Get a sense of history from a stay in these historic converted fortresses. Alice Gråhns reports.
“If you want to experience the best hotel the world has to offer, then journey into the Irish countryside where a luxurious manor has just claimed the title,” says Alex Butler in Lonely Planet. The five-star Adare Manor in Limerick last week received the title of Hotel of the Year 2018 at the Virtuoso Best of the Best Awards.
Adare Manor is a Georgian property built in the 1720s and set in 840 acres. It is an example of a “calendar house” – it has 365 leaded windows, 52 ornate chimneys, seven stone pillars and four towers, to represent the days and weeks in a year, the days in the week, and the seasons in a year respectively. After extensive renovations, the manor reopened last year with a new 42-bedroom wing, bringing the total bedroom count up to 104. There’s also a new ballroom with room for 350 guests that can cater for weddings and conferences. The hotel also has the first spa by beauty brand La Mer to open in the Ireland and the UK.
From £360 per night; AdareManor.com
A sea safari from Downton
“When we reach our hotel in the Scottish Lowlands, my children go silent,” recalls Jo Kessel in the Daily Mail. “The sandstone fortress” of Glenapp Castle is “a doppelganger for Downton Abbey”. Built in 1870 on the Ayrshire coast, an hour and a half from Glasgow, its interiors are “all opulent wooden walls and floors, oversized chandeliers and a living room bigger than my house”. The hotel “oozes class, without being stuffy”. Guests are told by staff to consider it their home.
Tours include a rib boat sea safari to Ailsa Craig, an uninhabited island eight miles off the mainland, whose bird and seal colonies have given the island its protected status. The Scottish Lowlands is also a lovely area for walking, and so the next day Kessel went on an “epic” seven-mile hike past Loch Ryan and through a remote landscape of 50 shades of green. You can also take tennis lessons on Glenapp Castle’s private court.
So there’s something for all the family. Every village in the area has a signpost saying “Haste Ye Back” and Kessel’s children are already saving for a ticket. They aim “to play Laird of the manor on a more permanent basis”.
From £208.25 per night; GlenappCastle.com
A castle fit for a king
The luxurious Langley Castle near Hexham in Northumberland was “built by King Edward III for one of his favourite knights… in the 14th century”, says Jim Patrick in The Scottish Sun. Its American owner, Professor Stuart Madnick, says that it is “one of the few medieval fortified castle hotels left in England”. And “when you enter the reception through a big, heavy front door you really do get a sense of history”. The hotel has seven-foot thick walls as well as small windows, originally there for protection. It has retained many other original features too, yet there are also spa baths and saunas.
After pre-dinner drinks in the drawing room, with its big wood-burning stove, dinner was served in the Josephine restaurant. Here head chef Mark Percival’s team and the table d’hôte menu “didn’t let us down”. It included a velouté of white onion, thyme and goat’s cheese, scallops and locally sourced venison loin with cauliflower, parsnip, orange juice and haggis sausage roll – “magic.” For breakfast the next day, the food was “cooked to perfection”. There was also a great selection of fruit and cold meats in the buffet area, a real treat and a great start for a day exploring the local area.
From £83.50 per person per night; LangleyCastle.co.uk
Rent a whole castle in Wales
“If you’ve always fancied living in your very own castle but don’t quite have the budget, then you may want to head to the Welsh countryside,” says Julie Delahaye in the Daily Mirror. Here Clytha Castle has been transformed into a cosy holiday rental, and “it’s got everything you could want from a fairytale-worthy castle”. It sleeps six people and the double bedroom on the ground floor offers “large windows with breathtaking views of the grounds”. It’s also possible to climb to the top of the “impressive roofless turret from which you can enjoy some pretty epic views”. The Landmark Trust first took on Clytha Castle in 1974. It has carried out extensive repairs, but no radical changes were made to the structure apart from the addition of running water and electricity.