As a history nerd, I’ve secretly yearned to stay in a castle but honestly thought it would be way too expensive. I also believed it was contrary to my budget travel label and I would justifiably be called a hypocrite. My budget label is based on necessity as much as choice so spending $300+ for a night’s lodging would reduce the length of my trips and the number of my trips significantly. I was researching castles in Ireland and I saw the best rate for Ashford Castle was $330 per night. Not worth it to me. But then I saw this.
Do you see $110 for Clontarf Castle Hotel? That intrigued me. I checked out their website and immediately knew this was meant to be. Clontarf is a suburb in the north of Dublin where the Battle of Clontarf took place in 1014. The simple story is that High King Brian Boru (after whom my son Brian is named) defeated the Vikings at the Battle of Clontarf ending the Viking domination of Ireland. This sounded like the perfect combination of historical significance and price for a Lalor family stay.
It’s always more complicated than the legend, however. In actuality, the Vikings had been in Ireland for a couple hundred years and were very well integrated into Irish culture by that time. In addition, there were Irish and Vikings as well as Brian Boru’s family members on both sides of the battle and the fight was really for economic domination of Dublin. Brian Boru was 72 years old and didn’t actually fight in the battle and unfortunately, he died that day. As one of our tour guides told it, they weren’t sure where he was beheaded but it was quite likely just below his chin.
The castle was not in existence when this battle took place. The first castle on the site was actually built in 1172 by Hugh de Lacy as part of an inner circle of defense for Dublin. The original structure stood until 1835 when it was demolished because of a sinking foundation and the current structure was completed in 1837. The castle was continuously occupied until the 1950’s when then owner, J.G.Oulton, died there. It stood vacant until the 1960’s when it was reopened for catering and cabaret events. Then it closed again in 1997 for major reburbishment, reopening in June, 1998, as a four star hotel. In 2007, another major renovation was completed to bring the castle up to today’s standards.
The service at the hotel was outstanding. The staff are knowledgeable, helpful, and professional. We arrived prior to 7 am after an overnight flight and they allowed us to check in early because the rooms were ready. We were able to sleep for a couple hours which refreshed us for the heavy sightseeing schedule ahead of us. The following day, we arrived at the front desk for a 9:30 rendezvous with the Hop on Hop off bus to learn that we had just missed it due to a misunderstanding about the departure time. The staff person called the bus company and asked them to return for us. When they didn’t arrive, he sent us to city center by cab at the hotel’s expense. As we pulled away, we saw the red bus pull up to the hotel to pick us up. I call this amazing customer service on everyone’s part.
Stay tuned for more adventures in Dublin, Ireland and the countryside.
National Museum, Clontarf 1014 exhibit
Clontarf Castle History handout at Clontarf Castle Hotel