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This Irish icon, without any doubt one of the best natural sceneries in Europe, can be present right at your room window at the Ballinalacken Castle Hotel Country House, in the west coast of Ireland. The cliffs of Moher, the Aran Islands and the immensity of the Atlactic Ocean are just some of the attractions in the breathtaking views guaranteed from the unique 11 rooms of this Victorian house, built beside a 15th century castle that belonged to the O'Brien Clan, one of the legendary families from Ireland. A fairy-tale like experience, an unforgettable honeymoon, or just a weekend to get away from the bustle of city centres; that's what the O'Callaghan family offers since the opening of this bed & breakfast in 1940. A combination of history and peace that makes the "once upon a time" stories not so far from 21st century reality.
The Ballinalacken Castle is a stone tower house located 2,5 miles away from the town of Doolin, the so-called capital of Irish traditional music. Just a few metres from it stands the family house that Lord O'Brien built to live in, restored now for the accommodation of guests tempted by the quietness and the extraordinary beauty of the landscape. The medieval fortress is just one of the many castles and towers that the O'Briens left behind in the region of County Clare, in western Ireland. The family owns the title of Barons of Inquichin since 1651 and descends directly from Brian Boru, the king that ruled the country in the eleventh century: this blood line makes them one of the few native Gaelic families and ensures them quite a few adventures along the history of Ireland, specially during the Eleven Years War, the civil conflict that took place in the country during the 17th century, and the Cromwellian conquest of the lands.
Established mainly in Dromoland Castle (today located near Shannon airport, in County Clare too), many members of the O'Brien clan owned properties throughout Ireland. At first, these strongholds such as Ballinalacken`s were built for protection from invaders, so near as they were from the brink of the open ocean, but gradually they became crucial assets in conflicts between clan alliances. The basements of Ballinalacken Castle are thought to have been set as far as the 10th century, by another famous Irish clan, the O'Connor's, who ruled West Corcomroe in those times. The fortress was finally founded in the 14th century and Lochlan MacCon O'Connor was in charge of its first rebuilding. In 1564, the control over West Corcomroe passed to the O`Briens and years later the castle was granted to Turlough O'Brien, a member of the family living in Ennistymon. After his death, it was Turlough`s son Daniel who inherited the property, and was able to keep it till the beginning of the Eleven Years War, in 1641: this conflict broke out between native Irish Catholics and Protestant British settlers, and got even worse when Oliver Cromwell conquered the lands in 1653.
At this point politics begin to meddle with the history of the Ballinalacken Castle. As Turlough claimed to be on the Irish side but simultaneously helped English settlers, he was sent to prison and fined: five of his castles in Ireland were demolished and the Ballinalacken was sentenced to the same fate. Fortunately, an appeal saved it from disappearing from western Ireland's landscape, and centuries later tourists from the whole world can enjoy its stunning views of the Burren, a rocky region gifted with high cliffs and ancient ruins that surrounds the hotel. But going back to the history of the castle, once Daniel O`Brien passed away, his grandson Donough became master of Ballinalacken, and it was not till 1840 that the clan built the family home just beside it, an old country manor building that has been fully restored to accommodate guests. The lodge is open from mid April to the end of October, when Doolin enjoys its lively summer. The peach orange coloured walls of the hotel and ample windows face the seashore and lead to the unspoilt meadows, ideal for afternoon walks and picnics on the grass.
The stunning view can also be enjoyed from the lounge area in the hotel, furnished with sofas and antique pieces of furniture made of Irish oak and decorated with floral wallpaper. Meanwhile, fireplaces and an extra dosis of antique furniture are part of the charm at the guestrooms of this peaceful location. With four poster beds inspired in O'Brien's times and ancient lamps hanging from the ceilings, the Suites guarantee an out of the ordinary stay, with a quietness to be envied and spectacular views of the Burren. The Ballinalacken Castle Hotel Country House offers a bed & breakfast service and the typical friendly attention of a family-run inn. A stay at this lodge will give the guest a taste of the traditional Irish breakfast, one of the richest in the world, served in the dining room of the manor house, another public space with great views of the surroundings.
The specialties of the local cuisine don't end with breakfast, though. They are also present at the hotel's Restaurant, open during the evening to please guests and non-residents with local seafood, home-made bread and vegetarian options. The unforgettable date for honeymooners or fiancées must be set at this Restaurant, and be scheduled for sunset time, when you will dine accompanied by the last rays of light just hiding in the horizon. A varied range of gastronomic options is available at Doolin, a fishing village that for years has attracted travellers due to its passion for local music. At a walking distance of 40 minutes from the hotel, the town features bars, restaurants and daily ferries to the Aran Islands, one of the musts when it comes to sightseeing in the area. Surrounding the grounds of the Ballinalacken hotel, the Cliffs of Moher dominate the view. This 500 feet high natural edge of Ireland stars in every postcard from the country and is without any doubt one of the most beautiful landscapes in the Burren, a 300 square kilometre area of limestone and archaeological sites in the northwest region of County Clare that deserves a visit for its historic relevance.