps) and banked corners (berms).
Hopefully you won’t have picked up any bumps on the berms in your search for excitement and you can return to climb that spiral staircase to your Tudor style four poster bed in Thornbury Castle.
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Hever Castle Hotel
Spend a night in Hever Castle Hotel for more excitement. This fabulous Castle is located just South of London and only half an hour from Gatwick Airport so is well situated for your first or final European Castle stop.
The Castle has an incredible history and is best known as the Childhood home of Anne Boleyn . In 1903 William Waldorf Astor bought the double moated Castle and lovingly restored it to it’s former glory. He also added the Astor Wing which is where you can stay – it is an incredible structure behind the Castle built as a Tudor village. The Castle itself is open to the public – entry is complimentary when staying in the Astor wing and is an absolute must do on your visit.
The medieval sport of jousting comes alive again here with summer tournaments in a reconstructed arena with a Royal Box. It starts with a procession from Hever Castle with Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn leading visitors through the grounds to the Arena. You can cheer your favorite Knight from the medieval spectator stands and watch him battle for glory.
The compere will let you know the points awarded to each Knight whether for lancing rings, riding and spearing enemy heads from the ground and one-to-one combat. The most exciting competition is the horseback duel between two Knights as they ride towards each other at speed, armed with a four metre lance and a shield. The loser is unseated while the victorious Knight remains seated on his shining Spanish steed. Perhaps a kiss to the victor from Anne Boleyn, although she might be heading (!) for her own dark Knight as a result.
You have lost yourself in the excitement of Medieval times at this European Castle and you can also lose yourself in the present day by attempting to find your way through Hever Castle’s Yew Maze. This a rare 100 year old traditionally designed Maze built by William Waldof Astor. It contains a quarter of a mile of pathways within eighty feet by eighty feet square and the hedges reach a height of eight feet. Enjoy the challenge to find your way out or perhaps you might like the thrill of getting lost !
If the Yew Maze has not stimulated you enough then you can move on to the Water Maze. You might need to bring your brolly with you while you try to maneuver a series of stepping stone walkways built over water. If you stand on a certain point, a stone will tilt slightly and hidden water jets will soak the surprised victim. The goal is to get to the central grotto without needing that brolly but only a rare few reach the grotto without getting wet. Not only is it fun, it also gets the pulse racing as you try to avoid the water jets. In fact sometimes it’s even more exciting to get a little damp !
It might be difficult to tear yourself away from Hever Castle, but there is another way to raise the bpm close by in Chatham at the famous Buckmore Park Kart Circuit where Champions Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button fell in love with their sport. Take a kart for a screech around the circuit and feel your temperature rising.
Head to Whitstable on the Kent coast to cool down with a kitesurfing lesson after all that burning rubber. Harness the force of the wind with a large controllable kite and shoot across the water on a kiteboard similar to a small surfboard. Feel the exhilaration as the wind whips around you and the sea rushes past underneath as you try to mingle with the elements and use them to propel you forwards.
Excitement is certainly one element among many to entice you to spend a night in Hever Castle. It has plenty of thrills and spills within it’s walls and also close by to keep you on your toes or completely off them.
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Further northwards in the heart of Yorkshire another European Castle Hotel to raise your heartbeat is Swinton Park on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. This is an area of outstanding beauty with rustic villages and scenic dales to admire.
Swinton Park is the ancestral home of the Cunliffe-Lister family and is set in 200 acres of parkland, lakes and gardens. This castle hotel is enclosed by the family estate where residents have access to the open moorland, pristine rivers, evocative dales and the quietly beautiful Yorkshire landscape. At Swinton Park they’ve thought of everything. Gumboots and Wax Jackets are provided to protect you from the elements as you go exploring and a wide range of bicycles are on offer too.
There is a sense throughout the Castle of it being more of a lavish home than a hotel, with individually designed bedrooms, each with generously sized bathrooms and exceptional views. For a truly special experience you can attend a Downton Experience weekend. It is a genuine country house party weekend, reflecting those portrayed in the t.v. series Downton Abbey.
Hosted by Lord and Lady Masham, whose family have owned the Swinton Estate since the 1860’s, the weekend is filled, in true traditional country house party style, with a variety of country pursuits and activities . It is an exciting thrill to experience a true taste of life exactly as it unfolded a century ago. This is indeed a rare and unusual treat.
The Swinton Park Bird of Prey Centre has an aviary on the Castle Hotel grounds. Here you can enjoy watching the owls – (barn, great grey, snowy and long-eared) Harris hawks, a common buzzard and an eagle strut their splendor. Go one step further and try some of the falconry experiences available , learning how to handle and fly the birds of prey under the tuition of an experienced falconer. Why not go for a hawk walk amid the magnificence of the castle grounds ? Or what about a hunting day with the hawks ?
After receiving instructions on how to safely handle your bird of prey, you will have the opportunity to see a hawk and it’s true nature in the grounds of the Swinton Park estate. Marvel at the swoop as the bird’s sensory powers hone in on the quarry. This is not for the squeamish as a bird of prey is a killing machine, but this is nature and you can but watch and feel the brute force of it’s awesome beauty.
Traveling into the Yorkshire Dales National Park you can take a guided tour of the White Scar Cave which includes fascinating formations including The Witch’s Fingers, a claw-like phenomenon, The Squeeze, where the stone has grown so thick visitors must squeeze through sideways and The Devil’s Tongue – avoid the drip here folklore says. The Carrots are orange stalactites overhead hanging like a mini chandelier – try not to eat one!
Another overhead delight is the opportunity to launch into the clouds in a hot air balloon. You can do this in the wonderful setting of Ripley Castle, north of Harrogate and less than 20 miles to Swinton Park Castle Hotel. As you are moving with the wind you feel airless as the ground drops beneath you and the tapestry of fields and towns recede into miniature patchworks.
You will see such fantastic sights as Ripon Cathedral, Spofforth and Knaresborough Castles, the pretty village of Ripley itself and possibly even deer ambling through the estate’s park. You might also drift over the spa town of Harrogate viewing landmarks such as the Pump Rooms and the Royal Baths and also the meandering River Nidd. There is a wonderful feeling of pure peace as the quiet envelops and the gush of flame adds to the unique spell . You receive a champagne toast and a flight certificate at the end to celebrate this unique occasion.
Celebrate even further with the excitement of the sport of kings in any of the nearby horse racing courses. There are nine Yorkshire racecourses altogether and the closest to your European Castle Hotel are Ripon , York , Thirsk and Pontefract. When you spend a night in Swinton Park you should be able to enjoy the adrenaline burst of a day at the races as there are 180 days of racing throughout the year in Yorkshire.
Soak up the equine atmosphere as the glorious horses circle in the parade ring. Do you have a preference for greys or bays ? Do you notice the extra muscle in the hindquarters or the sprightlier step with the forelock ? Maybe you prefer to analyze the form and check their previous runnings? Ground, distance, jockey, trainer, handicapped weight – this choosing could be trickier than anticipated. Pick your favorite before placing your bet in the teeming betting ring.
The excitement mounts as the horses gather at the starting line. Take your place in the covered stands as the crowd begins to trickle back to watch their chosen favorite. Feel the electricity of excitement in the air. It is charged with expectancy, hope and the delight of it all. Find your jockeys silks and they’re off. There is nothing quite like the adrenaline rush as you follow your horse around the course seeing that it has a chance, then as it battles nostril to nostril close to the finish you cheer home your victorious steed. The exhilaration of a win is further sweetened by returning to the betting ring and collecting your winnings. A royal sport indeed.
Staying in Swinton Park Castle Hotel is truly a royal experience and an exciting European Castle Hotel to spend a night in. You will certainly feel like a winner as a guest here.
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Further northwards across the border in Scotland we come to the wonderful Dalhousie Castle Hotel.
This castle is just 8 miles from the center of Edinburgh and just twenty minutes from the airport. It is a 13th century fortress and is the oldest inhabited castle in Scotland. The many twists and turns in the corridors give it a castle authenticity and to spend a night here gives you a slice of time from another era.
While staying at Dalhousie Castle you will want to enjoy the excitement of the city of Edinburgh and it’s most famous attraction, Edinburgh Castle. Try and take your first gulp of Edinburgh Castle from a city center vantage point. As you come around the corner and look over across Princes Street Gardens you will have to suck in your breath with the immensity of seeing a castle perched on the city’s skyline as it catches you by surprise. A majestic bastion overlooking it’s kingdom with a steely royal eye.
It is worth taking one of the complementary guided tours of the castle, however if you prefer to go at your own pace you can purchase an audio guide or just follow the blue shields through the castle as they draw you towards significant places of interest. If you can plan your visit around lunchtime you will experience the firing of the “One O’Clock Gun”.
The historic gun is fired from Edinburgh Castle at this time on the dot, Monday to Saturday. It was first fired on June 7, 1861, and has continued ever since, except during the two world wars. The gun is timed to coincide perfectly with the Time-Ball, a large white ball which is raised above the Nelson Monument on Calton Hill in Edinburgh, which drops at exactly 1pm. The One o’clock Gun and the Time-Ball provide a time signal for shipping in the Firth of Forth and the Port of Leith.
The excitement of history seeps through the stone walls and whispers to you from the ages. A wonderful exhibition at Edinburgh Castle is of course the Crown Jewels which are the oldest in the British Isles. Known collectively as the Honors of Scotland they were used for the coronation of Mary Queen of Scots in 1543.
Look for a mysterious silver wand displayed with the Honors. It was found with the crown jewels in 1818 but no-one knows why it was there. Also displayed with the Crown Jewels is the Stone of Destiny. This Stone is said to be the pillow on which Jacob rested his head when he dreamed of Jacob’s Ladder.
Kings of Scotland were enthroned on this enigmatic stone for centuries until in 1296, the English King Edward I took the Stone and had it built into his throne. It has since been part of the coronation ceremonies of most monarchs of England and, later, Great Britain. In 1996, the Stone was returned to Scotland and will only leave Scotland again when there is a coronation in Westminster Abbey.
The whole city of Edinburgh has a drama and excitement to it which cannot be replicated anywhere else. The Gothic blackened stone buildings, a heavy grayness sinking into the cobbled stones on the Royal Mile, the gloomy darkened Cowgate beneath the weight of the bridges. There is no place like it.
You can glimpse the unique drama of this exceptional city in a corner of the Royal Mile just below Edinburgh Castle where Mary King’s Close, a little piece of the 17th century, is preserved forever. The Royal Mile sits on a ridge and as the city grew the buildings did too – growing outwards. As the ground sloped away so the buildings increased in height – the further they got from the ridge the more storeys were added – this meant that the narrow streets below had access to very little light. Thus the closes were born and the poorest of the City lived in the lowest levels.
When the Royal Exchange was built in 1753 vaulted ceilings were installed in the lower levels of the buildings below but otherwise left the rooms untouched – closing in a portion of history forever underneath. Now you can walk in the footsteps of the inhabitants of this once bustling world of the 17th century. Feel the breath of history brush past you as even the air smells of a distant time.
This otherworldly aspect of Edinburgh leads naturally to another thrilling activity – ghost tours. You can take an underground tour beneath the city’s streets exploring the South Bridge Vaults and feel your flesh prickle as you listen to the stories of terror , learn about witchcraft and the plague on the Royal Mile and the Old Town during a spooky walkabout . Body-snatching by the thieving duo of Burke and Hare and tales of local superstitions will lead you to the most haunted pub in Scotland.
As Edinburgh native Robert Louis Stevenson said “ Only a few inches separate the living from the dead”. The ethereal ghoulishness of his city inspired him to write The Strange Case of Dr.Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It all seems mired in a boggy world of dark secretive doings and dank dreary underhandedness. Today’s Edinburgh stands up bold and proud like it’s castle on the hill openly proclaiming it’s past and weaving it into the present in the most exciting way.
Dalhousie is so close to the Scottish capital it is an ideal base to explore this enigmatic city from an equally enigmatic European Castle Hotel. After a day’s historical and ghostly exploration it is ideal to return and spend a night in one of Dalhousie Castle’s elegant and sumptuous four-poster bedrooms. A dramatic conclusion to a thrilling day.
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Where Dalhousie Castle is traditional, the rooms at Fonab Castle Hotel further north in Pitlochry are firmly placed in the 21st century. There is an effective blend of classic finery with a contemporary twist. This 5* gem is curled into a stunning corner of Lough Faskally in the shade of Ben Vrackie in the Perthshire Highlands.
This blend of classic and contemporary is reflected in the exciting drinking and dining experience here. Enjoy fine dining in the atmospheric award winning Sandeman’s restaurant with superb wines carefully chosen by the helpful Sommelier. At the loch-side glass encased Lounge, delight in the unique castle Gin Bar. It has a wide selection of micro brewed and premium gins to rival the usual whiskey choices. Try one of the great gin-based cocktails in a spectacular drinks menu.
Perhaps a strong cocktail will be needed after you experience an exciting Land Rover drive of your life. This can be conveniently arranged by the Castle Hotel concierge . Get your heartbeat raised when you rev up the power of a Land Rover and experience it’s all-terrain abilities. You will be taught by instructors to challenge the steep hills of the Highland countryside, bounce on off-road and woodland tracks as well as enjoying the wide open expanse of private tracks. You will feel empowered after you have mastered your mechanical thoroughbred and return to Fonab Castle Hotel with an enriched sense of achievement.
A Highland Safari can also be arranged close by. Why not get oot and aboot to experience the local wildlife and take in the wide-angled landscapes. The safari takes you through the Perthshire Highlands where you might be lucky to see red deer, the famous grouse, the shy mountain hare or the majestic golden eagle. You will travel through woodlands, moors and mountains on private hill tracks of this sublime natural wilderness.
This European Castle Hotel is also in the perfect location for a fantastic whiskey distillery tour. Close to Fonab Castle is Eradour Distillery , the smallest distillery in Scotland and dating back to 1825. It is now the only handmade single malt whisky from a farm distillery in production today – a truly authentic small scale production. The Blair Athol distillery is also in Pitlochry where water from the Alt Dour burn produces the mellow, deep tones and smooth fruitiness of the 12 year old single malt. It is distilled in traditional copper pot stills and matured in oak casks.
Nearby Aberfeldy has a great whisky heritage visitor centre and is also a working distillery. Here you will learn about making the single malt, the art of blending and also the history of the Dewar family who created it in the 1800s. The Strathearn Distillery is also in Perthshire and is the newest and possibly smallest commercial distillery.
Here you can take a tour of the distillery or spend a day distilling whisky or enjoy a day’s gin making experience. The whisky distilling day is spent operating the stills and running the spirit still and you can extend the experience to a three or five day more intensive learning. You will take away a bottle of your own whisky and a certificate of distilling. –
To spend a night in Fonab Castle Hotel is to truly enjoy a stay at one of the most exciting European Castle Hotels. With a mixture of handling a mechanical beast and marvelling at the natural wildlife and indoors sampling the natural botanicals, Fonab Castle certainly ticks the box of thrills.
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Winding your way northwards you will come to another sublime Castle Hotel. In the Highlands by Fort William near the shores of Loch Linnhe lies Inverlochy. It has been a world renowned 5* Castle Hotel for over 40 years. It was built in the 1800s and hosted Queen Victoria for a week in 1873.
Inverlochy Castle has a very traditional and authentic feel throughout and it is easy to imagine you have traveled through time to the 1800s. Hidden treasures such as the walled garden can be found in the grounds and there is a secret door in the paneling of the great hall leading to the library which can also double as a private dining room. If you plan to dine at the Castle in the evening you will need your jacket and tie as it is required for dinner in all 3 of the dining rooms.
The most exciting aspect of Inverlochy Castle Hotel must be it’s profoundly stunning surroundings. The Highlands of Scotland are surely the eighth wonder of the world . The pristine quality of the air, the lore of the lochs and it’s awe inspiring mountains. The complete grandeur of it all cannot fail to soften the hardiest most unromantic of souls. Those given to few words will gush unabashedly after days spent in a haze of Highland beauty. It weaves a spell and casts a web of wonder so strong that you will vow to return before you have even left.
This magical quality has been borrowed by the Harry Potter extravaganza as the Jacobite Steam Train becomes Hogwarts Express. It departs from Fort William on an 84 mile round trip often classed as the world’s greatest rail journey. Cross the famous 21 arched Glenfinnan viaduct (recognized throughout the world now by Harry Potter fans) overlooking Loch Shiel and the Jacobite monument. The train sometimes pauses here to allow passengers to take in the remarkable view and adds to the drama. After a stop in fuchsia dripped, rhododendron filled Glenfinnan station the train passes through sweet villages until it’s destination of Mallaig.
Returning to Fort William why not explore Glen Nevis where, if you’re feeling very energetic you could climb Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain! The Glen itself ends in a wide gorge which has an almost prehistoric quality to it as you imagine dinosaurs bounding across it’s expanse. You can use the wire bridge here to escape their ghosts if need be. Many film scenes have been shot in Glen Nevis including some from Braveheart, Harry Potter, Highlander and Rob Roy which reflects the quality of it’s beauty.
Another area of outstanding and thrilling beauty close to Inverlochy Castle Hotel is the inspirational valley of Glencoe. The views here are so outstanding your jaw will take a long time to close. This is where you feel the geography of nature eking it’s way through the land. The solid substance of the mountainous forms clawing their way out of the valley and straining cloud high.
You can feel some distant force here or maybe it’s the tragedy of the Macdonald massacre whispering it’s remembrance. In 1692 Captain Campbell asked for lodgings for his 130 soldiers from the Macdonald clan in Glencoe. The Macdonalds entertained them for 10 days until the Campbells massacred 40 of their hosts in the early hours of a cold morning while many escaped to the surrounding hills to die of hunger and exposure. This chilling tale echoes the valley and is carried in the wind as it flows between the peaks.
Inverlochy Castle Hotel is a wonderful place to spend a night with the pure joy of it’s surroundings an excitement in itself. The thrilling nature of the magnificent Highland setting ensures that a stay in this European Castle Hotel is unforgettable.
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From Scotland it’s a jump over to Ireland and Dromoland Castle in Co. Clare. The drama begins here with the history of this Castle Hotel as it was the ancestral seat of the O’Briens, Kings of Thomond and descendants of Brian Boru, High King of Ireland. A royal lineage for a royally magnificent building.
The plush, luxurious interiors strike a sensational chord as you wander about the various public rooms. There are grand staircases and elegant hallways under sparkling antique chandeliers. Relax by the open , blazing log fires as you soak up the rich atmosphere and drink in the drama.
Peel yourself off the deep couches to try your hand at the ancient skill of archery available to Dromoland Castle’s guests. Learn to shoot with a bow and arrow and practice your stance in the Castle Hotel’s grounds. Some researchers believe archery was practiced as long as 15,000 years ago. Perhaps the O’Briens would have whiled away many an afternoon with their bows on the same patch of land as you do.
Another exciting activity offered here in the magnificent surroundings of the Castle Estate is clay pigeon shooting. This is a thrilling experience requiring a relaxed concentration, an intent eye and speedy reactions. When you learn to master your aim and coordinate your shots you will gain huge satisfaction from adding up your ‘kills’. This a sport for all ages and is all the more spectacular when practiced in such a royal location as this.
Dromoland Castle also has it’s own onsite falconry with owls, hawks and falcons all of which have been bred in captivity. You receive a fascinating insight into the world of birds of prey up close and personal. Watch the hawk’s idiosyncratic hop which was the inspiration for Jurassic Park’s velociraptors and gain a great knowledge from your falconry instructor of this ancient art.
You will be well prepared for the handling and flying of your bird but not so ready for the unexpected adrenaline rush that accompanies falconry. The flushed flash of a falcon’s wing beat as it rushes towards you. Will you hesitate and pull away ? Or stay ? Stay. It is so worth the pure exhilaration as it lands, talons curling your arm while you feel the weight of wildness close to your beating chest.
Reluctantly drag yourself away from your European Castle Hotel to explore the exciting countryside around Dromoland. The Burren is on the West Atlantic coast and is a 260 square kilometre dramatic landscape of limestone karst. The stone staired terraces here consist of limestone layers which were once part of the sea floor over 300 million years ago .It puts our concept of time in a totally different dimension.
The Burren is also unique for it’s diversity of wildflowers and plants where Mediterranean species grow beside Arctic and Alpine plants and is often called the ‘fertile rock’. In a naked limestone landscape these surprising dots of life soften the harshness and add to the unfolded drama.
Co. Clare seems to be the location for dramatic rocks as just over 30 miles (50kms) away from your European Castle Hotel you will find the majestic Cliffs of Moher. These are sandwiched between the towns of Doolin and Lahinch and are renowned worldwide as one of Ireland’s most popular attractions.
The cliffs appear to have grown out of the water to meet the sky and loom out into the Atlantic- giant’s chunky, puffed fingers frozen in their attempt to touch further lands. At their tallest point the cliffs are 702 feet (214m) and they stub the coast for a distance of 5 miles (8km).
Standing here on a blue skied day you can see as far as the Blasket Islands and the Dingle Peninsula in Kerry, the Maum Turk mountains and the Twelve Pins in Connemara as well as the Aran Islands and Galway Bay. It is life enriching to absorb this thrilling vista in such an exciting landscape.
Dromoland Castle Hotel certainly fulfils all expectations and it is truly an enriching experience to spend a night in this top European Castle Hotel.
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Lough Eske Castle
Moving further northwards in this journey through the most exciting Castle Hotels in Europe, come to delightful Lough Eske in Co.Donegal. This 5* Castle is just outside Donegal town and is set on it’s own secluded lakeside estate. It has won numerous awards including Luxury Castle Hotel & Spa of the year 2016. It comfortably combines it’s historical traditions with a modern elegance and the hospitality you receive here is legendary.
Lough Eske is a restored 17thcentury castle set within 43 acres of woodland under the shade of the Blue Stack Mountains. This area is strongly associated with the O’Donnell family and the instability of the middle ages. The castle building itself has re-adapted itself through the ages – from a Jacobean house in the 1600s to an estate mansion in the 1700s and in 1861 the castle was built on the site of the old mansion. The public room interiors have been recreated in an early 20th century Edwardian country mansion style and the bedrooms and spa facilities reflect outstanding 21st century design.
Donegal is an exciting destination to enjoy many thrilling activities. The beaches here on this wild stretch of Atlantic coastline have become renowned for their quality surfing conditions. Why not learn the basics in Bundoran’s surf schools where all the equipment is provided and the beginner surfing class is in shallow water. If you prefer to sit down while you are on the water there are also plenty of kayaking and canoeing options.
There are many riding stables close to Lough Eske Castle Hotel offering various equestrian activities for all levels . This is the perfect landscape to enjoy a horse ride through woodland tracks or a lake shore canter. Maybe you might enjoy the wind rolling off the Atlantic as you gallop across empty white sanded beaches. Cantering would also be fully acceptable.
Visit Glenveagh National Park for an exciting slice of nature. It is set in remote wilderness with pure lakes and a magical native oak woodland in the Derryveagh Mountains. Here on Lough Veagh is Glenveagh Castle an 1800s hunting lodge mansion renowned for it’s lush gardens. The wildlife here is glorious in it’s wide freedom and among many species you might glimpse a hilltop hare or a golden plover as it sweetly calls. Peregrine falcons perch in their cliff faces with eyes opened for unlucky wood pigeons. You will probably see a raven also and hear their loud croak echoing around the hilltops.
This National Park is where you will have the opportunity of glimpsing a Golden Eagle. Having become extinct in Ireland 6 chicks were reintroduced here in 2001 and more every year. Adult Golden Eagles have now migrated as far south as Co.Kerry . Even if you don’t catch sight of an eagle yourself, you know that they may be watching you. This is indeed a thrilling place to be amidst the abundant wildlife and lush landscape.
Return to your luxurious Castle Hotel and dwell on the sights seen and activities attempted. Lough Eske is a sumptuous, sublime European Castle Hotel. Enjoy it’s hospitable charm as you plan your next return.
Each of these Castle Hotels have unique qualities to entice you to spend a night within the embrace of their welcome. Why not write out this list and tick each one off as you stay and linger and return again and again and again.