by Dawn Emery, The Independent, March 21, 2017
Has Beauty and the Beast put staying in a castle on your bucket list? You don't have to go far or put up with a ruin – the UK is full of castles that have been lovingly renovated into fancy hotels. Our homegrown ones may not come with pools and sun terraces as their continental neighbours do, but what ours lack in tan-friendly amenities, they make up for in gossip. From a resident ghost in County Antrim to Henry VIII's honeymoon suite, here’s our guide to the best castle accommodation for sleeping like home-grown royalty. Beauties and Beasts not guaranteed.
Star Castle Hotel, Isles of Scilly
Built in the shape of an eight-pointed star in 1593, the Scilly Isles' Star Castle has transformed its dungeon into a bar since converting into a hotel. Family-run, it has 38 bedrooms, three of which are converted guard rooms, once used to keep watch for the first sign of invaders. Owner Robert Francis is so hands on that he goes out in the morning to catch fresh lobsters and crabs for guests, and produces his own wine in the nearby Holy Vale vineyard. There's even a private boat (and boatman) to ferry guests to other islands. Doubles from £161, B&B
Peckforton Castle, Cheshire
It’s a wonder Lord Tollemache found time to build Peckforton Castle – he fathered 25 children. This was a “man of considerable eccentricity” who, in 1844, decided to build a castle in the style of a medieval fortress. Today’s guests get to stay in one of 48 individually designed rooms in the Grade I-listed property. The castle's also a popular wedding venue, although one groom got carried away in 2011, downing 20 double vodkas and starting a fire that cost £6m to repair (don't worry - it's back to its best now).
Peckforton also makes a big commitment to supporting the local environment – it has discreet solar panels in the roof, uses local produce in its restaurants, and has recently been working with Natural England to rehouse some surprise guests – a colony of rare bats. Doubles from £100, B&B
Ballygally Castle, Co Antrim
If you ain’t afraid of no ghosts, then you might want to consider a stay at 17th-century Ballygally Castle, said to be one of the most haunted places in Ulster. The most frequently sighted spirit is the “friendly” Lady Isobel Shaw, who is said to walk the corridors and knock on doors (a different kind of alarm call). She’s even been given her own room – guests can climb the spiral staircase to a small room in the turret to see if they can sense her spirit. If you're too scared to stay, try a ghost tour and make a quick exit.
Lady Isobel isn't the only celeb around here – Ballygally's location on the Causeway Coastal Route also makes it also popular with Game of Thrones fans. Hotel guests can book on a three-day tour to see the landscapes used for fictional locations such as Winterfell, the King’s Road, the Iron Islands and Stormlands. Cast and crew have been seen in the Ballygally, and the hotel offers Game of Thrones afternoon teas and private dining in the medieval dungeon. Doubles from £100, B&B
Leeds Castle, Kent
Camping's a little more glamorous when there’s a four-poster bed involved. On Leeds Castle's 'Knights Glamping' breaks, guests sleep in eight striped pavilions (laid out according to a medieval village plan) in the castle's vineyard. Showers and toilets are in a nearby cottage, while guests can cook with a cast iron griddle above an open firepit, as people did medieval times. For something a little more refined, the castle also has six historic holiday cottages. Tents from £140, room only
Lochinch Castle Cottages, Stranraer
There’s no danger of going stir crazy if you’re staying in the self-catering Lochinch Castle Cottages, as there are 75 acres of grounds to roam. The cottages are situated on an isthmus surrounded by freshwater lochs, with the ruins of Castle Kennedy at one end and Lochinch Castle (where the lairds live) at the other. The grounds include 18th-century 'land sculptures', an avenue of monkey puzzle trees, and the chance to spot geese, osprey and red squirrels. If you want to really feel like the lord of the manor, head gardener John, who has worked here for 25 years, is available to give guided tours. Cottages from £360 per week
Roch Castle, Pembrokeshire
This is one for romantics. Situated on a rocky hill, with views of St Brides Bay, Roch Castle is a six-bedroom, five-star hotel which has won a slew of awards. Built in 1280, the castle’s claim to fame is that it was the birthplace and home of Lucy Walter, mistress to Charles II and mother of his son, the Duke of Monmouth. Doubles from £210, B&B
Doyden Castle, Port Quin, Cornwall
Nineteenth-century party animal Samuel Symons built Doyden Castle in 1830 as a “pleasure house” where he would eat, drink and gamble with friends (his large wine bins can still be seen in the cellar). The truncated Gothic tower, which featured in the original Poldark TV series, has dramatic coastal views from its position on the edge of a cliff (this would be why children aren't allowed here). There’s a slightly more virtuous tone to the property these days as it’s owned by the National Trust and every holiday booking supports the charity’s work. It’s now run as a one-bedroom holiday let for two, with the beaches of Rock, Polzeath and Port Isaac all within four miles. From £233 per night, minimum stay two nights
Thornbury Castle, South Gloucestershire
One for royal watchers: guests at the 16th-century Thornbury Castle can sleep in the very room where King Henry VIII spent his ill-fated honeymoon with Anne Boleyn in 1535. Now named The Duke’s Bedchamber, it overlooks what is regarded as the oldest Tudor Garden in the country. The castle was originally owned by Edward Stafford, the third Duke of Buckingham, but his tenure as landlord was unfortunately cut short when the King, a distant cousin, ordered his beheading for alleged treason, and conveniently got the castle too.
Guests can also stay in the Tower Suite, which is set at the top of a 77-step spiral staircase (staff will carry your luggage). The decor includes 24-carat gilding, silk walk hangings and the largest four-poster bed in any UK hotel at a whopping 10ft wide. Enough for Henry and all his wives. Doubles from £195, B&B
A castle might seem an unlikely location for a hostel, but budget accommodation is what’s on offer at Grade I-listed Safestay London Kensington Holland Park. The Jacobean property, known as Cope Castle when it was built by Sir Walter Cope in 1605, is situated at the heart of Holland Park. The hostel is contained within the castle’s east wing and a 1950s extension, and guests can stay in private twin rooms, or dorms with four, six, eight or more bunkbeds. Dorms from £20