By Elizabeth Valerio
It’s time for your annual spring break—Eurotrip? Asia? The most posh and upscale accommodations are necessary. But when all the hotels seem so ordinary, where do you book your tickets when even the chicest resort won’t do? Head for the estates where royalty get their fix—vacation at a castle.
Located just north of Galway Ireland, a Celtic dream awaits. Ashford Castle (ashford.ie) was founded in 1228 as a family residence right along the water. Today, the stone building is a prime tourist attraction with its six bars and restaurants and half a dozen estate activities including fishing, falconry, golf, clay shooting, archery and horseback riding. Each room has been individually renovated and designed—you won’t find the same décor in each stateroom, and your stone fireplace will not whip in a brisk draft, however the staff can light it for you upon request. Many rooms retain their medieval feel. The most luxurious of them though, is the master suite, complete with turndown service, heated towel rail, personal Jacuzzi and full bar for around $1500 a night. Oh, and it has a bed and fuzzy slippers, too.
Thornbury Castle (thornburycastle.co.uk) in England is famously known as the residence of the First Duke of Buckingham, though it was built before his time in 925. It was then, of course, taken over by the notorious King Henry VIII when he married Anne Boleyn. Guests can choose which room they stay in by examining its historical significance, as bedchambers are named for the royalty that used them most frequently. With only 25 rooms in the whole place, the estate is serene and silent. Have a spa treatment in their deluxe beauty center or sample food in any of their restaurants. The Tudor Suite goes for around $1000 a night—it’s where Henry VIII slept when he used the castle’s facilities in the summer months.
Overlooking Thar Desert in Jodhpur, India and surrounded by 26 acres of flourishing gardens, a contender for the largest residence in the world has become an exquisite resort. Umaid Bhawan Palace (rajhotels.com) houses décor and design influences ranging from Europe to Asia and Regal suites that were once actually used for visiting royalty and dignitaries. The palace offers hundreds of services including spa treatments, shopping, entertainment, a health club and even an on-staff fortuneteller for a distinctive cultural treat. Rooms surprisingly go for as little as $190 a night with a maximum cost of $385, a small price to pay for a stay in one of India’s most beloved palaces.
For the ultimate royal treatment, the Château de Séguenville (chateau-de-seguenville.com) in the southwest of France offers only top-notch treatment for its guests. The castle has five spacious staterooms, all overlooking the Gascon countryside, which feature modern amenities mixed with classic and antique furniture in vibrant colors for only $150 a night. Reservations must be made to dine in the restaurant as it’s always booked due to its unparalleled popularity in the area. The courteous staff will also use its expertise to help you explore the surrounding cities, whether it is by reserving a car or booking a walking tour. The surrounding park with ancient shrubbery and trees is a prime spot to sunbathe or relax and read a book.
Castle Venlaw (venlaw.co.uk) in Scotland, built in 1742, offers 18th century-style rooms in a range of prices, with the deluxe romantic suite at $270 per night. These rooms feature four-poster beds, a double marble bathroom, full bar and heated carpeting and floors. The castle is located just outside of Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital city, a cosmopolitan area that is the expertise of the Venlaw staff—they have all the information you need to explore the thriving city. Activities on the estate include bird watching, bicycling, golf and fishing in the lake located on the grounds. The intimate dining room requires reservations as the menu options change daily, and the library bar is a quiet place to enjoy a drink before or after dinner.