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.
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
View of @chateaurhianfa from my RIBride adventure today. Such a fantastic day! #VisitWales #RibRide #DivaInEurope Travelgram #blacktravelers #travelfly #adventureisalifestyle #wanderlust #wander #passportgang #seetheworld #igtraver #femaletravelbloggers #blackgirlsfly #prettywithapassport #wheelsup #skypics #clouds #flightpics #wegotoo #blackgirlstravel #travelnoire #travellushes #igtraveler #seetheworld #passportheavy #travelwriter #castles
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.
The gardens overlooking the Menai Strait
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.
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.
There really are mountains back there, I promise.
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.
I was planning to flood my timeline with pics from my awesome adventure on Europe's longest zipline but due to the nasty weather it was cancelled. But since I didn't have to get up at 6AM I was here to enjoy this wonderful breakfast in the great hall of the castle!!!!!! I ain't sorry lol #breakfast #foodie #foodgram #nomnom #DivaInEurope #Travelgram #blacktravelers #travelfly #adventureisalifestyle #wanderlust #wander #passportgang #seetheworld #igtraver #femaletravelbloggers #blackgirlsfly #prettywithapassport #wheelsup #skypics #clouds #flightpics #wegotoo #blackgirlstravel #travelnoire #travellushes #igtraveler #seetheworld #passportheavy #travelwriterslife @chateaurhianfa
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.
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.
Bar and lounge
**This post contains affiliate links. Full Disclosure.