More like a rambling country house than a castle, this magnificent crenellated mansion sits beside a river amid 450 wooded acres with a rugged mountain backdrop. Built in the 18th century, Ballynahinch Castle has had several colorful owners, from the legendary O'Flaherty chieftains and Grace O'Malley (the Pirate Queen of Connemara) to a maharajah and Richard Martin (the founder of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). It's steeped in local history and lore but doesn't feel like a museum. For all its pirates and maharajahs, the unpretentious tone is set by the rich red Persian rugs in the lobby, the well-worn quarry-tile floor in the pub, and the much-used leather Chesterfield chairs flanking the baronial stone fireplace: no Celtic Tiger glitz here. The bedrooms in the two discreet ground-floor wings are huge, with four-poster beds and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the river. Rooms in the original house are equally comfortable and quiet but not as big. Outdoor
activities are a big draw here, and you can plan your day in consultation with walking guide Noel Joyce, who leads walks or bike rides daily after breakfast. The estate's fishing manager can advise you on the 5 km (3 miles) of private fly-fishing available. Choose between fine dining in a relaxed atmosphere in the Owenmore restaurant (the best for miles around) with enchanting river views and bar food in the characterful Fisherman's Pub, popular with locals.