Lighthouses, Windmills and Castles, Oh My – Travel Lodging With a Twist, Part III


Beautiful scenery, history and a possible ghost or two await anyone who makes the decision to stay in a castle. Whether it be the castle keep, the castle courtyard or the top of the tower, there’s nothing like the majesty of a centuries-old accommodation to humble even the hardest to please customer.

There are many different ways to arrange a stronghold stay: the internet, a directory of castle accommodations, organized tours and referrals from friends. Any way you choose, there’s something out there to satisfy all travelers in your entourage. Some of the more popular destinations for a castle stay include Italy, Ireland, France and of course the UK.

If your interest lies in beautiful scenery, they’re all bound to be satisfying beyond the imagination. Others offer more specialized opportunities in the areas of food, wine, history or ghost hunting. And then again, others can provide a combination of your interests keeping you from having to anguish over too many choices.

Ballyseede Castle in Ireland is one of the combination castles nestled in Tralee, Ireland, the capital town of County Kerry. This magnificent structure dates back to the 1590s and stands out as one of my favorite stays of any B&B. Even though our stay was only a few short days, we felt like part of the family. The castle history is integral to English history as it belonged to the Fitsgerald family who refused to swear allegiance to the crown. Gerald, the 16th Earl of Desmond, was beheaded in the castle following three centuries of war. His head was then caged and set atop Tower Bridge. The castle then was leased to Robert Blennerhassett for the price of one red rose per year. The Blennerhassett family maintained occupancy till 1965 when it became a hotel.

Ballyseede also boasts beautiful landscapes, traditional d├ęcor, a cozy lobby bar and a friendly ghost some call Hilda. It is also located at the entrance to the ring of Kerry, close to the beautiful Arnold Palmer Tralee golf course and close to the coastal west coast drive to the north. Something for everyone awaits at Ballyseede Castle.

If you’re concentrating on wine country, the Chateau de Gilly in Vougeot, France in the Burgundy region should be high on the list of choices. Tucked in between Dijon and Beaune, this 14th century castle started as a Cistercian monastery and features manicured gardens, billiards, a world-class spa, a moat and cellar of over 15,000 vintages. The Traversacs purchased the chateau in 1987 and transformed the property from a cold cavernous castle and wasteland into the now luxurious hotel and gardens. You can choose from six different categories of chintz-covered rooms suited to meet not only your budgetary needs but the needs of your soul as well. To meet the needs of your body, a trip to Thee Chateau de Gilly is in order. Choose from facials, massages, body scrubs and more. And to meet the needs of your stomach, make sure to visit Le Clos Prieur featuring only the best in cuisine to go with the chateau’s over 600 varieties of aged wine.

Close by is the Chateau de Clos Vougeot vineyard which was the flagship vineyard of the monks and is the largest single vineyard entitled to the grand cru designation in the area.

A tour of the Chateau shows off the vineyard’s collection of vintage wine presses, the original kitchens, the monks’ dormitory and the cellars. Other area sights include the beauty of the wine region, farmhouse restaurants, museum and art galleries and spectacular cooking classes.

Hop onto the Chunnel and take the train to county Durham, England and check into the luxurious confines of Lumley Castle. Built in 1388 by Sir Ralph Lumley, the castle has gone back and forth from family member to peerage and back again. The House of Scarborough still owns the castle with the thirteenth Earl of Scarborough succeeding to the title in 2004. Lumley Castle is surrounded by parklands and overlooks the River Wear. The rooms are each uniquely appointed and are available in single, double or suite chambers. The King James Suite features a 20-foot high Queen Anne four-poster bed, flowers, champagne and its own lounge area. Draw a bath and soak in the warmth of the surrounding parklands.

Enjoy the tranquility of a bedchamber in the original stable block of the castle, or climb a spiral staircase or turret to find your single or double accommodation. Many rooms have four poster beds and some feature Jacuzzi tubs. Dine in the Black Knight Restaurant featuring fresh ingredients with flair and complemented by one of the extensive wine cellar’s offerings, or enjoy afternoon tea by the fire or a before or after dinner drink in the Library bar. For a more intimate setting, reserve a candlelit dinner in the Gilt room for just one other or up to 13 of your closest friends.

So whether you’re interested in a beacon bearing lighthouse, a wondrous windmill or a castle close, there’s a unique bed and breakfast just for you anywhere in the world. Haunted suits of armor not guaranteed.

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