Forget Hotels – Stay in an Irish Castle!

Skip the cozy Irish Bed-and-Breakfasts. Skip the Maldron and Jury’s Inn hotels.  Spend a night in a castle instead!

During our three weeks in Ireland, my search for a reasonably-priced hotel in Sligo brought up an unexpected surprise: the Markree Castle Hotel.

Markree Castle HotelIt’s more a large manor house than a true castle and it hasn’t been turned into a 5-star spa resort, but it was delightful. (And we couldn’t afford a 5-star resort anyway.)  The long entrance drive made me feel like I was coming up to Pemberly, or Netherfield at least.

This is after driving at least a half mile!

This is after driving at least a half mile!

A hint of what's to come in the entryway . . .

A hint of what’s to come in the entryway . . .

. . . and then this!

. . . and then this!

Stained glass windows in the great hall show the family’s genealogy and connections to royalty – that’s King John, Henry VIII and Elizabeth I along the top. Fireplaces abound in the main areas, and the staircases put you smack into Downton Abbey.

Here's the same hall from outside our room.

Here’s the same hall from outside our upstairs room.

The other downstairs rooms have been restored to Victorian times, if not earlier. Upstairs, bedrooms are scattered and clustered around twisty corridors leading to windows, sitting rooms, and unexpected stairways.

Look - even a servant's staircase!

Look – even a servant’s staircase!

The bedrooms ranged from our small one to spacious rooms with four-poster beds. And as long as you don’t want the grand scale, it was only about $10 more than the other hotels around, breakfast included. We ate dinner there, too, and while it wasn’t cheap, it was very, very good.

dining room

Markree Castle’s gorgeous dining room

So here’s the story to go with the castle:

The Markree keep and estate were owned by members of the Irish McDonagh clan until Cromwell’s forces beat the Irish down and took property as penalties for rebellion. An English officer named Edward Cooper was given the Markree estate as payment in 1666 – such are the spoils of war. BUT Cooper married the widow of an Irish rebel leader (she did it to protect her two sons). He and the widow never had children, so he adopted her two sons and guess who inherited? Yup, an Irish family!

The Coopers became Members of Parliament, representing Sligo at Westminster for the next hundred years. And . . . hmm, let’s pause for a smidge of history:

While Ireland had been under British rule for hundreds of years with ever-worsening punitive laws, there was a separation of sorts between the Kingdom of Britain (England, Wales & Scotland) and the Kingdom of Ireland. The Act of Union in 1800 brought them all together as the United Kingdom.

The story continues . . . the Coopers of Markree Castle were in strong opposition when the British Lords wanted to dissolve the Dublin parliament in 1800. What else would you expect by someone of Irish heritage, even if they had an English name? But it wasn’t appreciated by the Brits – all those who supported the Act of Union were awarded titles of rank, and the Coopers missed out. So there was no Sir/Lord Cooper, no coat of arms, nothing of nobility, just 36,000 acres of an incredible estate.horsesMarkree Castle spent more than 300 years being re-done and added to until the early 20th century, when most of the land was sold and the castle subsequently fell into disrepair.  Now it’s been restored with smaller grounds and a lovely garden, trails to walk and horses to ride, and a fantastic experience for traveling Americans like us.

One last note: a visit to two Irish/British websites (Manor House Hotels and Celtic Castles) shows a night in a castle or manor house will run anywhere from 90-1500 euro/pounds per night, depending on which building and what type of room.  Ours was at the €90 end, of course, but it puts an experience like this within reach.

So here’s my question for you:  if you got the chance to stay in a castle, where would it be and why?  Please share a dream with us!




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6 Responses to Forget Hotels – Stay in an Irish Castle!

  1. Well Jennifer, you’ll get no argument from me. I’m right there with you on this one. We stayed at a Jury’s Hotel while in Dublin. But, the rooms were part of the packaged trip that I won from work. Beggars can’t be choosers and all that. We did get to stay at a Manor House just outside of Kenmare. It was owned by an English Lord. Well, weren’t most of them? But it was beautifully refurbished and we felt extravagant. Can’t wait to see and read more about your visit! Glad you’re back! 🙂
    Karen McFarland recently posted..God Made GirlsMy Profile

    • Jennifer Jensen says:

      Hi, Karen. We seemed to alternate between B&Bs (some good and some bad) and hotels (some nice generic, some quirky), until the castle. Jury’s Inn was my go-to when we were in Dublin or Belfast. Never needed the one in Cork b/c that was so close to home! We found the castle on, and next time we go, I’ll look for them specifically – it was great fun!

  2. That first photo is very majestic!
    We were lucky to stay in Ashford Castle for a night when we were in Ireland. 🙂 So fun, right?
    Coleen Patrick recently posted..The State Fair: Things That Make You Go WHEE!My Profile

    • Jennifer Jensen says:

      Wow, Coleen, Ashford Castle is gorgeous! Lucky you – it’s hereby going on my someday list. And it looks like for families, they’ve even got a Wizard School package!

  3. With prices starting from 90 euros, I’m so there… 😀
    Nicholas C. Rossis recently posted..Guest Post by Vanessa Finaughty: Five Tips for New WritersMy Profile

  4. Jennifer Jensen says:

    Clontarf Castle also has some inexpensive rooms, but I”d love to splurge a little more and have a bigger room. And I’d really love to splurge and stay in Ashford Castle! Thanks for stopping by, Nicholas!