One of the most beautiful fortress fronts in Ireland greets you on arrival at Markree, Sligo's oldest inhabited castle and the home of the Cooper family for 350 years. Renovated in 1802, the castle was given the full storybook treatment, complete with a vast, oak-panel entry hall and skylight atrium. Today, Charles and Mary Cooper preside over this lush and lavish 1,000-acre estate. Atop the grand oak staircase is a stained-glass window depicting the Cooper family tree.
Upstairs, guest bedrooms are very spacious, many adorned with sumptuous pieces of 19th-century-style furniture; bathrooms are modern. The Knockmuldowney restaurant dining room has ornate Louis XIV plasterwork—ask about the three-course prix-fixe menu (€35) that includes Markree venison and woodcock caught on the estate. The surrounding farm is home to one of Ireland's only herds of Wensleydale sheep. Self-catering is also an option as the owners have renovated stables and granary buildings, dating from 1717, and known as Homefarm. They have been turned into plush accommodation with wooden floors and pine furnishings; cotttage guests can breakfast in the Castle restaurant.
11 km (7 miles) south of Sligo Town, off N4, Collooney, Co. Sligo, Ireland