International,Travel,Travel Tips

How I Stayed In a European Castle For Free

stay in a castle chateau rhianfa

Remember my Kickass European Itinerary I shared with you last month?   Well I’m finally settled back into real life and football mom life so it’s time to get back into the groove of sharing my travel stories and tips with you from that amazing adventure. Strap in as I tell you all about how I stayed in a European castle for free. Yes, I said free!!!

I have wanted to stay in a castle since I was a little girl. I’ve always had that girlish fascination with all things princess and fantasy related. Blame it on being a Disney crazed 80s baby. A night in a castle was a bucketlist item I was determined to fulfill while I was visiting Europe. 

How To Find a Castle

How does one find a castle to spend the night in? Google to the rescue of course. I discovered several websites that list castles in countries all over Europe, but the most helpful to me was http://www.celticcastles.com. This site allows you to search by country or view them on a map as well as search for castles to just reserve a room or castles where you can reserve the entire castle.  The countries they list are England, Scotland, Wales, France, and Ireland. As I do with all of my trip planning preparation, I started a Castle Wanderlust Pinterest board. If staying in a castle is one of your travel goals, my Pinterest board is a great place to begin your research.

castles-pinterest

 

How Much Does It Cost

There are some castles listing rooms for as low as £85 and up to £500 per night. The normal factors like whether it’s high tourist season or a special holiday event will affect the price. Most include breakfast so that’s a plus. Of course some are über fancy and some are just a step above a bed and breakfast. I didn’t do any research on renting an entire castle but I would imagine it’s a pretty penny. You would need to make a direct inquiry with the castle to get an idea of how much the exclusive use of a castle would cost.

My Castle Stay Experience

For my castle adventure, I selected Chateau Rhianfa in North Wales. I had a planned zipline excursion nearby in Snowdonia but due to the shift in the weather it was cancelled.  The castle exceeded my expectations for what I thought staying in a castle would be like. When I try to think of words to describe the experience I could break out all of the synonyms to replace awesome, like awe-inspiring, breathtaking, awesome, amazing, magnificent, impressive, or wondrous. However, none of those seem fitting enough to adequately sum up my feelings.

Chateau Rhianfa is a French style castle built in 1849, on the Isle of Anglesey on the Menai Strait. The views from the castle are picturesque perfection with water just behind it and the Snowdonia mountains in the distance. Unfortunately the heavy cloud cover kept the mountains hidden from view for most of my stay. The only thing that would make it more “castle-ly” is a moat, which actually is a way less common feature for real life castles than you might think.

Upon my arrival it was raining and overcast, but even the dreary weather couldn’t dampen the beauty of this property. Once I checked into my suite I wasted no time setting off to explore the castle and the grounds. The best part is getting lost and discovering secret rooms and comfy little nooks along the way.

stay in a castle chateau rhianfa

The gardens overlooking the Menai Strait

stay in a castle chateau rhianfa

Sitting room overlooking the waterfront

I made it a point to spend lots of time in the sitting rooms. It’s like finally being able to sit in that fancy front room in your grandmother’s house where people weren’t actually allowed to sit. I just felt like I had to sit in all the fancy rooms on principle.

stay in a castle chateau rhianfa

The music room

I loved the summer balcony and winter balcony. The summer balcony was open air whereas the winter balcony was screened and glassed in. On the end of each of the balconies, are circular rooms built into the turrets of the castle. They have small windows, pillows, and custom fit round cushions. If you are a napping connoisseur as I am, you can appreciate the glee I felt when I discovered these adorable hidden rooms.  They are perfect for a midday nap and nap I did! Funny enough I really don’t think the other guests went exploring the way tha I did because I never saw anyone else heading out onto the balcony and the rooms were empty and door closed shut every time I went into them.

stay in a castle chateau rhianfa

There really are mountains back there, I promise. 

stay in a castle chateau rhianfa

Best napping spot ever!

The castle has one lift for guest use to take you to the 3 floors. It was an old school lift with a door and grate. I was excited because I had only seen one on television. There is also a gazebo in the gardens, a hot tub overlooking the gardens, and a sauna.

The castle has a bar and lounge, a restaurant called Le Dragon Rouge, afternoon tea and a full Welsh breakfast served in the Grand Ballroom. I made dinner reservations on my first night and thoroughly enjoyed scallops and Welsh beef. I also had a killer chocolate and blondie brownie dessert. The included breakfast was an amazing spread. There were fresh squeezed fruit juices, bacon, eggs, fruit, pastries, sausages, and cereals. I imagined this might be how breakfast in the Great Hall at Hogwarts would feel.

 

There are three suites on the top floor however only 2 of them have the clawfoot tub seen in the website pictures. The third suite room, which I had, has a bonus sitting room. The glass shower with rain showerhead was extremely relaxing. The windows in the sweet opened to allow for a breeze and take in more views of the strait. I had an extremely comfortable nights sleep in the spacious bed.  Some may find the mattress to be a bit soft but I can literally sleep anywhere so that sort of thing doesn’t bother me at all.

stay in a castle chateau rhianfa

Bedroom Suite

It pained me to only be able to stay for one night. I wasn’t able to do the wine tasting and see the wine caves or have drinks in the lounge. I’m also fairly certain there were more hidden rooms that I wasn’t able to discover. The staff of Chateau Rhianfa was very helpful and friendly and accommodating. They even set me up with a RIBride boat ride on the straits.  The only negative was the wifi in the castle was extremely weak in the room. It was perfectly fine in the common areas of the castles.

How I Stayed In A Castle For FREE

So how did I have this dream experience at Chateau Rhianfa castle for free? I’m an avid user of the Hotels.com site and app when making my hotel reservations. They are one of the few websites I’m aware of with a frequent use loyalty program. When you use them to book 10 nights, you earn a free night.

It just so happens I had earned a free night that was just sitting waiting for me to find the perfect place to use it. Since Chateau Rhianfa is run like a hotel, I was curious if it would actually be listed on Hotels.com. Sure enough, it was listed! I was able to apply my free night to cover my booking completely. I decided to upgrade my room to a suite from a regular room and all I had to do was pay the difference in the rate.

Even, if you don’t have enough nights earned to book your hotel it’s worth it to use the site so that you can accrue those nights and get credit for them in the loyalty  program.  I’ve been using it for about a year and so far and for the most part the price is the same or slightly less than what is listed if I booked directly through the hotel.

I’m so thankful that I was able to have this experience. Of course it spoiled me rotten and I can’t wait to stay in a castle again but for longer than just one night the next time.

**Tip**: Hotels.com doesn’t just list traditional hotels. If there’s a unique property like a castle or a glamping cabin it just might still be listed. They also list vacation homes! Any of those properties can be used to earn up to your free night and used to redeem your  free night as well.

stay in a castle chateau rhianfa

Bar and lounge

 

**This post contains affiliate links. Full Disclosure.


 

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how to stay in a castle for free - Chateau Rhianfa

 

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31 Comments

  • Reply
    Nadeen
    September 19, 2016 at 8:54 am

    This looks amazing! And I’m sure it felt even better since it was free lol. I didn’t know that about hotel.com! Good info along with how to search for castles!

    • Reply
      Lauren
      September 19, 2016 at 9:29 am

      Thanks for reading Nadeen!

  • Reply
    Run DMT
    September 19, 2016 at 1:40 pm

    This is such a fantastic tip! I am also an avid Hotels.com user. I’m saving up for this for sure! Pinning and winning!

  • Reply
    Katthen Peden
    September 20, 2016 at 2:57 am

    Great pictures, I am sure you enjoyed your stay. I need a vacation like that. I do enjoy seeing your adventures on face book.Best of everything
    Kathen

  • Reply
    Victoria @The British Berliner
    September 22, 2016 at 2:20 am

    ‘Love it!

    I’m a great admirer of historical houses. I live in Germany, and when I met my German husband, I told him that I wanted to get married in a castle with a lake n’ everything. I got my wish!

    Wales is such a great destination and staying in a castle would have been the icing on a cake. ‘Nice one!

    • Reply
      Lauren
      September 22, 2016 at 9:43 am

      Victoria, I’m sure your castle wedding was beautiful!!!! Thank you for reading. I’ll definitely check out your blog.

  • Reply
    Ty
    September 23, 2016 at 10:38 am

    Amazing!!!! What a beautiful place to stay. I am still geeked by the fact that you got to stay there for free.

  • Reply
    Stacie
    September 23, 2016 at 11:21 am

    Wow! I can only image how beautiful this trip must have really been. You pictures are gorgeous and I know it doesn’t do it justice!

    • Reply
      Lauren
      September 25, 2016 at 4:22 pm

      Thank you Stacie. You’re right. The pictures don’t do it justice. I hated that it was so cloudy and overcast. If the sun had been out it would have been even more amazing.

  • Reply
    Holly
    September 24, 2016 at 9:02 pm

    Very beautiful. I am working on my free night with hotels.com I would love to stay in a castle.

    • Reply
      Lauren
      September 25, 2016 at 4:21 pm

      Thanks for reading Holly! As much as you travel I’m sure you will have earned that free night soon!

  • Reply
    CJ from Thirty30Courtney
    September 25, 2016 at 1:27 am

    Oooh my goodness! I went to some castles in Portugal and fell in love. I can only imagine how much more I would have gotten if I had been able to spend the night! I often use hotels.com too (unless I see a cheaper price by booking directly). I also LOVE a good nap and that spot looked amazing. You are so blessed to have been able to do this!

    • Reply
      Lauren
      September 25, 2016 at 4:20 pm

      Thanks CJ for reading. Hotels.com is the business! I’m glad you’re already hip to their loyalty program.

  • Reply
    Tia
    September 25, 2016 at 2:30 pm

    I would love to stay in a castle! I would have loved to wonder through the rooms. It’s even more awesome that the room was free!

    • Reply
      Lauren
      September 25, 2016 at 4:19 pm

      THanks for reading Tia! I hope it’s something you are able to experience.

  • Reply
    Tanya Barnett
    September 25, 2016 at 6:54 pm

    Girl! I had no idea Hotels.com worked this way. I am booking several stays through them now.

  • Reply
    Tomiko
    September 25, 2016 at 7:26 pm

    My husband and I love history so this will be added to our bucket list.. great tips and I love how you added your Pinterest board in the post.. stealing that idea!!

    • Reply
      Lauren
      September 25, 2016 at 9:04 pm

      Thanks for reading Tomiko! You would really enjoy it.

  • Reply
    Allison Jones
    September 25, 2016 at 10:22 pm

    This sounds like SUCH a cool experience! I would love to spend some time in a castle… especially for free!

    LiveLifewell,
    Allison

    • Reply
      Lauren
      September 26, 2016 at 1:47 am

      Thanks Allison. I hope it’s something you are able to experience!

  • Reply
    Camesha | Mama Motivator
    September 26, 2016 at 1:24 am

    My friend stayed at a castle in Ireland. She couldn’t say enough about it. She loved the experience.

    • Reply
      Lauren
      September 26, 2016 at 1:49 am

      Thanks Camesha. I visited Ireland on this trip too and I had considered staying in castle there. I was only there for 2 days so I couldn’t make it work but I would love to visit again and make it happen then.

  • Reply
    VeePeeJay (Vashti)
    September 26, 2016 at 12:05 pm

    Wow this is amazing. I would love to stay in a Castle, and the fact that you got it for Free is icing on the cake. Thanks for sharing these great tips.

    • Reply
      Lauren
      September 26, 2016 at 12:19 pm

      Thanks for reading Vashti! I hope you are able to make that dream happen. It’s totally worth it.

  • Reply
    Tiffany H.
    September 26, 2016 at 5:04 pm

    Wow that’s cool that you were able to stay here! If i stayed in a castle, I would def feel like a Disney princess.. I probaly would have wore and gown to complete my experience. LOL I use hotels.com as well, I need 3 more nights to have one free room.

    • Reply
      Lauren
      September 27, 2016 at 8:19 pm

      Trust me Tiffany, the only reason I didn’t have a tiara and a gown was because of luggage limitations LOL

  • Reply
    Joanae
    September 26, 2016 at 7:12 pm

    Not many can say that they slept in a castle…EVER. Although you were there for one night, I know it was amazing! Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    Tyra
    September 28, 2016 at 12:28 am

    Girl you are great at getting the amazing deals. I need to stay in a castle, since I am a princess after all. 🙂 Looks like it was an amazing experience!

  • Reply
    Aja
    December 7, 2016 at 11:48 am

    I wanted to stay in a castle in my previous trip to Italy. But I’ll be heading back to Europe next year and I definitely am going to give it another try. You just reminded me how awesome it looks. Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply
      Lauren
      December 7, 2016 at 1:55 pm

      Thanks for reading Aja! I hope you are able to make it happen on your next trip. Now that I’ve done it once I definitely want to do it again.

  • Reply
    Krista
    December 29, 2016 at 4:31 pm

    That’s amazing! Im going to have to refer back to this when I go on my trip to Great Britain this summer! Absolutely loved this!

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