Dine in the award-winning restaurant, stay in one of the antique-adorned rooms and you may even rub shoulders with Eric Clapton.
Kildare is from the Irish "cill dara", meaning church of the oak tree, alluding to St Brigid's monastery. The county is one of rolling farmland, part of the great Central Plain which is a limestone base with tracts of low-lying peat land and the vast Bog of Allen in the west. It is bounded by the Wicklow mountain range to the east, the foothills of which extend westerly to meet the Curragh, a plain renowned for breeding, training and racing fine horses. Kildare's river valleys, bogs, woodlands and canals are the preserve of wild fowl, birds and animals, with nature reserves at Pollardstown and Ballinafagh.
In Straffan is Barberstown Castle which incorporates 13th, 16th and 19th-century buildings. It was one of the first great Irish country houses to open to the outside world as a hotel in the early 1970s.
On one end is the castle keep, built early in the 13th century to guard its inhabitants in medieval times. In the centre is the Elizabethan House, built in the second half of the 16th century and on the other end is a large Victorian country house built in the 1830s. All up, Barberstown Castle represents 750 years of Irish heritage.
There is one room in the 13th-century tower it has stone walls, reproduction furniture and a large, old bed. The Elizabethan building has nine rooms and the Victorian has 12. The 22 rooms are all decorated differently, but generally in Elizabethan and Victorian styles.
The castle keep has three levels. The ground floor walls are very thick and would have housed livestock, straw and herbs to help eliminate odours. Windows are small and exterior walls are slanted. The two upper floors have been used as accommodation since the whole structure was given a luxurious makeover in the 1970s. Mantles, walls and halls are adorned with antiques and reproductions. What was once the musicians' gallery is now an award-winning restaurant.
Of course, what would an old Irish castle be without a friendly ghost or two? Barberstown has two. One is a male ghost who goes right through the walls between rooms nine and 10. The other is a faceless lady wearing a grey cloak who visits room four.
Paddy has been the barman at Barberstown Castle for more than 30 years and has many stories to tell, such as when Eric Clapton stayed there when he was in concert in Dublin. He would sit at the bar and play his guitar for anyone who cared to listen, into the wee small hours. Clapton liked it so much he actually owned the castle between 1979 and 1987.
County Kildare in the province of Leinster
Barberstown Castle bed and breakfast starts at around $150 per person twin share.
Qantas flies daily to London, with British Airways connections to Dublin starting at $3106 from Melbourne, $3114 from Perth and Darwin, $3116 from Brisbane, $3122 from Adelaide and $3128 from Sydney, per person. Prices include charges/taxes and are current at time of writing but may vary at time of booking. Seasonal surcharges and conditions apply.
Please note prices are valid at time of transmission and to the best of our knowledge are inclusive of GST.
Straffan, County Kildare
Republic of Ireland
Ph: 0011 353 1 628 8157
Fax: 0011 353 1 627 firstname.lastname@example.org
To book a flight, visit www.qantas.com.au
or call 13 13 13.