Warm 18th century feel in beautiful Castle Durrow

by Ian Begley

I recently enjoyed a one night stay at Castle Durrow, Laois – one of Ireland’s finest Irish country house hotels.
Also celebrating its 300th anniversary this year, Castle Durrow was originally built by Capt. William Flower (later to become Viscount Ashbrook) in 1716 as his family home in the Midlands of Ireland. Peter and Shelly Stokes bought the castle in 1998 and transformed it into the luxurious Castle Hotel it is today.
Upon arriving, my expectations were high as the Blue Book hotel recently named the castle as one of the Top 10 Castle hotels in the world by Tripadvisor and that its rose garden is the only Irish garden to feature in the David Austin Catalogue.
The castle’s interior was like stepping into the manor of a Jane Austin novel, bearing a very genuine 18th century feel to it. I later found out that most of the castle’s artefacts and furniture were authentic dating as far back to the 1700s.
My guest and I stayed in the Lady Hannah Master bedroom and were blown away with the magnificent four poster bed and stunning view of the courtyard. The room was very spacious and lavish and equipped with modern appliances such as a television and aptly positioned lighting.
Building up a hearty appetite we ate dinner at Castle Durrow’s restaurant in the main dining room, which overlooked its charming gardens. The decor is bright and comfortable with a mix of Modern and Classical styles and can accommodate up to 50 guests.
For starters, I had the Hoi Braised Belly of Port with Pan Seared Scallop, cauliflower and an orange puree. It was honestly nothing short of perfection as the belly of pork was one of the most tender cuts of meat I have ever eaten.
As recommended by the daughter of Peter and Shelley Stokes I ordered the Chargrilled 7oz Fillet of Irish Beef as my main, which came alongside of Garlic & Thyme Fondant Potato, Red Onion and Balsamic Marmalade with Honey Glazed Root Vegetables and Red Wine Jus. I was anything but disappointed with my choice as I found my meal to be full of flavour and very appetising.
For dessert I had the Meringue with fruit and vanilla ice-cream, which I ate in its entirety before retiring to the bar for some post-dinner cocktails. Our waiters’ attentiveness and friendliness also cannot be overlooked as their fine service complemented our overall dining experience.
Up bright and early the next day, my guest and I enjoyed a full Irish breakfast before touring the fertile grounds of Castle Durrow, relishing in the very first warm day of the year. Along the way we were greeted by two horses, the family cat Malcolm and a Jack Russel who was happy to lead us to the castle’s ornate gardens.
Overall, I had a very nice experience at Castle Durrow. With just over an hour’s drive away from Dublin it is certainly a must for anyone looking for a relaxing break away from the big smoke.
To mark its 300th anniversary Castle Durrow will be hosting a series of events throughout the year, including a lavish garden party to kick off the summer, and a 300th birthday masquerade ball in the autumn.
For more information about this hotel and to book your stay visit www.castledurrow.com.

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