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Dublin: 7 °C Saturday 6 June, 2020

Sleep Here: A spectacular 15th century Kilkenny castle with a touching 20-year restoration tale

Tubbrid Castle’s reimagining was a family affair, started by a father and finished by his son.

Image: Tubbrid Castle

TUBBRID CASTLE HAS the ‘wow’ factor on many levels. Firstly, there’s the impressive fact that you’re staying in a castle. Secondly, there’s the stunning contemporary design that still leaves the ancient walls to do all the talking.

Thirdly, there’s the touching story of its restoration journey. After almost 20 years of interior and exterior works, Tubbrid Castle – a 15th century tower house – officially came back to life last month.

“Seeing each guest’s reaction as they walk through the door is very special, as there were times in the past few years when I wasn’t sure I’d ever get the castle to that point,” says owner John Campion.

The northwest Kilkenny tower house was an uninhabited, roofless ruin for over a century, but you wouldn’t know it today.

Campion’s father, John Sr, was one of eleven children who grew up in a nearby cottage:

When my dad and his siblings were young, they used to race along the top of the roofless castle’s walls, 70 feet in the air.

After John Sr retired, he turned his attention to a lifelong dream: restoring the ruins.

External Shot Source: Tubbrid Castle

“It was a mammoth undertaking,” recalls the younger Campion. “My mother thought it was a crazy idea, and it was, but she was by my father’s side every step of the way.”

When the elder Campion was diagnosed with a form of dementia that left him unable to complete the project, his son took over the work.

Dad had put such huge effort into saving the castle from falling down, I felt it would be a shame not to complete the task.

5 Source: Tubbrid Castle

Despite moving to Dublin for work midway through the project, Campion was able to finish oversee the final restoration of Tubbrid Castle and open the door to guests in April 2019.

Sadly, John Sr passed away in August, 2018, just missing the end of the restoration. “He was laid to rest in the local cemetery, within sight of the castle he saved.”

1 Source: Tubbrid Castle

Campion employed local builders to install Kilkenny limestone flagstone flooring, doors of Irish oak, and a roof of local slate, supported by impressive oak beams held together with dowels and pegs — there’s not a single nail or screw to be found.

Campion engaged a local designer to help put a light touch on the interior that would allow the original architectural features to shine through.

For guests, the castle is far from a rustic experience, though. Super king beds, rainforest showers and a bathtub that fits neatly into a century-old breach in the eight-feet-thick walls all bring luxurious touches that make it a retreat fit for a king or queen.

And when you tire of gazing out those eight-foot-thick walls onto the surrounding countryside, there is, of course, much to do in the surrounding area.

Campion makes a few recommendations:

In Kilkenny City, the Medieval Mile Museum gives an accessible and immersive introduction to the city’s history. The top of St Canice’s Cathedral is a steep climb but you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful vista over the marble city.

For foodie guests, great restaurants include the Michelin-starred Campagne and classic Italian fare at Ristorante Rinuccini, while the Smithwicks Brewery has recently started giving tours and tastings.

Meanwhile, closer to Tubbrid Castle, the Valley Inn is a traditional rural pub that often has live music at weekends, and the Crag Loop is a gentle 6km hike that’ll help shake off the cobwebs next morning.

As staycation venues go, Tubbrid Castle would certainly make for an impressive Monday-morning tale at the office.

Sleep Here: A tranquil treehouse for two that’s only five minutes from Cork city centre>

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