Falling in Love at Ballynahinch Castle

We’d been bumping along in the bus longer than usual that day. We had a lot of ground to cover, and our driver, Eddie, wasn’t about to let us miss out on a thing. “No extra charge for seeing more of Ireland,” he’d chuckle, waving one hand in the air for dramatic effect.

We’d covered quite a bit of ground that day. The morning had started on the dramatically beautiful Dingle Peninsula, and gradually progressed as we wound our way up the country to roads to County Galway. Our final destination: Ballynahinch Castle Hotel & Estate in the Connemara district of western Ireland.


Eddie turned our Mercedes mini-bus off onto a road that seemed hardly wide enough to accommodate us, and we began up the drive. At first glance, Ballynahinch Castle looked similar to the other properties we had seen in the first seven days of our trip – impressive from the outside, set in a gorgeous landscape, and would undoubtedly uphold its exterior charm on the inside. We unloaded our belongings by the door closest to where our rooms were and took our first steps inside.

When they say that first impressions can never be repeated, it’s often a subtle warning to not completely blow it. Ballynahinch Castle need not worry.

Ballynahinch Castle

Ballynahinch Castle

Ballynahinch Castle

One peek at our rooms and we were hooked. While the exterior of Ballynahinch Castle gives nod to its extensive history, the interior has undoubtedly stepped elegantly into modern times. The property underwent a major refurbishment beginning in 2014, with interior updates and renovations occurring on just about every aspect of the hotel. Merrion Square Interiors was responsible for  the bedrooms, Hunt’s Room and main reception area, while Ann Marie O’Donnell created the concept for the Owenmore Restaurant. An expansion of eight additional rooms was built by Dublin-based De Blacam and Meagher Architects, who were also responsible for the Ranji Room.

Ballynahinch Castle

Given the late hour of our arrival combined with the remote location, we had no intention of dining elsewhere that night. We gave ourselves roughly two hours to decompress and refresh before dinner at the Fisherman’s Pub. I’ll confess, the majority of this time was spent wallowing in a robe after a enjoying the spa-like shower, lounging on the bed plotting ways to “accidentally” be left behind when our stay would end two days later.

The family reconvened in the pub for our obligatory pint of Guinness, hungry from the long day. We sat near a roaring fire, sipping up spoonfuls of seafood chowder in between laughs (it’s more common for my family to pick on each other in good humor than to have normal conversation, which is generally far more enjoyable. Unless we’re talking college football, then we get serious).

After dinner the group of boys consisting of my brothers, sister’s boyfriend and a family friend headed to one of the cozy lounging rooms for a game of cards, and the rest of retired to enjoy a solid eight hours in those plush beds.

Ballynahinch Castle

Ballynahinch Castle

If the place looked inviting in the evening, it looked positively radiant by the morning light. My sister and I rose early, joining her boyfriend for a morning jog along the the lakeside trails. We had the entire morning free, and we spent it in a state of ultimate relaxation. A little exercise, a leisurely breakfast, coffee overlooking the breathtakingly beautiful scenery, tucked away in a castle in the woods… this was what a vacation is all about.

We spent the day exploring Connemara, from Kylemore Abbey to Sky Road and Clifden, returning after dinner this time. And this night, fueled from a day spent sightseeing, we were all less eager to retire. We stayed up, as a family, playing cards, drinking Guinness, and listening to music played from the speaker of a laptop. Gin Rummy was the game of choice, and it lasted well into the night. Meanwhile, dad was attempting to beat my sister’s boyfriend in chess. He failed miserably, but got big laughs from the group for his air guitar impression of “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.”

Ballynahinch Castle

The next morning we had a schedule to keep, part of that unfortunately being to move on towards Shannon and the final night of our Irish tour. It’s a bittersweet moment when you realize your holiday is coming to a close, and this was no exception.

On every trip, there’s a few moments that will stand out and shine brighter than the rest. Watching an shepherd work his sheepdogs on the Ring of Kerry, driving the windy roads of the Dingle Peninsula, and hearing traditional Irish musicians play rank highly. But my favorite night, both for setting and  the memories, was that night playing cards.

It was just the family, spending the rare moment all together, doing what we do best. And Ballynahinch Castle will always stand out in my mind as our special Irish home away from home.

{Images by Barry Murphy}

  • That location looks positively magical! Looks like an amazing place to stay with family.

    • It really was Alix! It was so secluded and peaceful, and the accommodations so cozy. I would love to go back one day! 🙂

  • I fell for Ballynahinch Castle after you posted your first Ireland pictures – lovely to see that it lives up to its magical first impressions!

    • It’s such a gorgeous property!! It’s so tucked away in a wild, rural area… I could have stayed for weeks and never gotten tired of hiking and exploring and soaking it all in!

  • larocque452456@mail.ru

    Some memories never forgotten by us. Such kind of this is visit to Ireland. I spent there almost 31 days and i find lot of interesting which makes me so happy. All of them i liked most the Ballynahinch Castle Hotel.