One of Kentucky's premier 4-star hotels is a castle on the side of a highway. I spent a night there, and its bourbon bar and Versailles-inspired decor didn't make up for what it lacked in sense of place.

Katie Warren/Business InsiderThe Kentucky Castle has weathered a devastating fire and 30 years of neglect.
  • The Kentucky Castle is a luxury boutique hotel in Versailles (pronounced “ver-say-elles”), Kentucky.
  • It’s a literal castle that sits on a hill right off the highway on the outskirts of Lexington, Kentucky’s second-largest city.
  • Nightly rates range from $US295 to $US695 on weekends during the high season.
  • The hotel has just 13 rooms and includes an outdoor swimming pool, a spa, a bourbon bar, and a restaurant.
  • While the hotel was luxurious and made attempts to offer a local vibe with its bourbon bar and scattered horse décor, it seemed out of place in Kentucky.
  • Editorial note: Business Insider paid a discounted media rate for a night’s stay at the hotel.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

On a recent trip to Kentucky, I spent a night in a castle that looked straight out of Medieval Europe – from a distance, at least.

The Kentucky Castle is a four-star luxury hotel in Versailles, Kentucky, about 10 miles outside of Lexington. The man who started building it in the 1960s was inspired by European castles and wanted to build one in Kentucky for his wife.

A divorce, a fire, two sales, and years of renovations later, the castle operates as a boutique hotel with an outdoor swimming pool, a spa, a bourbon bar, and a restaurant. The castle is used as a wedding venue and offers guided tours for $US21.

According to the website, the hotel has plans to build an apiary, a lake for aquaculture, vineyards, fruit and nut orchards, a truffle orchard, a gourmet mushroom garden, and pastureland for cattle, goats, and sheep.

Here’s what it was like to stay in a European-style castle in central Kentucky.

The Kentucky Castle is a four-star luxury hotel in Versailles, Kentucky.

Courtesy of The Kentucky Castle

The hotel, which sits on 55 acres about 10 miles from Lexington, Kentucky’s second-largest city, has a turbulent history.

It was conceived by Rex Martin, who was inspired by European castles and started building a Kentucky version for his wife in the 1960s, according to local news station WKYT.

But Martin never finished building the castle. After a divorce, it sat unfinished and abandoned for almost 30 years until Tom Post bought it for $US1.8 million.

Then in 2004, when Post was only about a year into renovations, a fire destroyed most of the structure. Still, Post went on to finish the castle and turn it into a bed and breakfast before selling it in 2017.

On a recent trip to Kentucky, I got the chance to spend a night at the castle, which is now a four-star hotel.

I drove out to the hotel from Lexington in the late afternoon.

I have to admit, seeing a European-style castle on the hill just off the highway in central Kentucky was disorienting.

As I drove up toward the castle, I was stopped at the gate house.

“Can I help you?” the security guard asked me.

“Uh … I’m staying here?” I said.

She told me to drive through the gates and park on the right. There were plenty of parking spots.

My first impression when I entered the lobby was that I had stepped into a sort of Disney-fied Chateau de Versailles (the Versailles in France, not Kentucky).

I checked in at the front desk. A concierge then escorted me to the elevator, up one floor, and to my room.

The Kentucky Castle has only 13 rooms: nine in the main building and four suites in each of the corner turrets.

My room was among those that encircled the double-height lobby.

My room was a King Loft room.

The room was spacious, with high ceilings and an antique-looking four-poster bed.

On weekends during the summer high season, a King Loft room at the Kentucky Castle costs about $US295 per night.

A King Deluxe room is $US395, a King Premier is $US415, and the Executive Terrace Suite is $US545. Prices continue to rise from there: The Presidential Terrace Suite is $US575, and the Chalet suites are $US695 per night.

On the bed was a personalised welcome note, a package of sugar cookies, and the key to my room — an actual, old-fashioned key.

The room included a large, elegant armoire with a TV inside, and an armchair in the corner.

Horse-themed artwork decorated the walls.

There was plenty of room for my suitcase in the walk-in closet.

In the fridge, I found an assortment of drinks, including V8 tomato juice, San Pellegrino, Red Bull, Gatorade, Fiji water, and a local ginger and citrus soda called Ale-8.

The mini-fridge was also stocked with Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, and several bottles of liquor, including Tito’s vodka, Fireball whiskey, and Patron tequila.

The coffee station on top of the mini-fridge included a ceramic camping-style mug, sugar, and creamer.

The bathroom reminded me of an Italian villa.

Notice the size of that shower to the right: I felt like I was in a shower made for giants.

The showerhead was nearly out of my reach, and I think I could’ve stretched out comfortably in the bathtub. The water pressure was stellar though, and the temperature was piping hot.

The bathroom was stocked with Hermes toiletries.

A first aid kit and a hairdryer were provided underneath the sink, but I wasn’t able to get the hairdryer to work, even after hitting the reset button several times.

The view from the bathroom window was … strange.

It’s a reminder that you’re living in 2019 when the roof of a castle includes satellite dishes and HVAC systems.

In addition to the rooms in the main building, the hotel has Chalet suites in the towers at each of the four corners of the castle walls.

These suites, which include private balconies, sitting areas, and kitchenettes, cost about $US695 per night in the high season.

After settling into my room, I ventured outside to check out some of the outdoor lounge spaces and amenities.

On the same level as my room was a deck with a dining table and panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.

Looking straight ahead from the deck above the castle’s main guest entrance, I could see and hear cars going by on the highway.

I followed some stairs up to the roof, where several tables were draped with white tablecloths and set for dinner.

I spotted a hotel employee and asked if there was a private event going on. He told me the hotel often puts on murder mystery dinners.

“Those are super popular events so we add those as often as possible and work them around private event bookings,” Meagan Pinkston, a member of the events team, told me later in an email.

The murder mystery dinners cost $US75 per person.

The rooftop can accommodate as many as 350 people or 250 for a seated dinner, according to the website.

In the back courtyard of the castle is a greenhouse that’s sometimes rented out for weddings.

On the other side of the castle is a larger parking lot for dinner and private event guests, and behind that a large black barn.

I had a view down onto the hotel’s manicured back garden, complete with a water feature.

A few people seemed to be arriving for dinner.

The hotel also has an outdoor pool. I found it to be strangely small for the amount of space surrounding it.

As it was still about 90 degrees Fahrenheit at 7:00 p.m., I decided to change into my swimsuit and head down to the pool for a bit.

There were only two other people there.

I took a quick swim — as much as you can call it swimming in a small, five-foot-deep pool — and then relaxed in the sun on the lounge chair.

I brought a large, impressive-looking book so I could leave it on the ground next to me while I scrolled through Instagram.

A white tent was set up nearby, indicating there might have been a wedding held at the hotel recently. Earlier this year, the Kentucky Castle was the venue of choice for a reality TV wedding.

“Vanderpump Rules” stars Jax Taylor and Brittany Cartwright tied the knot there in June.

According to Newsweek, getting married at the Kentucky Castle on a Saturday in June would cost about $US16,500 if the party rented out the rooftop, the greenhouse, and the entire east wing.

After my swim, I decided to go check out the spa, which was outside the castle walls near the black barn.

I walked up the road in my flip-flops, wearing the hotel’s bathrobe over my bathing suit.

The spa was a cute little cottage, but it wasn’t exactly convenient to get to.

According to a booklet on the bedside table in my room, the spa includes a whole-body cryotherapy chamber ($US55 for a session), a sensory deprivation pod ($US60 for 60 minutes) an infrared sauna ($US30 for 15 minutes or $US85 for an hour), massages starting at $US95, facials starting at $US115, and waxing treatments ranging from $US15 for the lip to $US110 for the full leg.

The spa was closed, but I managed to grab a picture through the window.

I wondered how they fit a cryotherapy chamber and a sensory deprivation pod in there, in addition to regular treatment and massage rooms.

After a shower, I was ready to have dinner.

The hotel restaurant serves dishes like housecut truffle fries for $US11, oxtail medallions for $US22, a Wagyu beef filet for $US52, and Verlasso salmon for $US38.

But after peeking into the restaurant, I decided I wasn’t feeling too keen on sitting down at a white-clothed table.

I had hoped the hotel would have room service, but there was no menu in my room indicating that was the case, so I asked if I could eat at the bourbon bar.

The bourbon bar is a dramatic dark-walled room with horse artwork on the walls.

A couple of people were sitting and drinking at the bar, while another group played cards in the back.

Unsurprisingly, the bar had a huge array of bourbons on offer.

A two-ounce serving of a rare 23-year Pappy Van Winkle was going for $US314, while a glass of vintage seven-year David Nicholson 1843 BIB was $US332.

On the other end of the spectrum, a two-ounce glass of W.L. Weller Reserve was selling for $US19.

The bartender on duty, Justin, persuaded me to try his version of an old fashioned cocktail, even though I’d told him I wasn’t the biggest bourbon fan.

I’d tasted an old fashioned in Lexington a couple of days earlier, and although it was fine, I wasn’t too keen on having another one.

To my surprise, I actually enjoyed the cocktail. He made it with a luxardo cherry, which added an extra tart sweetness that helped mask the smokiness of the bourbon.

While I drank, I chatted with Justin, who told me that the two guys who’d been sitting at the bar next to me when I arrived were in the horse business and spent multiple courses and after-dinner drinks talking horses.

According to Justin, the Kentucky Castle is a popular choice for people in town for Keeneland’s September yearling sales, one of the largest horse sales in the world that was taking place during my visit.

Justin also told me about the wild “Vanderpump Rules” wedding that had taken place at the castle earlier in the summer and the huge amount of tequila they went through.

According to Justin, at the wedding, he met Lance Bass – of NSYNC fame – who told Justin that he tries an espresso martini everywhere he goes – and he said Justin’s was the best he’s ever tasted.

(I did not try one of Justin’s espresso martinis, and a representative for Bass did not respond to my request for comment on the matter.)

Before I’d finished my drink, the first course of my dinner arrived. My appetizer was a mushroom torte with log-grown mushrooms, local cheeses, truffle oil, and smoked blue cheese mousse.

It was delicate yet flavorful.

For my main course, I ordered the seared summer sea scallops with sweet corn béchamel, garden greens puree, and sautéed farro grain with brown butter.

The scallops were fresh and tender, and the sweet corn béchamel sauce was particularly tasty. The sautéed farro added a nice bit of crunchiness.

The sea scallops were $US40 and the mushroom torte was $US14, bringing the food total to $US54 without tax and tip, which seemed a little steep for central Kentucky.

I spent the rest of the evening vegging out and watching reality TV. One annoyance was that the hotel’s WiFi didn’t work properly for me throughout my stay.

I tried to call the front desk about it several times, but I got a busy signal every time. It seemed unlikely they were on the phone all the time, so I assumed my phone wasn’t working properly.

Since I was already in my pajamas by the time I wanted to connect to the WiFi, it wasn’t worth it to me to walk downstairs. But if I’d had any pressing work to do that evening, I would have been quite inconvenienced by the lack of working WiFi.

The bed and pillows were so comfy and the shades were so dark that I slept very deeply and woke up with no clue where I was. I made some coffee and ate one of the sugar cookies.

Katie Warren/Business Insider

Breakfast started at 8:00 a.m, and as it was a sit-down affair rather than a buffet, I worried I wouldn’t have time to eat and make it to my meeting by 9:00 a.m.

While my stay at the Kentucky Castle was perfectly comfortable — and my meal at the bourbon bar was a highlight — I was put off by the fact that the hotel didn’t feel particularly tied to its Kentucky location.

As Micah Solomon wrote for Forbes last year, “Local relevance and a sense of place are among the most important themes in the customer experience today. Everywhere a consumer may go today, from retail to hotels to restaurants, they will encounter companies and brands that are striving to tie themselves as closely to the locale as they can…”

On an earlier trip to Jackson Hole this year, I visited two luxury resorts – one, a 5-star resort from an internationally lauded luxury brand, and the other a dude ranch where visitors pay up to feel like they’re living an authentically Wyoming lifestyle for a week. The experiences were totally different, but they both left me with a strongly defined sense of place.

The Kentucky Castle made attempts at this with the bourbon bar and the horse artwork, but ultimately, I felt more like I was at Disneyland than at a luxury hotel in Kentucky.

And while I didn’t pay the full price for a room, at the going rate of $US295 a night, I would really expect the basics I’ve come to expect from hotels – like reliable WiFi and room service. The bedroom was big and comfortable, but, just like WiFi and room service, that’s more an expectation than a perk in the world of luxury hotels.

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