Essential Magazine January 2015

Page 86

THE LEISURE travel

If you’ve ever dreamt of a fairytale escape why not start the year off as you mean to go on and book a magical castle getaway.

Noble presidential suite at Ashford

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or those who yearn for something that brings luxury and style together with adventure and exoticism there is more than lying on a distant beach or indulging in resort comforts. If you’ve experienced cruises, river excursions and have had your share of big city excitement, then why not take a step back in time and do as the kings of old did – enjoying opulence and luxury within the atmospheric setting of a grand European castle. Pick the right one and you needn’t put up with draughty corridors and creaky stairs, revelling instead in the style of an aristocrat as you survey the sprawling estate from your bedroom suite. You can’t but feel quite the lord of the manor as you explore the hidden delights of ‘your’ castle or roam its manicured grounds, all the while pampered and indulged like a true nobleman or woman. As the following pages show, not all castles are battle-worn ruins eroded by the winds of time; you will find the pick of the crop to be every bit as luxurious as a palace yet full of the power and martial flair of a classic castle stronghold. The selection below is a sample of some of Europe’s finest castles now functioning not to deter visitors but to welcome them with open arms. For an exclusive experience with a difference, we visit six of the best in Ireland, France, Austria, Germany, Italy and Portugal.

The aristocratic style of Ashford Castle

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