When we stayed: March 2016 | Rate: €160/night | Website: Huntington Castle
Huntington Castle in Clonegal, Ireland with its 400 year history was our choice for accommodations for our second night in Ireland. Like many, I have always dreamed of staying in a castle and Ireland seemed like THE place to make that dream a reality. Although I must say that now that I have a taste of castle living, well more castles might have to find their way into our trips in the future as a splurge now and again. So much history. So many stories. How can we resist?
Before our visit to Huntington Castle I really hadn’t done that much research on the castle itself. Odd, I know, since I tend to research the heck out of everything before visiting. For the castle though I was content with just looking at the pretty photos on their website and thinking “We’re going to stay in a castle!! How cool is that?” Now, doing the research for this post, well maybe I’m glad I didn’t read up on it too much because I see that it’s reported to be haunted! Not that I believe in ghosts, but I do have enough of an imagination that I’m sure if I’d known the stories of the ghosts at Huntington I could probably have managed to scare the dickens out of myself.
Built in 1625, by the First Lord Esmonde, Huntington Castle was designed in the Jacobean style, replacing an earlier garrison, and an even earlier friary established by Franciscan monks. It has been passed along through the family since that time and has now been the home of the Durdin-Robertson family for over 200 years. Those many generations of the family have added various extensions and details to the castle to make it what it is today.
Set in a peaceful riverside setting in County Carlow, the castle has acres of beautiful gardens to explore (more on those in just a little bit), and an interior that is very much castle-like with dark, creaking corridors, intriguing nooks and crannies, and decorations of tapestries, armour, family portraits, antique books, and hunting trophies of various animals. Looking back at the photos I’m surprised now that I didn’t think it was haunted based on all this alone. It almost begs for visitors to roam the corridors with handheld candles for light- only to have those candles mysteriously blow out and eerie sounds to follow.
Monks from centuries ago are said to walk up and down beneath the yews… right where we walked.
A soldier, said to knock on the castle door, is thought to have lived in the 17th century. He disguised himself in the enemy’s uniform in order to mingle among them to gather information. When he returned to the castle his comrades didn’t recognise him as one of their own (being in the other uniform) and they shot him dead at the door…that he now knocks on.
The first wife of Lord Esmonde is said to be seen out in the garden combing her hair and wailing in anguish but there are two different stories as to why she is so distraught. One says she is in despair and waiting for her husband and son who have gone off to war. The other story says she ran off with her infant son and Lord Esmonde took a new wife so she is in anguish about that. Hmmm… I guess only she knows why.
The friendly ghost of Bishop Leslie of Limerick, who retired to the castle in the 18th century, is said to haunt the “Four Poster Room”. Several guests claim to have woken up in the night to find him at the foot of the bed. We didn’t stay in that room and I can say that he wasn’t in our room to help me to the toilet in the middle of the night when I got up. If he had been I’m pretty sure L would have seen me jump to hide under the covers even quicker than the night I did in California when a bat was in our cabin. And he said that’s the fastest he’s ever seen me go. :-)
Read More: Haunted Castles of Ireland
Approaching the castle you drive along a long avenue of French limes that were planted, as most of the gardens were, by the Esmonde family in the 1680’s. Along the side of the castle are the formal gardens in an Italian style called “Parterre“ that include gravel walking paths, a fountain, and are bordered by the 500 year old Yew Walk.
By far though my favourite of this part of the garden were the ruins of the little 14th century abbey that rests in front of the castle.
After taking in the formal gardens we wandered through the path in the yews out into the woodland walk. Along the way were lots of daffodils and bluebells showing that spring had arrived, as we strolled the path with fish ponds on either side, down to an old footbridge that had aged to perfection with green and rust coloured mosses growing on it.
At the end of the walk the property is bordered by the River Derry and here we found the remains of a water turbine house- one of the earliest ones in Ireland. It provided Huntington castle with its own electricity as early as 1888.
The grounds of Huntington Castle are also home to many animals. We saw roosters, a peacock, pig, and, my favourite- sheep. And as luck would have it when we arrived one of the sheep was about to deliver her third lamb and our host said we could go to the barn with him to see it. Yes, please! There were several lambs ranging from minutes to days old, and many more sheep ready to deliver at any time.
Bed & Breakfast
Today the castle is a private home that is open to the public for guided tours from June-September, along with many seasonal events such as Easter Treasure Hunt, Halloween Festival, and Carlow Garden Festival.
Upon our arrival we were greeted by the owner who helped us with our bags and showed us to our room. He couldn’t have known how much I love the colour green, but I was delighted when I saw it. Our room was full of antique furniture, luxurious velvety textiles, and a view out to the gardens in front of the castle. We didn’t stay long though because we really wanted to see that little lamb be born!
After our meander through the gardens and the woodland walk we made our way back to the room to relax before dinner. It was about this time that I learned 400 year old castles can be quite chilly in March in Ireland. No worries though, there were lots of cosy blankets in the room so we snuggled up under one for a little rest.
In hindsight we really should have turned on the extra heater they had in the room at this time to start warming the room up. So top tip if you stay and it’s cold- turn it on as soon as possible as it’ll take a while for the room to warm up. By bedtime the room was nice and toasty and we were also given a couple of hot water bottles to warm up the bed. They worked like a charm. Why don’t we use hot water bottles anymore? Then it was off to sleep in the very comfy bed (with no ghosts to wake us in the night).
Included in the price of our stay was breakfast so we headed downstairs bright and early to a cheerful and cozy country kitchen. It had lots of neat antique finds, like old dishes, copper ware, an iron stove, and a vacuum cleaner (pictured below) that we checked out while we waited a few minutes for our full Irish breakfast to be ready. And it was delicious. A great start to kick off another day of exploring Ireland.
So was our stay in Huntington castle everything I had hoped it would be? Yeah, it was and I’m so glad we opted for this little splurge on our trip. It was such a relaxing afternoon and evening surrounded by beautiful gardens and all that history.
Everyone should sleep in a castle at least once in their lifetime.
Address: Clonegal, County Carlow, Ireland || Phone: +353 539377160
For B&B and self-catering apartment rates please email them at firstname.lastname@example.org
Have you ever stayed in a castle? I’d love to hear your recommendations for stays in other castles that I can put on my ‘wish list’. Or are you dreaming of your own night in a castle?
To read more about our adventures on our Ireland Road Trip, please feel free to check out these posts:
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