Ireland’s oldest inhabited castle, the very imposing, 12th century Kilkea Castle, in Kildare, near Dublin is now one of Ireland’s very finest luxury hotels. It has an abundance of historical character and is surrounded by a 180 acre estate which includes some beautifully tended gardens, much wild parkland and woodland, and even its own 18 hole golf course.
Kilkea has a broad a range of accommodation options; rooms and suites in the castle itself, courtyard rooms in the old castle outbuildings and separate lodges on the grounds of the estate, both B&B rooms and self catering.
There is also the option of hiring out the entire castle for exclusive use or a three bedroom section of it. If you have a large group this will work out much cheaper than booking individually, but as demand for Kilkea is always high it should be certainly be reserved well in advance. Check your options out on the booking page here.
(Note: the self catering lodges on the estate have a separate listing at Booking.com, you can check them out here.)
The castle bedrooms are the most historical in style, with the suites being particularly romantic, while the courtyard rooms and the lodges are more modern, though not excessively so and they too display much old style elegance. Modern comforts and facilities are also in abundance though, it is a luxury hotel after all.
FACILITIES & THINGS TO DO:
There are boutique spa facilities at Kilkea Castle with a wide range of health and beauty treatments featuring Elemis luxury skin care products and pioneering Biotec facial machines.
You’ll have plenty of good dining options at Kilkea; The Bistro offers wholesome Irish food, classic international dishes and various light bites in an informal setting while Hermione’s Restaurant offers a more sophisticated, fine dining experience. Hermione’s dining hall is in the golf clubhouse a few minutes walk from the castle.
The finest of all though is the 1180 Restaurant, which also offers fine dining and has a very grand, very romantic setting in the old castle drawing room. All the above serve a choice of drinks but for more of a real pub experience you can head to the Keep Bar on the ground floor. It is a cosy, intimate place with a friendly, unpretentious atmosphere.
There are tennis courts at the castle and guests can borrow all necessary equipment from reception. Then there is the golf course, an 18 hole par 70, it was recently voted Ireland’s best new course and, with the castle being visible from each fairway, it is as scenic as it is enjoyable and challenging.
Plenty of other activities can be arranged around the estate and the surrounding countryside via the hotel concierge, things like horse-riding, falconry, archery and various tours and excursions.
Kilkea Castle is less than an hour by car from Dublin city centre, just ten minutes from the town of Athy in County Kildare and fifteen from Carlow. The wilds of the Wicklow mountains too can be reached in less than a half an hour from the castle.
After the 1170 Norman Conquest of Ireland, the main instigator, Strongbow, granted the lands around this part of Kildare to a loyal colleague and knight named Sir Walter de Riddlesford, Baron of Bray.
The Normans were advanced castle builders; the vast majority of castles in Britain and Ireland were built by them to help defend and hold their lands, with their expertise at castle building being a major factor in their successful subjugation of new territories. And so began a castle building campaign in Ireland one which in 1180 produced Kilkea Castle, built for de Riddlesford by the new Earl of Ulster and Chief Governor of Ireland, Hugh de Lacy.
The castle though would soon though become synonymous with the Fitzgerald surname when Sir Walter’s granddaughter, Emmeline married Maurice Fitzgerald, 3rd Baron of Offaly in 1273 and thus began an over 700 year association between Kilkea and the Fitzgeralds.
The Fitzgeralds were at that point on their way to becoming one of Ireland’s most powerful dynasties and would later be granted many titles such as Earls and Marquesses of Kildare, and Dukes of Leinster amongst others, and with the 8th and 9th Earls of Kildare both becoming Lord Deputies of Ireland in the 15th and 16th centuries.
By far the most famous of the family though was the 10th Earl, Thomas Fitzgerald, better known as Silken Thomas for his fondness for fine clothes. At the age of just 21 he also became Lord Deputy of Ireland but soon walked headlong into major political drama, drama which would lead to him being beheaded and the Fitzgeralds losing the Deputyship of Ireland.
Thomas had been made deputy only on a temporary basis in 1534 while his father Gerald was in London for meetings with King Henry VIII. Though the father was a wise, renowned diplomat the son was already famous for being volatile and rash.
Enemies knew to exploit this and they spread false rumours that Gerald had been executed in London and that Thomas was about to be executed too. Having swallowed the story whole he then started a fierce but ultimately unsuccessful rebellion against the King.
When news of the rebellion reached London Thomas’s father was thrown in the Tower where he would die (‘of grief’ they said) within months. Sometime later Thomas would was persuaded to surrender by his step uncle, the newly appointed Lord Deputy of Ireland, Lord Leonard Grey on the condition that he would not be harmed.
This was ultimately another naive choice and after languishing in the Tower of London for three years Thomas, along with five of his uncles were beheaded at Tyburn, what is now Marble Arch, London in 1537.
The entire incident proved a disaster for the Fitzgeralds, but only in the short term. Though they lost all of their estates and titles Thomas’ younger half brother, and new heir, Gerald, proved to be more of a diplomat than his elder brother and in 1552 won them back. Gerald was known as the Wizard Earl due to local myths that he had magical alchemist, and other powers including the ability to transform himself into various animals. The Wizard Earl died in 1585, though his spirit is supposed to return to the castle every seventh year riding a white horse.
The Fitzgeralds weren’t fully done with rebellion though and in the uprisings of 1798, Lord Edward FitzGerald from Kilkea would play a prominent role. A role which lead to the castle being attacked and sacked by crown forces.
WHAT OTHER GUESTS SAY:
“Exceptional. Everything; the location, the gardens, the facilities and the staff. It truly is a magical castle, real fairytale.…”
“This was one of the best hotels I have ever stayed at. The hotel and grounds are beautiful. The staff was warm and inviting. The hostess greeted us at the door, checked us in, and walked us to our room. She made sure we were pleased with the room. We had dinner at the bistro, the food was nice, and the wait staff was very attentive. Thank you to the staff at Kilkea for a wonderful stay!…”
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- Kilkea Demesne
- Concierge Services
- Spa Facilities
- Sports Activities
- Child Minding Services