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.
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