A Royal Stay in a British Castle
I recently had the incredible opportunity to stay in a castle while exploring the regions of Wales and Cumbria. Because 2017 is The Year of Legends in Wales, a group of bloggers and vloggers, each from a different country, were lucky enough to visit many of the filming locations for the King Arthur movie that is coming out May 12th.
One of the parts of the trip I was most excited for was having the opportunity to stay in a castle. It was the first thing that caught my eye on the itinerary mainly because the whole essence of a castle is magical, so it didn’t really ever seem attainable to me to actually stay in one. So, when we pulled up to our first castle hotel, I was totally giddy with excitement. And while both castles that I stayed at were entirely different, each independently really did feel like that dream come true. Which is why out of all the many things that we did during our week exploring these two beautiful parts of Britain, I wanted to share exactly how you can have that fairytale experience yourself when traveling to the UK. I am hoping that this post will answer some of the questions I had in my head as to why staying in a castle would not be feasible, and put those doubts to rest.
I will be focusing primarily on the two castles that I stayed at, Appleby Castle and Ruthin Castle and Spa, but there are a plethora of castles in Britain to choose from.
Ok…here are all the questions I had prior to this trip that could have easily been answered had I just did a bit of research. Ready, go!
What is it actually like to stay in a British castle?
I think the most surprising part is just how big the grounds are and that nothing is off limits. If you have ever travelled to Europe before, you probably have at least visited one castle complete with a steep entrance fee, an overload of tourists, and a necessary audio guide to help explain a bit of history of the place. Well, when you stay at a castle, you are free to roam, wander, explore as much or as little as you want any time of day you want. Instead of feeling as though you are in a museum, you are in your own grand palace and your imagination is truly free to roam.
Appleby Castle: This is pretty much as authentic of an experience as you can possibly get. The castle was the home of Lady Anne Clifford from the 17th century onward and has continued to be lived in until it was opened up just last year as a hotel. But even though it is now available for guests, everything is original and authentic. There are manuscripts from the 1600s in one of the studies with no plastic casing, family crests hanging in the great hall, and other memorabilia accumulated over the years to admire. There is an outstanding three-course dinner prepared by the wonderful staff and breakfast is typically included in your stay. You will be taken on a tour of the grounds during your visit which will give you even further insight into the Clifford family and the town of Appleby.
Ruthin Castle: While you still absolutely get the essence of staying in a castle, you will also feel more of a hotel vibe from this property. The food is exquisite and the staff willing to cater to your every need. Now, I am not a morning person, but the wake-up call I got was definitely the best yet of my life. That call was the sound of Ruthin Castle’s large peacock population who roam the grounds and luckily for us, love to interact with guests. Grab a glass of wine in the afternoon and head outside to marvel at the beauty of these creatures close up.
I feel like a castle would be in a remote area of the UK…is it possible to get there easily with public transport?
Yes! If you have had some practice driving on the left side of the road, then by all means take a car because the countryside is beautiful; but, as a US driver, I just don’t know if I am ready for that kind of commitment. So, you can absolutely take the train from major cities like London or Manchester. I actually think a castle stay would be the perfect culmination to a trip to London when you just want to get away from the hustle and bustle of a major city and be in relaxed, true vacation mode in a more remote area.
Appleby Castle: The train from London which leaves from two of the main train stations Euston or King’s Cross takes about 4 hours and 30 minutes with one change either in Carlisle or Leeds and ranges from about 35 pounds to 115 pounds depending on when you purchase. Once you arrive in the small town of Appleby, the train station is 5 minutes walk from the castle. From Manchester, the ride is only about 3 hours from Manchester Piccadilly to Appleby through Leeds and costs about 40 pounds.
Ruthin Castle: This castle is more difficult to get to with public transport, but still doable. From London Euston or Manchester Piccadilly, you would take a train to the Chester Railway Station which is about 22 kilometers away from Ruthin. From there, you could hire a taxi which would be quite expensive or take an hour-long bus with Stagecoach UK that drops you off about 5 minutes from the castle. There are about 4 buses leaving from Chester a day, so while this is nowhere near as straightforward as Appleby, it is still a possibility. Also, apparently they have their own helipad, so if that’s how you roll, feel free to take your chopper here.
Others: While some castles may very well be more remote than others, there are definitely plenty of options for castles that are accessible via public transport. Just make sure that you factor this in to your research before you totally fall in love with a place!
Here are a few other options of castle hotels to look into: Roch Castle Hotel (Wales), Craig-y-Nos Castle (Wales), Castell Deudraeth (Wales), Amberley Castle (England), Glenapp Castle (Scotland).
How do you make the reservation? Are all the rooms the same? Is there a concierge onsite?
Appleby Castle: When booking a reservation, the main thing to keep in mind is that in a castle, no two rooms look alike! And, so much of the experience is based on the room you are in. The rooms at Appleby aren’t cheap, but the splurge is worth it if you are able to. Prices are around $300 a night and you can either book directly on their website or through TripAdvisor, which will most likely direct you to another site like Booking.com. While there may not be a formal concierge desk at Appleby, there is a dedicated staff who will be more than happy to answer any questions.
Ruthin Castle: While not as critical as the rooms in Appleby, it would still be nice to know what kind of room you will be staying in. I had more of a modern feel in my room which was definitely not as fun as having a regal four poster bed. But, my room was a corner room so I had a beautiful bathroom with an incredible soaking tub. I say this to emphasize my point that the experience is largely due to the room, so you should try to figure out exactly what you are booking in advance. You can book directly through their website or on TripAdvisor; I would just check for the best deal on the dates you plan on staying and then I would give them a call or send an email to see if you can request specifics since there aren’t bookings for individual rooms online. There is a concierge/front desk that is more than willing to answer any questions you may have during the stay.
What about amenities? Is there wifi? Do you have to share a bathroom? Is there food service on the property? Is there a shuttle or are you so far removed?
Overall, I would say that amenities are very much up to par with what you would expect in a hotel room as these castles are prepared for guests.
Appleby Castle: There is wifi, although not the strongest, but workable and you will have a private bathroom. There is a chef that prepares meals on the property and you are very close to the town center and train station (5 minutes walking) so it is incredibly easy to get around.
Ruthin Castle: There is solid wifi and you will have a private bathroom in the room. The town is also about a 5 minute walk through the castle grounds so if you would like to grab lunch and walk around, you wouldn’t need any other kind of transport for that.
And finally, is it creepy to stay in a British castle?
Personally, I didn’t find either place to be creepy at all; although, Appleby Castle did have a pathway lined with trees with random statues of heads on each one (28 to be exact)…very much like the decapitated heads on the Game of Thrones promo. And some people did sleep with the light on…so I guess it definitely has the potential to be a tad frightening, but I think only if you really let your imagination run wild!
Do you have any other questions about what it is like to stay in a British castle? Comment below and I will try my best to know the answer!
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I visited Wales and Cumbria with Visit Britain in conjunction with the #omgblegends campaign for the upcoming King Arthur movie. As always, all opinions are my own.
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