10 castles you can rent in the UK and Ireland

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The UK’s rolling countryside, rugged beaches and Wordsworthian woodlands have long been magnets for crowds of visitors keen to get their fix of its long history. Indulge in our medieval yesteryear by taking over a castle (it is possible) and behold Britain’s green pastures from your turreted vantage point. We’ve reviewed Forter Castle in Perthshire and Astley Castle in Warwickshire, and then curated eight more fortresses in the UK and Ireland we love the look of.

  • 10 castles you can rent in the UK and Ireland

    1. Forter Castle, Perthshire, Scotland

    Right in the heart of the Highlands with sweeping views across Glenisla, this corker of a castle is about an hour’s drive north of Perth; a place of rolling skies, mist-covered mountains and, according to legend, stone-throwing giants.

    It was rescued from ruin by the Pooley family, who bought it from the Earl of Airlie in 1988, some 300 years after it was burned down by the feuding Argylls. It’s been lovingly restored, brick by brick. Interior designer Katherine Pooley has given the rooms new swagger with cast-iron chandeliers, antler candlesticks, sofas swathed in family tweed and tartan and cut-crystal decanters of whisky on every bedside table. If you’re the first to arrive, bag the Laird’s Room with its massive four-poster and steer the rest of the clan up the spiral staircase to the attic, which sleeps four under the rafters and has an imaginatively stocked dressing-up box. Downstairs, the dungeon has been converted into the kitchen and there’s even a 10-seater chapel where Simply Red singer Mick Hucknell got married.

    Days are action packed: local action man Charles Crombie is on hand to arrange Highland Games in the gardens with archery, air-rifle practice, cross-bowing and axe-throwing (even four-year-olds are encouraged to get stuck in). As the nearest shop is a good half-hour drive away, it’s also worth knowing about chef Peter Backhouse. He and his wife Fiona conjure up delicious feasts of Angus beef fillet or Tay-caught smoked salmon in the Great Hall, under a painted ceiling telling the story of the Bonnie House of Airlie.

    Sleeps: 16


    Price: from £3,300 for three nights


    Address: Forter Castle, Kirkton of Glenisla, Scotland PH11 8QW


    Website: fortercastle.com

  • 10 castles you can rent in the UK and Ireland

    2. Astley Castle, Nuneaton, Warwickshire

    Set in luxuriant Warwickshire countryside, this fortified manor lays claim to three English queens (including the ill-fated Lady Jane Grey, imprisoned in the Tower of London on the day she gained the title) and a vibrant history whirring back to the Saxon period, some of which it helped to mould. A long, narrow drive separates Astley Castle from the small village of Astley and the charming church of St Mary the Virgin.

    Following a devastating fire in 1978, rather than leave its ruined walls to decay the Landmark Trust launched an ambitious architectural competition with a brief to sew the comforts and aesthetics of contemporary living into the ancient shell of the former castle. Witherford Watson Mann, the winner of the RIBA Stirling Prize in 2013, did exactly this, melding an open-plan space with industrial lighting, new wooden floorboards emulating the originals, log burners and a cool kitchen into its crumbling structure.

    An original moat still protects the Grade II-listed Astley (although its hollow oak tree failed to hide Lady Jane Grey’s father, Lord Grey, who was wrenched from its trunk and beheaded for treason in 1554). With this place’s potent history, it’s easy to imagine Tudors and Yorkist queens taking a turn about the lake, visiting the small church within the grounds and floating through the pleasure gardens.

    Sleeps: eight


    Price: from £215 for a minimum of four nights


    Address: Astley Castle, 1 Church Ln, Astley, Nuneaton CV10 7QN


    Website: landmarktrust.org.uk

    While we have not stayed in the properties featured below, we have carefully selected these as recommendations based on their location, design and previous guest reviews. All listings on Condé Nast Traveller are independently selected by our editors. If you book something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

  • 10 castles you can rent in the UK and Ireland

    3. Kingswear Castle, Dartmouth, Devon

    Make for this retreat of childhood revelry on the Devonshire coast where the waves come up close to its medieval walls. Built between 1491 and 1502 to defend Dartmouth harbour, Kingswear surges from rocks that tumble towards the water’s edge. A supposedly accidental fire ravaged the structure in the 1600s, only for it to be rescued by a Crown-appointed governor and then bought by a wealthy bachelor of 22 in 1855 as his summer house. It isn’t hard to imagine him and his bon viveur cohort enjoying a sundowner and cigar from the turreted rooftop terrace.

    Inside, a conflicting sense of vulnerability and fortitude pervades: the thick walls confront the sea spray on a daily basis; the reflected light from the water dances across the bedroom ceilings; the dizzying views from the tower stretch across the river along pine-clad rocky shores and out to sea. Comfortable mahogany beds, a noble-red colour scheme and historic stone staircase prove that back-in-time boltholes are not solely the preserve of the dense inland countryside.

    Sleeps: four


    Price: from £677 per night


    Address: Kingswear Castle, Kingswear, Dartmouth TQ6 0DX


    Website: landmarktrust.org.uk

  • 10 castles you can rent in the UK and Ireland

    4. Castle Law, West Kilbride, Scotland

    Channel the wild joy of staying in a 15th-century tower. Castle Law lies along Scotland’s rugged west coast at the foot of Law Hill in West Kilbride, less than an hour from Glasgow, and was King James II’s wedding present to his eldest daughter Mary and her husband, the Earl of Arran, in the 1400s. The castle’s use as a law court some years later lends it a somewhat darker history: the guilty were dropped into its dungeon (now an en suite bedroom); a hole artfully placed above the main entrance allowed its inhabitants to drop boiling oil on the heads of intruders; and its stone entrance steps were deliberately uneven to break attackers’ advances.

    During the restoration process some centuries later the Category A-listed building’s current owners retained its medieval character and injected a degree of pomp to its interiors. Weighty velvet curtains are draped around four-posters and frame a stand-alone bath, elegant antique sit in corners and deep red armchairs are positioned beside the original fireplace for afternoon naps. The kitchen neatly weaves modern appliances around ancient ovens and an enormous chimney which, like a toothpick, appears to hold the castle in place. It’s easy to imagine the centuries playing out in the great hall over generously filled silver goblets, and later during its time as a courtroom over ominous ink signatures and prison pits – the latter still in place behind a stone trap door.

    Today, its turbulent history is kept alive with late-night stories by the fire. Seven bedrooms make it ideal group- or family-holiday material, (be quick to bag the four-poster rooms scattered between the top three floors) while underfloor heating is a welcome non-medieval touch during chillier months. But the standout of this creamy-hued, turreted wonder has to be the extraordinary views from its top windows and parapet roof across an expanse of bright blue water not often associated with Scotland to the Isle of Arran, whose craggy hills surge in the distance.

    Sleeps: 14


    Price: from £2,500 for three nights


    Address: Castle Law, West Kilbride, Scotland KA23 9PB


    Website: celticcastles.com

  • 10 castles you can rent in the UK and Ireland

    5. Martello Tower, Aldeburgh, Suffolk

    This remote coastal tower is one of several that were built to fend off Napoleon’s ships. The quatrefoil-shaped building sits defiantly along the beach on Suffolk’s Orford Ness peninsula, taking the sea’s salty breath and stormy thrashes in its stride. Watching a cinematic Aldeburgh sunset from Martello Tower’s stone-flagged roof, replete with mounted naval guns and parapets, over local fish and chips is tough to beat. The space similarly lends itself well to leisurely mornings nursing a coffee and watching sailing boats glide out to sea.

    Inside, large vaulted ceilings, whitewashed brick walls and original wooden floorboards are softened with rugs, comfy traditional sofas and wall lanterns. In the years following its sale by the Ministry of Defence to a Mr Walter Wenham in 1931, it was visited occasionally by the Mitford family during holidays, and was later converted into a studio. Today’s guests can keep its open-plan format or section rooms off with screens to tailor the layout to suit various levels of privacy. And despite the tower’s blissful isolation, the arty town of Aldeburgh is a mere 10-minute pebbly beach walk away, winding through a pretty warren of artisanal independent shops, antiques sellers, cafés and pastel-painted houses. Stop by the fishermen’s huts along the shore for the catch of the day before hunkering down in your coastal fortress for a wholesome supper.

    Sleeps: four


    Price: from £633 for four nights


    Address: Martello Tower, Aldeburgh, Woodbridge IP12 2HD


    Website: landmarktrust.org.uk

  • 10 castles you can rent in the UK and Ireland

    6. Whitehall Pele Tower, Wigton, Cumbria

    With its Tudor fireplaces, carpeted spiral staircases and ivy-coated ruins in the gardens, Whitehall Peel Tower hits that sweet spot, somewhere between a charming country home and turreted historic marvel. Despite dating back to the 14th century, the family-owned castle feels warm and homely inside with muted hues, a farmhouse-style kitchen and light spilling in through stone windows pinched from a period drama. Located in the bucolic Cumbrian countryside, the well-groomed tower with its croquet-ready gardens is the ideal springboard from which to explore the Northern Lakes, Hadrian’s Wall and the blustery Solway Coast, with a warm promise of an open fire and even a table-tennis match before supper.

    Sleeps: eight


    Price: from £509 per night


    Address: Whitehall Pele Tower, Mealsgate, Wigton CA7 1JS


    Website: chooseacottage.co.uk

  • 10 castles you can rent in the UK and Ireland

    7. Closeburn Castle, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland

    Far from being modernised to the hilt, this square stone castle – found in the rural thickets of Dumfries and Galloway – reflects its 13th-century epoch. Built by the Kirkpatrick family for defence purposes with 10ft-thick walls and one studded door only accessible by ladder (now stairs), this fortalice is a stellar example of the early castles which began to pepper Britain’s landscape following William the Conqueror’s arrival. Wrapped in five acres of grounds and woodland, the castle is steeped in Scottish lore, referenced by its traditional interiors – mahogany furniture, soft tartan details and wrought-iron studded doors.

    History buffs will delight in the included tour of the dungeons and off-limits battlements (the castle is still owned by the Kirkpatrick family, albeit the Spanish side whose ancestor became the last empress of France). There are few reasons to leave, with lazy mornings spent in the splendid bedrooms, afternoons sweetened by the exclusive nature soundtrack outside and evenings in the dining hall, with a drawing room to retreat to – but should the fortalice’s walls draw in, a pub, shop and restaurant are only three miles away.

    Sleeps: six


    Price: from £819 per night


    Address: Closeburn, Thornhill DG3 5HH


    Website: chooseacottage.co.uk

  • 10 castles you can rent in the UK and Ireland

    8. Kilmartin Castle, Argyll, Scotland

    Once in the clutches of the Highlands’ fabled Campbell Clan then abandoned for more than 200 years, Kilmartin Castle was artfully refurbished by owners Simon Hunt and Stef Burgon. The couple have kept to the traditional Scottish script of stand-alone baths, cast-iron radiators and reclaimed floorboards, adding industrial copper showers, piping and colour to the 470-year-old Celtic space for an eccentric look. A B&B service is a welcome luxury given the building’s secluded Argyll and Bute location, not far from the banks of Loch Craignish and key historical monuments including Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age sites. Dramatic as the castle itself, the two-and-a-half-hour drive here from Glasgow or three-hour spin from Edinburgh winds along the glassy lochs and through the wooded glens of Trossachs National Park.

    Sleeps: 10


    Price: from £900 per night


    Address: Kilmartin Castle, Kilmartin, Lochgilphead PA31 8RQ


    Website: celticcastles.com

  • 10 castles you can rent in the UK and Ireland

    9. Clytha Castle, Monmouthshire, Wales

    Completed in 1792 as an ode to judge and MP William Jones’s late wife, and later becoming a gamekeeper’s home, this gothic folly sits within the rolling landscaped gardens of Monmouthshire’s Clytha Estate and was rescued from ruin by the Landmark Trust. Overlooking the misty Usk Valley, the building is far from imposing, in fact its sloping structure and intricately symmetrical turrets err on twee – the architectural equivalent of a perfectly tied bow.

    Inside, any renovations have played to the castle’s original spirit – spacious, light-filled rooms dominated by arched windows which, in turn, reveal the green exuberance of the surrounding countryside. The Usk Valley Walk is easily conducted from the front door, as are lengthier ambles through the Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons. Clytha’s hidden gem has to be the local family-run pub, the Clytha Arms, whose Wednesday pizza nights, tapas menu and Sunday lunches of honey-roasted lamb rump, cider-baked ham and hake in beer batter are a 10-minute walk away.

    Sleeps: six


    Price: from £702 per night


    Address: Clytha Castle, Abergavenny NP7 9BW


    Website: landmarktrust.org.uk

  • 10 castles you can rent in the UK and Ireland

    10. Ballyportry Castle, County Clare, Ireland

    This restored 15th-century Gaelic tower in Ireland’s wild and woolly County Clare recalls the castles young children tend to draw. Perched on a rocky outcrop only about 40 minutes from Shannon Airport, Ballyportry packs pastoral views and is well placed for jaunts to the nearby Atlantic coast and long, brisk walks along the surrounding lakes and lush banks of the rugged Burren landscape. Blissfully free of Wi-Fi (those in need can make for the local village of Corofin less than a five-minute drive away), the house is a time warp – grey medieval stone walls and flagstone floors are warmed with sheepskin rugs, candlelight and wood-burning stoves, and a spiral staircase leads to a cavernous great hall with a grand open fireplace.

    Sleeps: eight


    Price: from about £1,830 for a minimum of three nights (with two nights the same price)


    Address: Ballyportry Castle, Ballyportry North, Corofin, Co. Clare, Ireland


    Website: celticcastles.com

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    Aldourie Castle

  • 10 castles you can rent in the UK and Ireland

    Astley Castle

  • 10 castles you can rent in the UK and Ireland

    Kilmartin Castle, Argyll, Scotland

  • 10 castles you can rent in the UK and Ireland

    Forter Castle