18 Luxury Castle Hotels Where You Can Live Like Royalty
If medieval castles, opulent interiors, and the thought of being surrounded by centuries upon centuries of history set your heart racing, consider staying at a luxury castle hotel in Britain. There are many great ones in locations including the Scottish Highlands, County Limerick in Ireland, and outside London.
The castles have plenty of appeal for nature lovers as well. Well-tended courtyards, lovely gardens, and soaring pergolas are some of what you’ll find as you stroll these vast woodland grounds, not to mention the occasional commanding view of the water or rolling hills. Many of these castles have been restored to their former glory, with the demands of modern-day guests in mind. Though you’ll feel transported to the Middle Ages, you certainly won’t have to live like it. Instead you’ll feel like a member of a royal family, not unlike the ones who’ve called these castles home for the past several centuries.
“When you travel down the manicured road in a tunnel of ancient trees, you know you are someplace very special,” said Jonathan Epstein, president of Celebrated Experiences in Atlanta, of this 42-room hotel located in Wiltshire, England, about 30 minutes northeast of Bath. “It’s perfect for larger families, as many of their exquisite suites connect. They also have a world-class spa, equestrian centre and a Michelin-starred restaurant.”
“Located in the Sussex countryside, just south of London, this elegant and traditional 17-room manor is frequented by the world’s most discerning travelers,” said Epstein. Guests love getting lost in the exotic gardens crafted by horticultural writer William Robinson, whose ideas revolutionized modern garden design.
Set in 850 acres of verdant countryside in County Cork, Ireland, this 18th-century Georgian mansion feels more contemporary than others on this list, said Andrew Loyd, cofounder of Loyd & Townsend Rose, a villa rental agency in London. There are eight cottages, and guests are encouraged to go outdoors for a day of simulated game shooting, tennis, archery, walking or fishing.
Set in the mystical Speyside region in the Highlands of Scotland, Gordon Castle could be the set for a romantic period piece, said Loyd. Once part of the burgh of the Dukes of Gordon, the sporting estate, which dates to the 15th century, has been sumptuously restored, with seven bedrooms and an eight-acre Walled Garden, one of the largest in Britain.
It was here that Winston Churchill plotted the final D-Day landings. And while the family-owned castle in Ayrshire, Scotland, feels more quiet, you’ll still find much of what charmed the great leader: dramatic views overlooking the Irish Sea, Gothic and Renaissance design and 36 acres of castle grounds to wander freely. “With fewer than 20 rooms, we suggest guests book early,” said Epstein.
This 20-room mansion — named the top resort hotel in the U.K. and Ireland by Travel + Leisure readers in 2017 — seems to win all the awards, according to Epstein. And for good reason: snacks are complimentary, suites are impeccably furnished and the nearby Slieve Bloom Mountains are blissfully tourist-free.
After an extensive restoration that took nearly two years, Adare Manor, in County Limerick, Ireland, has reopened to rave reviews, said Epstein. Not only has the neo-gothic estate expanded to 104 rooms, its decorative stone and wood carvings have been given a touch-up — the better to flaunt its 17th-century antiquities — and its Irishness is on full display. The whiskey collection includes more than 100 rare bottles sourced from the top international producers.
The only habitable castle on Loch Ness, 20 minutes from Inverness on Scotland’s northeast coast, Baronial features an opulent drawing room and library, snooker, horse riding and golf at Royal Dornoch Golf Club, said Loyd. Don’t miss the Walled Garden at Cawdor Castle, which dates to 1600.
Nestled within the historic county of Kinross in eastern Scotland, this thoughtfully restored 24-room country house feels like a fairytale, said Loyd. Here guests can indulge in a number of country pursuits, be it cycling, archery, falconry or salmon fishing.
The ancestral home of the Duke of Argyll, Chief of the Clan Campbell, is on the banks of Loch Fyne in the West Highlands of Scotland, nearly 40 minutes from Oban. Dating to the 1400s, it’s ideal for those seeking solitude and meditative walks by the water. Though not a hotel, “Downton Abbey” fans will love visiting the chosen location for the show’s two-hour Christmas special in 2012, said Loyd.
Cowdray House in West Sussex, England, is the ultimate country retreat, with charming cottages, a farm shop, freshly baked produce and a butchery. A full English breakfast at the Farm Shop Café is a must, said Loyd.
Once owned by Sir Walter Raleigh, who famously brought potatoes to Ireland, Lismore Castle dates to 1170 but feels decidedly modern. That’s thanks to amenities like Wi-Fi, ensuite bathrooms and a cinema room; the Duke of Devonshire’s family still owns it. Located in County Waterford, Ireland, Lismore’s Castle Gardens and contemporary art gallery are open to the public, said Loyd.
At the foot of the Malvern Hills, near the Cotswolds in England, you’ll find Eastnor Castle, home of the Hervey-Bathurst family and a popular tourist attraction. Medieval armor and fine art adorns the interior; outside, children are encouraged to play in the Knight’s Maze and 5,000 acres of parkland. Available for private events, it has 12 ornate bedrooms and two recently refurbished cottages, said Loyd.
This Pembrokeshire, Wales, castle may date to 1195, but its six bedrooms feel current, with aromatherapy towelettes, iPod docks and 300-thread-count linens. A Grade 1 ancient monument, Roch was home to conquerors and courtesans and served as a royalist stronghold during the Civil War. Visit its art-filled Oriel lounge with works by Phil Ashcroft.
“Once the ancestral home of the Guinness family in County Mayo, Ireland,” said Epstein, Ashford is lucky to have owners who invested significantly in revamping the 83-room hotel. A favorite among royals and celebrities, it has been voted one of the best resort hotels in the U.K. and Ireland by Travel + Leisure readers.
Somerleyton, in Suffolk, England, is quintessentially British, with a high-class history that dates to 1240. Today guests will find a 70-foot-long pergola, iron-and-glass greenhouses designed by Joseph Paxton, the architect of the Crystal Palace, and Victorian decorative elements. The yew hedge mazes, planted in 1846, are worth a gander, said Loyd.
Broughton Hall Estate
Dating to 1597 and owned by the Tempest Baronet family for 900 years, Broughton Hall Estate looks like the idyllic Cotswolds setting of “The Great British Bake Off.” Guests can stay in one of 15 characterful bedrooms with breathtaking views of the countryside and 17th-century formal gardens, said Loyd.
This 4,000-acre estate, an hour from London in the Hampshire countryside, has been owned by the same family since the 15th century, said Loyd. Beyond the 11 suites and bedrooms, you’ll find 10 acres of gardens, a serene boating lake, an orchard, a rose garden and a serpentine walk.