Ireland boasts an envious collection of restored castles that beckon overnight visitors.
If you're looking for a castle for beginners, Ballyseede is in a league of its own. The delightful boutique property, just north of the Ring of Kerry, stands in extensive gardens and woodland.
It has been fought over, lived in and loved for centuries. Following the defeat of the Desmoids in 1584, the castle and grounds were granted as a perpetual lease to Robert Blennerhassett, the rent being one red rose presented each year on Midsummer's Day.
The large, three-storey property is guarded by two carved lions at the entrance and is crowned with a crenellated parapet. Greeting you at the door is the extroverted and utterly adorable resident Irish wolfhound, Mr Higgins. His sidekick, Einstein, is up for fun and loves catching stones. If you have kids in tow, they will also love the resident Irish donkeys and Farabella horses. You might also be greeted by the resident ghost, Hilda. The furnishings possess timeless grandeur. The sumptuous drawing rooms are quite the places for morning or afternoon tea.
I just love the library bar, with its oak mantelpiece carved in 1627.
For gourmet Irish cuisine you can't beat O'Connell Restaurant, whether you're staying in-house or not. But what makes Ballyseede Castle extra special is the staff, who lay on exceptional Irish hospitality at its best.