You weren't born in a royal family or didn't marry a member from the high society so you can enjoy all the perks associated with the elite? No worries. You can still "taste" some of the pleasures usually reserved to royalty even if you're a common person. Welcome to those castles transformed into luxury hotels, where your every need is taken care of before you even voice it!
Impressive hallways, crenellations, massive windows, hidden passages and beautiful gardens. Fascinating elements which recall a bygone era with kings and queens, hard-fought battles and conquering campaigns. Nowadays you can still experience the scent of ancient times if you're staying at a castle or manor transformed in a luxury hotel. France, England, Scotland and Ireland are some of the countries which know this trend all too well. The building's rich history and opulent interiors are backed by modern technologies and all the amenities a modern traveller expects. So, if you think about it, success rests just around the corner - or, in our case, across the castle's moat. If you're lucky enough you might even meet genuine royal figures during your stay. Members of the world's most notable dinasties are known to check-in sometimes, without bells and whistles, in these historic hideaways. For an unforgettable "royal" stay see our recommendations.
Ashford Castle, Ireland
Set in the middle of a spectacular 1.4 sq km estate on the shores of Lake Corrib, Ashford Castle dates back to 1228. The 83-room castle was once the property of the Guiness family, so it's safe to consider it a part of the Irish royal scene. Transformed in a 5-star luxury hotel in 1939, Ashford Castle welcomed many celebrities, as well as regular guests seeking royal-like experiences. All of them discovered at Ashford not only world-class services, but also a wide range of outdoor activities: golf, falconry, clay shooting, archery, lake cruising, equestrian, fishing, guided bike tours and kayaking. Add into the mix the nature's wonderful surroundings and it's not hard to see why many of those who stayed at Ashford Castle keep coming back. Over and over again. www.ashford.ie
Chateau de la Chevre d'Or, France
Without doubt, one of Europe's most renowned castle hotels. Part of Relais & Chateaux, Chevre d'Or sits in the heart of the medieval village of Eze, between Monaco and Nice, on the famous Cote d'Azur. Built in 1954, the hotel guarantees stunning views from its 37 elegant rooms and suites. Highlighting the exclusive ambiance, six suites are named after a well-known artist who stayed in Eze village and its surroundings: Zlatko Balokovic (violinist), Samuel Barlow (composer), Friedrich Nietzsche (philosopher), Luis Navarro and Marc Ferrero (painters), Jean Cocteau (poet and film producer). Apart from its famous guests and hard to match beautiful location, this French hotel is also appreciated for its two starred Michelin restaurant - La Chevre d'Or. www.chevredor.com
Adare Manor, Ireland
It was included by Travel+Leisure magazine in Top 500 Best Hotels in the World. At the 2010 and 2011 World Travel Awards it received the distinction "Ireland's Best Hotel". Adare Manor also made it into Conde Nast Traveller's Gold List 2011. And the list of awards received by Adare Manor Hotel & Golf Resort, a Leading Hotels of the World member, can easily go on. Bill Clinton is among the celebrities who stayed at this exquisite hotel, the former US President checkin-in at Adare Manor in September 1998. Other notable guests: singers, sportspeople, businessmen and movie stars. All of the hotel's bedrooms are individually designed to bring a different ambiance, many featuring fine touches added by Lord & Lady Dunraven in the 1800's. The elegant furnishings whisper a hint of Lady Caroline, member of the Dunraven dynasty, who was responsible for much of the smaller details of the Manor's interior and the general finesse throughout. Guests should expect carved headboards, expansive adjoining bathrooms and original fireplaces as they arrive at this luxury property. www.adaremanor.com
Inverlochy Castle, Scotland
Built in 1863 by Lord Abinger, Inverlochy Castle sits at the foothills of Ben Nevis, the tallest mountain in the United Kingdom, 102 miles / 164 km from Glasgow Airport. Although the hotel is open year-round, the best time to experience is either in the summer or when autumn sets in. With its billiard room and stately interiors, surrounded by misty mountains, this charming hotel will always make its guests dream. Moreover, Inverlochy Castle is an ideal place to start exploring Fort William, known as the "outdoor capital of the UK", and the surrounding areas on Scotland's west coast. Not only tourists were impressed by Inverlochy Castle, but also Queen Victoria. In September 1873, during a trip to Balmoral, Queen Victoria spent a week at Inverlochy sketching and painting. She wrote in her diaries: "I never saw a lovelier or more romantic spot". Other famous guests of this 17-room hotel include Liam Neeson, Charlie Chaplin, Sean Connery, and J.K. Rowling. The cast and crew of the Harry Potter movies often stayed at the castle while filming. Guests can enjoy clay pigeon shooting, fishing, pony trekking, tennis, guided walks, and a variety of water sports. www.inverlochycastlehotel.com
Thornbury Castle, England
If you think a castle is spooky, damp and not quite an ideal place to unwind for a few days then you haven't been to Thornbury Castle yet. The last major fortified manor house built in England impresses guests with its warmth while echoing, through some details, the ancient times. An inscription by the castle's former owner, the Duke of Buckingham, can be found over the gateway. Badges of his coat of arms are also found over the gatehouse, windows, and fireplaces. Four-poster beds, beautifully carved in a 16th-century style, were especially commissioned for the rooms. High ceilings and tall windows looking out over the gardens remind you of the castle’s origins.Another detail not to be overlooked: the double brick chimney on the south side is unique in England. Looking for an exclusive ambiance? Look no further than the Tower Room. Its walls are covered in silk, the bathroom boasts gold-plated fittings while a sitting area and the fireplace provide an inviting atmosphere. www.thornburycastle.co.uk