Irish Castle Vacations on the Cheap

Bare trees, a spectral moon behind scurrying clouds, mist skeins rising above Lough Meelagh. It’s a winter night for comforts: a blazing fire, fine food, hot whiskeys…

If you fantasize about enjoying such comforts in an historic castle, now’s the time to visit Ireland. Thanks to the recession, rates for heritage properties have plummeted.

My own Irish cottage is severely lacking in crystal chandeliers and suits of armor. So tonight I’m playing Cinderella and swapping the humdrum for the high life of Kilronan Castle.

Don’t think I’ll need glass slippers, but I’ve packed a swimsuit. As the castle also has a spa and thermal suite, I plan indulging to the full. Facial included.

In the shadow of the Arigna Hills, Kilronan is in county Roscommon, my own stomping ground. (So if it does turn out to be a dank and drafty pile, I can always dash home and grab some wool sweaters.)

Not knowing what to expect—the castle is hidden from the road—I drive through a stone archway up a long tree-lined avenue. And at the end, wow—a Gothic Revival fantasy. Arrive at the shadow-time of dusk if you can. This is when the stained glass panels in the castle’s entrance hall glow like a dragon’s treasure hoard. With a battlemented tower looming above, it’s gratifyingly spooky. All that’s missing are some bats and a crusty retainer tugging his forelock.

Built in the early 1800s, Kilronan witnessed all the excesses of the Anglo-Irish Ascendancy. In Edwardian times, the castle passed to the Earl and Countess of Kingston who often imported London caterers for their balls and shooting parties. 3,000 pheasants were once shot over one four-day period.

But dammit! Why am I here alone? Perfect for romantic getaways, my high-ceilinged room doesn’t only have silk-screen wallpaper, a chandelier and antique furniture. No, there’s also a four-poster bed swathed in satin coverlets.

Too many special offers to list here but Kilronan’s midweek spa package comprises bed and full Irish breakfast plus a facial or massage for $106 per person sharing.

Kilronan Castle isn’t the only special offer in Ireland right now. The collapse of the Irish economy has brought hotel prices tumbling down as they struggle to stay in business. This, coupled with a strengthening dollar, means this is your year if you’re looking for deals. In the March issue of International Living magazine, you can read my full article on Kilronan…plus details of three more heritage temptations in Ireland offering deals.

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