Ireland

11.01.2012 | by: Meghan
Homes to Stay

Stay: Ballyportry (and other castles)

Co. Clare, Ireland

After staying in a masseria this summer in Puglia, I’ve been thinking about how fun it would be to stay in a castle in Scotland or Ireland. The ultimate living fantasy, for anyone, like me, with two boys in serious long-running knight phases. Here’s the thing though: you can’t stay in a castle alone. That’s creepy, right? In all their turreted glory with proper keeps, lookout towers and torture chambers, they were built to protect royal types and their entire staff/community, as well as show off their wealth and power. Some of the smaller ones, relatively speaking, are at least–at least!–10 bedrooms gigantic and sleep 25-plus people. If you don’t want to travel with 20 of your closest friends, there’s the quainter version of a full-blown castle, a tower house– a single tower built for smaller land-owning lordships with five or six floors and similar architectural details and defense systems.

A 15th-century Gaelic tower house that has been exquisitely renovated, Ballyportry Castle seems like the optimal size for two families or an extended family. It spans six floors and six bedrooms, with beds dressed in Irish linens and wool blankets, pottery made on the way into town, and furniture that reflects the time of late medieval Ireland–”a time of hospitality, song and poetry.” Located in watchtower-viewing distance from the Burren, the five-acre property offers plenty of its own natural beauty. Thick with moss and lichen, the trees provide plenty of hiding spots for retreating knights, who might want to steal a few minutes from battle to admire the red barked cricket willow or try to spy a pine marten, swan or donkey known to pass by.

Here, a few more castles also on my radar:

>>This stone Scottish castle is as tasteful as they come. The exact right parts medieval, rustic, plaid and Scottish eccentricity.
>>Exquisite. And there’s an ivy-covered manor house next door.
>>Frillier than most, the super-grand Castle of Lisheen. This sucker sleeps 16 and has the most beautiful Trompe L’oeil-style vaulted ceiling in the drawing room.


The sponsor of this post, HomeAway, offers the world’s largest selection of vacation home rentals, which provide you more room to relax and added privacy (often for less than traditional hotel accommodations!). Make memories where you stay, not just where you go. HomeAway.com — stay together.

03.16.2011 | by: Meghan
Inns & Hotels

Check In: Ballyvolane

Castlelyons, Nr Fermoy, Co. Cork, Ireland

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow, I thought I’d show off this super charming Irish country manor that Yolanda Edwards (one of the two former-Cookie editors behind the new site Momfilter) visited by way of a three-hour, totally-worth-it detour during a trip to Dublin.

Here’s what she had to say:

At the end of a hedge-lined road, beyond pastures of grazing cows and fly-fishing-ready ponds, we came to the Georgian mansion. We were greeted by the owners, Justin and Jenny Green, a chic thirtysomething couple who live at Ballyvolane with their three kids. Jenny immediately read our minds and asked if we would like to have supper there—a huge relief, as we hadn’t made plans and dreaded the idea of strapping Clara back into the car to find a restaurant. We passed through a sitting room, where a fat 20-year-old cat named Archie lounged on a tufted couch, and then we climbed the mahogany stairs to the bedrooms. With a view of astonishingly green fields, our room had crisp bedding, a claw-foot tub, just the right amount of heavy antiques for the setting, and none of the more cloying B&B frills (stinky potpourri, cross-stitched anything).

During our stay, Jenny and Justin directed us to all the sights they visit with their own kids, sending us off with a picnic lunch or the address of their favorite pub. Ballyvolane is within close driving distance of several castles, medieval towns, and the beach (the area is also a destination for foodies, thanks to its seafood and small farms). On many days, though, we just stayed put. We borrowed wellies and raincoats to explore the grounds, hoping to spot a fox. In the afternoons, my husband fished and I read on the couch while Clara sprinted across the endless lawn with the Green kids and their dogs.

The honest country fare is made with local and organic ingredients, many from Ballyvolane’s garden. Meals are eaten communally at a big table, creating a real family-party vibe. In the morning, you can opt for muesli and yogurt or a full Irish breakfast (you can even fetch your own eggs). Arrange for picnic hampers or seated lunches the night before. Kids can have an early supper at 5:30 p.m. or eat later with their parents.

It’s a major relief to stay with a family with three kids: They have almost anything you forget to bring—raincoats, toys, etc. You also have full run of the grounds, including the gardens which have gone basically unchanged since the 18th century.