This was my first, real trip to Europe. Which is rather funny for a girl who has been to South America, Africa, Australia, and even Antarctica (although, having now looked at that list, apparently I only visited continents that start with the letter A … Anyway,) I only had one requirement for this trip. I wanted to spend one night in a castle.
You see, I have a guilty pleasure. I like to read historical romance novels. You know, the ones set in castles, regency manors, a log house in the wilderness, etc … Basically any time period that doesn’t have electricity. Seeing as to how much I love and appreciate electricity, it does seem like an arbitrary cutoff but you try telling that to the crazy girl in me who likes these
crappy types of books.
So we looked for a castle for a one night stay. But it’s hard to find a castle when there are 60,000 Americans in Ireland competing for the same space. So I had to budge a little and consent to a stay at Ballyfin, a 19th century manor home.
Ballyfin was built in Ireland in 1820 by the Coote family. It was a single family home for a hundred years before being turned into a boarding school. Then in the 2000s, it was purchased, restored back to its former glory and reopened as a five-star hotel.
It wasn’t a castle but I think even I had to admit that it was still totally awesome.
You announce your arrival at the gate and by the time you make it up the winding drive, several staff members are on hand to greet you, take your luggage and car, and escort you into the house and up to your room. Just like Downton Abbey.
Our room was magnificent and it’s not only because the walls were papered in my favorite color.
Because the house is only two hundred years old, the house was designed with a dressing room in each bedroom. Which allowed for the house to be updated with modern, full size bathrooms. Pretty sure that not a single legit castle has this option.
The first activities included dressing for dinner, wandering down the grand staircase, through the saloon, and into the rotunda where several waiters were on hand to serve you.
After receiving a drink, we were shown into the library. Complete with hidden passageway. Except I didn’t know it was a secret passage. I thought it was just a book shelf. Holding a really large collection of history books. I examined them. They didn’t look interesting so I moved on. I had no idea that bookshelf was actually a door!
I’m totally getting a secret bookshelf door in my next house.
The next morning, we set off to explore the estate.
The first thing that we found was a collection of odd bicycles. That just needed to be ridden.
The good news was the Keith did eventually get the hang of this bike. The tandem was at least (somewhat) easier. But you try riding a bike in a dress!
We didn’t have a lot of time and if we wanted to see the entire estate, we needed to cover a lot of ground as quickly as possible and the bikes weren’t going to cut it. So we borrowed a modern-day golf cart.
While we were out on the grounds, buzzing around in a decently fast golf cart, we found an old tower:
Complete with moat and (not functional) drawbridge. It was fun to explore even if it was a folly built in the 1860s and not actually a medieval tower. I can still pretend …
Then we found a hidden grotto:
There is a church located on the property but it is impossible to get to from the path. Well, impossible if you are in dressy clothes. If I had been in jeans, the dry stream bed and blackberry thicket would not have been an obstacle.
The last item of exploration was a cascading waterfall down the hill towards the house.
So I got to experience living in the lap of luxury. With someone to wait on me hand and foot. And I’ll tell you a secret. I really liked it. If I could figure out how to go back in time and live in this house (but with running water and electricity) and a full-time staff, I totally would.