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Our little black book of enchanting places


Irish hotels fit for a (future) king by Maggie O'Sullivan

Posted in HOTELS + VILLAS By Maggie O' Sullivan

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall will visit the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland next week. As yet, there are no details of where they will be staying, but the following four hotels and one luxury train would certainly be fit for a future king and his wife – not, of course, that Charles and Camilla will be short of invitations.

Ashford Castle, County Mayo

This magnificent 13th-century castle on the banks of Lough Corrib has been a hotel since the early 1900s. It was bought in 2013 by Red Carnation who embarked on a dazzling €40m refurbishment project that included replacing every one of its 820 windows. Today, Ashford Castle is quite simply one of the best hotels in Ireland. Prince Charles would surely be tickled by the fact that the hotel’s Prince of Wales bar and George V restaurant are both named after his great-grandfather, who visited in 1906 when the castle was owned by the Guinness family. There’s no question of getting bored here: activities include fishing, falconry, tennis, riding and golf centre – and if you want to sleep like a (future) king after all that exercise, book one of the six staterooms in the oldest part of the castle. One-night George V package, from €615 per night, to include full Irish breakfast.Castle Leslie, County Monaghan

Set in a 1,000-acre estate, Castle Leslie belongs to the Leslies, whose long history is peppered with royal connections and tales of derring-do. The castle was totally rebuilt in 1878 (to get a better view of the lake) but it wasn’t until the mid-1990s that the first six rooms opened to paying guests. For a while it was one of those ‘best kept’ secrets, though that all changed when Sir Paul McCartney got married here in 2002. Charles and Camilla would feel right at home as Castle Leslie boasts an excellent equestrian centre as well as lots of other country pursuits. The castle can also be booked for exclusive use, making it completely private. From £100 per room, for dinner, bed and breakfast; contact the castle for details of exclusive hire.Ballyfin, County Laois

Set in a 614-acres estate at the foot of the Slieve Bloom Mountains, Ballyfin is one Ireland’s finest Georgian houses. After eight years of sensitive restoration, it opened as a five-star country-house hotel in 2011 and has spent the past four years gathering awards. Apart from its lavish interiors, magnificent collection of Irish art, fine cuisine and beautiful surroundings, Ballyfin’s principal appeal to Charles and Camilla, we think, would be the degree of privacy and security it offers. It’s certainly what attracted uncharacteristically reclusive pop royalty Kim Kardashian and Kanye West who spent part of their honeymoon here last year. From €915 per room for dinner, bed and breakfast in May. Ballynahinch Castle, County Gallway

Ballynahinch Castle is a bit more down to earth than our other choices, but its riverfront setting, surrounded by 450 acres of woodland, is sublime. The castle was built in the 17th century by the Martyn family (a family member founded the RSPCA), becoming a hotel in 1946. It has 40 rooms (the best is the four-poster Riverside Suite), and a fine restaurant, as well as its own pub, but the reason we think it would suit Prince Charles is that it offers some of the best fly-fishing in the world. It has one of Ireland’s best woodcock shoots too, though fortunately – given the controversy that inevitably surrounds the royal penchant for blood sports – the season is over. From £190 per room for b&b; dinner €130.Belmond Grand Hibernian

Charles and Camilla will have to wait until their next visit to Ireland for a trip aboard Ireland’s first luxury touring train, the Belmond Grand Hibernian. Belmond has just announced that from August 2016 it will offer two-, four- and six-night itineraries in the Republic and Northern Ireland. A sister train to the Belmond Royal Scotsman, the Grand Hibernian will accommodate just 40 passengers in luxurious cabins with ensuite bathrooms, and emphasis will be on authentic Irish cuisine, from artisan cheeses (we know how Prince Charles enjoys his cheese) to seafood and Irish whiskies. Prices will start from €3,160 per person for a two-night journey, including all meals, drinks, entertainment and excursions.

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