Friday, November 20, 2015

That time we stayed in a Castle - Ballyseede Castle Ireland

There was one thing I insisted on during our Ireland trip - that we spend at least one night in a Castle. I did more research on Castles in Ireland than any other part of our trip and found the Ballyseede Castle in Tralee fit our driving agenda perfectly. It is located about 45 minutes outside of the Ring of Kerry and this is where we had the most comfortable night of our trip.
The Ballyseede Castle was built in the 1950's and was set on 30 acres and was jaw dropping elegant. If there was one thing I wish we did different on this trip, it would have been staying an extra night here. We have traveled to Europe twice and I can tell you, they lack in comfortable beds. However, the Ballyseede Castle had the most comfortable bed we have stayed during any trip - it contends with those in luxury US hotels.
Upon walking in, you were greeted with chandeliers, fireplaces and multiple sitting rooms. You couldn't help but to think of the history and secrets the walls of this building holds.
We were graciously upgraded to a Superior Castle Room, one of the largest rooms in the castle. Ours was the Yeats Room which offered a four poster bed, large bay window overlooking the garden (hi ponies and donkey's!)


The Castle offered many amenities so instead of exploring the town of Tralee, we happily stayed put, living like a royal. Ballyseede castle has two restaurants and a bar. Pappy's Bar was opened until midnight the night we were there and two resident dogs were the hit of night. We made reservations at the two AA Rosette Awarded O'Connell Restaurant, which was our only elegant dinner of the whole trip.
The O'Connell Restaurant offered a choice of a two course dinner for 35 euro or a 5 course dinner for 50 euro. You were able to pick any of the courses and when I inquired, they were full sized entrees. No way we could put down 5 courses each so we opted for the two courses, I got a starter and entree while Gabe got an entree and dessert.
My starter was a Pan Fried field mushroom with a warm soft poached egg. It was delicious and I devoured it. There was a nice red wine puree which was an excellent flavor element. Other starter choices were: Tiger Prawns and Crayfish cocktail, Homemade Chicken Liver Parfait or Baked Dingle Bay Crab.
I was very excited to see they had half bottles of wine on the menu. Gabe was still under the weather and didn't want to drink any alcohol. The half bottle was perfect for me, and I had a little left to take upstairs after dinner!
We both opted for the Pan Fried Fillet of Local Kerry Beef with cracked black pepper and chive cream sauce, candied shallot and a truffle dressed salad. The filet was perfect cooked medium rare and was accompanied by steamed local vegetables (we had brocolli, potatoes, cauliflower, carrots and baby corn). This was a good dish but I wish one of us would have tried something else, the choices being Pan Fried filet of salmon, Half Roasted honey glazed confit of duck (what I wish we would have tried along with the beef), Pan Fried fillet of Roast Hake.
For Dessert, we had to get the Ireland specialty Warm Sticky Toffee Pudding with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream. If you like Toffee, you would love this. Our other options were: Creme Brulee, Strawberry and Meringue or Baked Bitter Dark Chocolate Tartlet.

Overall we were impressed with the meal. It was a bit pricey with wine and soda ($100+ euro) but we knew going into this dinner that we would be spending about that.
The following morning, we were had breakfast in the Stone Room Restaurant. We had a fresh cooked hot breakfast and a breakfast buffet, all included in the cost of our room. That made up for the cost of dinner being most of the hotels were charging at least 10 euro a person for breakfast. Following breakfast, a couple came up to me to let me know they also ran the Dublin Marathon. I was wearing my ASICS Dublin Jacket and they were doing the exact opposite trip from us!

I would strongly suggest staying at Ballyseede Castle if you find yourself in Ireland. Drive the Ring of Kerry and end your day here.

On a side note, I learned that the Ballyseede Castle is haunted! It was named one of the top 10 haunted castle hotels in Europe. Here's the story :)

Ballyseede Castle has been referred to as one of the most “exquisite” castle hotels in the Ireland – and with very good reason. The bedrooms at the castle are decorated in an elegant, period style with views across the castle grounds. Ballyseede was originally occupied by the Earls of Desmond, but because they didn’t swear their allegiance to the crown, wars broke out that were known as the Geraldine Wars. The wars came to an end when the 16th Earl of Desmond was beheaded and his head displayed at London Bridge. Step into the castle and you’ll be surprised at the splendour – especially if you know about its grizzly history.

Ballyseede is said to still be haunted by the ghosts of previous landlords of the hotel – it seems that they are still fighting for ownership of the castle, even in death. One ghost in particular, Hilda, is said to appear every year on March 24th. The first year that Hilda appeared, in 1998, the guests that were staying at the castle fled the hotel in fright, and they were last seen in a local library asking for a book on ghosts as they had “seen a spirit”.

However, it seems that the ghost of Hilda has changed – before 1998, it was said that Hilda was a friendly ghost, not known to show any malevolence towards guests. Guests at the hotel throughout the years have also reported hearing strange bangs and thuds in the middle of the night with no apparent explanation, whilst one previous worker at the hotel has reported seeing a wardrobe banging and crashing in a room that he was working in – and he refused to ever go back into the room again.

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