Nestled in one of the most picturesque areas of West Ireland, you’ll find enchanting Ballynahinch Castle Hotel. Before becoming the luxurious hotel that it is today, it had an intriguing history worthy of a Hollywood movie.
First Impressions of Ballynahinch Castle
The journey to Ballynahinch is incredibly scenic. As you drive through the extensive grounds, you feel a mounting sense of excitement. The ivy-clad building may not have a moat or drawbridge but in every other aspect it’s a fairytale place. Knock on the door and you’re instantly given the warmest Irish welcome. Ballynahinch is the former home of Ranjitsinhji, Maharaja of Nawanagar, or Prince Ranji as he affectionately became known. Born in 1872, he was an accomplished cricketeer, batting for the English team. He was the first head of state to visit the Irish Free State and also loved fly fishing, so bought Ballynahinch to pursue his hobby. He never married or had children though he doted on his nephews and nieces and sent many of them to boarding school in Ireland. Some say that he was in love with an Irish girl, Edith Borrisow but in those times, interracial marriages were frowned upon.
Accommodation at Ballynahinch Castle
Our Riverside Suite was in the new part of the building at the far end, so extremely peaceful. There was a huge bedroom and a separate lounge, both with beautiful bay windows. The four poster bed was so romantic…
Although the highlight could well be this view of the Salmon Lake!
We liked the luxurious bathroom with matching vanity units and plush towelling robes and slippers. The toiletries are by luxury Irish brand VOYA who specialize in organic seaweed products. There was a separate dressing room with ample space for all our belongings as well as a safe and ironing board.
Little touches at Ballynahinch Castle
As a welcome gesture, there was a lovely watercolour card depicting Ballynahinch as well as homemade lemonade and tasty biscuits.
A wide array of Wellington boots and Barbour jackets are thoughtfully laid out in a corridor for guests to borrow.
There are several cosy lounges in which to relax, read the papers and curl up with a glass of wine.
Grounds of Ballynahinch Castle
The grounds are spread over 450 acres and well known for their great beauty. There’s a sizeable lake and boardwalks from which you get a great view of the castle.
This bridge has featured in quite a few films and it’s certainly a picturesque spot.
Connemara is known for its ponies and we came across this one on our walk.
There are also many different types of flowers and wild mushrooms to spot.
Activities at Ballynahinch Castle
Ballynahinch makes a great base for touring the local area by car or bicycle. The Wild Atlantic Way is a stunning tourism trail through West Ireland that stretches for 2,500 kilometres. We had a really enjoyable bike ride with a local guide arranged by the hotel – luckily the hills are fairly gentle so it’s suitable for most abilities. Clifden Railway line is a disused rail track that makes for a picturesque walk around the grounds.
The next day we set off on an Islands and Lobster Experience from the photogenic village of Roundstone with John. An experienced skipper, he’s also an accomplished fisherman who showed us how to cast our rods. Paul and I didn’t actually catch anything but we enjoyed John’s catch as a fish supper in the restaurant that evening. He took us to visit Inishlacken, a nearby island that’s largely deserted but where sheep are brought by boat to graze each day by Archie and his sheepdog.
The fly fishing at Ballynahinch is among the best in Ireland, with over 70 casting piers. Salmon and sea trout swim up the Ballynahinch River towards the Atlantic Ocean.
We also tried our hand at clay pigeon shooting at the Connemara Shooting School within Ballynahinch’s grounds. I’ve done it before but despite Paul being a beginner, he was better than me. I was too distracted throwing sticks for our instructor’s charming dog 😉
Dining at Ballynahinch Castle
Guests have the choice of the fine dining Owenmore Restaurant or The Fisherman’s Pub, and both are also popular with locals. We savoured a delicious dinner in the restaurant and a lakeside view on the first evening. The staff were very friendly and advised us on the best wines to accompany our meal. As for the food, Ballynahinch’s head chef, Pete Durkan, favours seasonal, organic ingredients that are packed with flavour. We loved the delicate combination of flavours and also the art collection adorning the walls. We admired the paintings by Jack Yeats, Louis le Brocquy and Leo Whelan.
We dined in The Fisherman’s Pub one evening, tucking into a lovely steak and ale pie and fresh mussels. It was hard to tear ourselves away from the cosy open fire.
The adjacent Ranji room, in homage to the illustrious former owner, is a comfy place for after dinner drinks.
Afternoon tea is also a Ballynahinch specialty, with the very freshest sandwiches, savouries, scones and sweet treats. The loose tea menu was designed with master tea blender Jorg Mueller of Solaris Tea who is based in Galway. He’s created a signature house tea blend using locally foraged herbs and juniper berries. It goes perfectly with the Irish soda bread, sourdough and walnut and treacle sandwiches as well as the macarons, berry tartlets, chocolate mousse and mini Pavlovas.
Yet breakfast could well be my favourite meal of the day here. We’ve rarely seen such a spread, with a superb gammon, a selection of cold cuts, cheeses, cereals and pastries. And of course the views over the lake are as superb as ever.
Final Thoughts on Ballynahinch Castle
With an unbeatable setting in stunning grounds, you can certainly see what drew the Maharaja here in the first place.
We particularly liked:
- Superb local cuisine in harmony with the seasons
- Warm Irish welcome
- Wide range of activities for all ages and abilities in the huge estate and nearby
Ballynahinch Castle Hotel, Recess, Connemara, Co. Galway, Ireland