When planning a romantic escape, for us, nothing springs to mind quicker than a whimsical Irish Castle. In this instance, Kilkea Castle. In an effort to “shop local” we stayed in our lovely Lily White County of Kildare. Dating back to 1180, Kilkea Castle oozes 12th Century charm. There is a distinct air of understated elegance that surrounds the grounds and castle itself that really is quite special.
A scenic spin down the beech lined drive brought us to the door of our breathtakingly beautiful home for the night. Located on 180 acres, the grounds of Kilkea Castle are comprised of the highly acclaimed Kilkea Castle Golf Club, magnificent gardens and lush woodland. We were excited to get checked in so that we could don our trainers and explore further.
Once through the front door we were just as eager to explore the interior. A very smooth check-in ensued, all Covid policies and procedures carried out with ease by the impeccably polite reception staff. We booked a Castle room for the night, there is also the option of booking a lodge, these are located right beside the main building.
Our room was located in the west wing of the castle. Unlike many castles, Kilkea has a lift which is always good to note for anyone travelling with a requirement for this facility.
Our room was spacious and bright with Lots of natural light flooding in. The ornate recessed windows complete with window seats really give the room the ultimate castle vibe. Renaissance inspired floral wallpaper and gilded mirrors add a femininity to the feel of the room balanced out by the luxurious deep purple king chairs and foot stools. A generous sized marble ensuite bathroom completed the room.
In an effort to work up an appetite (not that this takes much effort!) we ambled outside to walk some of the stunning, sprawling gardens. The River Greese runs through Kilkea Golf Club and past the castle. A very tranquil place to spend some time.
A visit to The Keep for a little post walk sustenance by way of some glorious Guinness was indeed a fine idea. Andrew, the friendly barman runs The Keep Bar with aplomb bringing an air of gaiety and fun to all who sip here.
With our appetites firmly raised we made our way to dinner. The restaurant aptly named Restaurant 1180, which signifies the year Kilkea Castle was built. Restaurant 1180 is a stunning room of sweeping length. Muted tones on the walls and floors give prominence to the regal blue velvet chairs and the plush floor to ceiling curtains.
Three courses with three options each made ordering a swift affair. We tucked into the delicious selection of breads on offer, the brioche with cheddar and white onion being the star of the show.
Our first starter of Roast Cauliflower Ravioli was absolutely sensational. Three mini pasta parcels stuffed with nuggets of sweet roast cauliflower and some creamy cheesy goodness. A bed of wilted spinach and a silky beurre noisette completed this delectable dish.
Across the table the scallops were getting a quick end. Beautifully caramelised with a fabulous, almost butter like texture. Roast parsnip and a scattering of parsnip crisps added sublime autumnal flavour. The bottle of Picpoul we had ordered for the evening paired so well with both of these dishes.
Our main course choices were the Guinea Fowl and Halibut. Roast breast of Guinea Fowl with a delightfully well seasoned, crispy skin was succulent and tender. Red wine sauce, rounds of roast celeriac and crunchy hazelnuts made this a plate of food that we would certainly order again. Really uncomplicated, delicious food. A side dish of creamy mash made this a really comforting, seasonal feast.
Halibut is that fish we used to think was quite exotic when we were younger. We definitely didn’t grow up eating it but find it hard to pass when we spot in on a menu. A firm fillet, seared well on the outside with the flesh just reaching opaque which ensured the sweet delicate flavour was preserved. Spinach, Leek, Parsley Braisage complimenting each other and the fish on the plate.
The desserts we chose were eaten as much with our eyes as they were with our mouths. Designed and executed to perfection.
Caramelised Poached Pear, Tonka Espuma. The soft, sweet flesh of the poached pear mingling with the unique vanilla, caramel esque flavours from the tonka was quite the treat indeed. A really light and enjoyable finish to the evening.
Chocolate, Pistachio, Creme Moussaline. The chocolate lovers dream. A luscious chocolate mousse cake bar topped with a delightful crème moussaline and candied pistachio’s.
We rounded off the evening with a nightcap by the fire. From our socially distanced seats we chatted to one couple that were celebrating their 40th Wedding Anniversary and another couple that were looking forward to having their wedding in Kilkea later this year.
Every effort is made by the staff in Kilkea Castle to ensure guests have a safe and comfortable stay. It is easy to see why the crenellated walls of Kilkea Castle have a history of repeat visitors. For a tranquil retreat in Co Kildare, Kilkea Castle is a must.
WRITTEN BY KEITH MAHON & OLIVIA BYRNE