The island of Ireland is home to some amazing castles where you can truly get treated like royalty. Co Kildare’s Kilkea Castle is, for me, right up at the top of that list. Before the last lockdown I spent a very relaxing two-night break at the 12th century estate and the efforts of a recent €2million investment are everywhere to see.
Located in Castledermot just an hour’s drive from Dublin, the castle will take your breath away as you drive up the 180-acre estate’s beech-lined avenue on your arrival.
The impressive stone facade of the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Ireland makes such a great impression to kick off any break away, whether it be for families, couples, a girls’ weekend or a lads’ golf trip.
The castle has its own 18-hole championship course with its designers having cleverly used the River Griese as a natural hazard flowing through the castle ground. Two lakes have also been included in the course design, adding to the overall difficulty of your game. Makes it even more enjoyable!
The castle itself has only 11 rooms but there are 140 bedrooms on site with one, two and three bedroom lodges.
I stayed in the spacious FitzGerald Suite at the very top of the castle in the Round Tower (the castle was once home to the powerful FitzGerald dynasty).
With a separate living room, free-standing bath, all the mod cons and amazing views over the grounds, including its rose garden and hedge maze, you could quite easily lock yourself away there. A luxurious new spa has just opened at the castle which offers the perfect escape to relax, especially if you have been out on the golf course, walking the vast grounds or designer outlet shopping at nearby Kildare Village. That complex is home to more than 100 stores including Prada, Kate Spade New York, Jimmy Choo and All Saints.
The new spa offers five relaxing treatment rooms, including a spacious couple’s suite, as well as a thermal suite featuring a custom-built hydrotherapy pool, steam room and sauna.
After months of largely working from home and sitting on a chair not quite as comfortable as my work one, my back had been playing up so I had a shoulder and back massage which sorted it right out. The treatment was personalised to target those areas causing me the most discomfort. They also offer a range of treatments with Elemis products including facials, salt scrubs, detox wraps and other beauty packages.
Afterwards, I spent some time in the thermal suite which makes for an unforgettable experience. Dimly lit, it truly is a haven of relaxation.
The vitality pool combines fine air bubbles and powerful water jets to massage your whole body. While one area of the pool has an air pad that offers an invigorating massage for your feet, the other corner holds hydro jets that massage your legs and features a swan neck high-pressure massage for your neck and shoulders.
It also has a cool swim resistant area where you can swim against a powerful current to achieve a vigorous hydrotherapy workout.
If you feel like awakening the senses, try out the ice water bucket in the shower area. Or if you’re feeling energetic, you can work out in the fitness suite with state-of-the-art peloton exercise bikes, elliptical machines, bench press, free weights and treadmills. As the castle is foodie heaven, you may feel you need to after overindulging.
I enjoyed dinner in Restaurant 1180 in the castle, a fine dining establishment which serves breakfast and dinner and overlooks the rose garden and signature 18th hole, and The Clubhouse, which overlooks the golf course’s 9th hole.
Restaurant 1180’s menu aims to highlight the classic roots of the castle while bringing a modern style to their presentation. The kitchen works closely with local producers in sourcing produce.
The scallops starter served with parsnip was simply divine as was my dining partner’s roast cauliflower ravioli with spinach and beurre noisette.
Next course was halibut with spinach, leek and parsley for me, a beautifully cooked piece of meaty fish which was flawless, and across the table was guinea fowl with celeriac and hazelnuts in a red wine sauce. Having tasted the sweet and tender guinea fowl, with its mildly gamey flavour and superb sauce, I think it was the star of the show.
Dessert was a chocolate ganache with pistachio and creme moussaline. Again the plate was quickly cleared by me. For a night cap try the hotel’s Keep Bar which is located on the ground floor.
The Clubhouse just down the avenue from the castle offers a good selection of pub grub type food including absolutely amazing sweet and sticky chicken wings and pizzas. The perfect food to wash down with a pint of Guinness.
I also enjoyed an evening meal there. I opted for the prawns and chorizo which came with cherry vine tomatoes and were full of flavour. The prawns were large and succulent and the chorizo the perfect partner.
Mains for me was a 14oz T-bone steak which was a substantial plate in itself and came with tomato tapenade, shallot, chunky chips and choice of sauce. My steak was cooked a perfect medium as requested. On the other side of the table the Higgins beef short rib with parsnip and red wine jus was also another example of the expertise that clearly exists in the castle’s kitchens.
Throughout the hotel Covid-19 measures are visible everywhere with hand sanitiser, staff wearing masks and customers expected to wear face masks when entering, leaving and moving around the premises.
With hotels reopening in the Republic on June 2, go and be the king or queen of your own castle at Kilkea.
One night Castle stay
Spend a night in an elegantly-designed Castle bedroom (there are only 11 rooms in the Castle) and indulge in a three-course evening meal in the Castle’s award-winning fine dining Restaurant 1180.
Guests will then be treated to a delicious full Irish breakfast the following morning.
This package is priced from €335 per room.
Two-night Lodge stay
Retreat to your very own stylish lodge, nestled in the stunning Castle grounds, and treat yourself to 2 nights’ bed & breakfast.
As part of this package, enjoy a sumptuous three-course dinner in Hermione’s Restaurant or the Clubhouse Bistro on an evening of your choice.
This package is priced from €300 per room.
÷ See www.kilkeacastle.ie