There’s no time like the present to plan a once-in-a-lifetime luxury getaway to Ashford Castle in Co. Mayo.
Set on a vast 350 acre estate, surrounded by Lough Corrib, the opening shot of the hotel grounds is Disney-esque in its perfection. Picture glorious green Irish woodland, serene lakeside views, and the pièce de résistance, a majestic turreted castle filled with over 800 years of history.
Inside, the welcome is as warm and snuggly as the hotel’s crackling open fires. From your first interaction with staff, you experience a delicious blend of luxury pampering and traditional Irish hospitality. Whether it’s kitting you out with a Jack Murphy wax jacket and wellies for a hawk walk, arranging a wine tasting experience in the wine cellar or a chill out treatment in the spa, no request is too large, no detail is too small, there’s always the reassuring sense that everything will be seamlessly ‘taken care of’. All that’s missing is a sparkling veil of pixie dust.
The former residence of the Guinness family features 83 rooms including 77 individually designed guest rooms, five luxurious suites and one cute-as-a-button private cottage. Although primarily aimed at the honeymoon market, the secluded little lodge makes the perfect getaway for anyone looking for a quiet, luxury retreat.
Younger guests are well catered to at Ashford Castle. Family rooms within the hotel feature two queen size beds and a large bathroom. A special ‘Lego room service’ is available courtesy of the hotel’s own Lego Butler, who disappointingly isn’t made of Lego, but is nevertheless a charming and delightful concierge who will deliver plastic bricks at the behest of your tiny tots.
All bathrooms are generously proportioned and feature Connemara marble and VOYA products. Some even feature beautiful antique-style pedestal claw baths.
10 Things to do During Your Stay at Ashford Castle
Ashford Castle is just a 7 minute walk from the village of Cong in Co. Mayo. The town’s biggest claim to fame is that it provided the backdrop for John Ford’s 1952 romantic comedy The Quiet Man starring Maureen O’ Hara and John Wayne. There’s a lovely bit of Quiet Man history still in existence too – Cullen’s at the Cottage restaurant was originally Cong’s local cinema and hosted the world premiere of the movie.
Borrow a book
The castle’s double-aspect reception space known as The Oak Hall features a 19th century suit of armour and a beautiful library of over 800 antique books curated by Cong’s Rare and Recent bookstore. If you’re curious to learn more about any of the books or to source an elusive Irish or international title, local literary buff Robert Scott is on-hand to assist with any queries.
Go on a Hawk Walk
Just a short stroll or Land Rover journey from the castle is Ireland’s School of Falconry where a 60-minute hawk walk with a falconer will teach you how to handle and fly one of the school’s 32 beautiful Harris hawks through the castle’s top woods. This is a brilliant outdoors experience – the falconers are expertly trained and will provide with a crash course in bird handling as well as fascinating facts about birds of prey.
Relax at the Spa
The Spa at Ashford Castle is the ultimate get-away-from-it-all sanctuary. Opened in 2015, the standout feature is the beautiful relaxation pool room overlooking the lake. Here, the tranquil ambience is enhanced by white coral chandeliers and a Tree of Life mural by artist Jane du Rand depicting local flora and fauna from Connemara. Treatments can be tailored specifically to suit guests’ needs and include massage, holistic therapies, facials and hammam experiences.
Meet Garvan and Cronan
Ashford Castle is home to two friendly and gregarious Irish wolfhounds, Garvan and Cronan. If you’re keen to get to know them better, it’s possible to join them on their morning walks from 8.15am along the lakeshore.
Discover the Islands
Take to the water and book a lake cruise operated by Corrib Cruises. Surrounded by the Connemara mountains and 365 islands (one for every day of the year), the landscape is picture perfect, rain, hail or shine.
Visit the Wine Cellar
Once an underground tunnel, the recently converted wine cellar offers three private tasting rooms and a selection of 3,000 bottles of old and new world classics from over 12 countries. Private tasting sessions can be arranged for beginners and connoisseurs, with dining options also available for groups of up to 10 people.
Catch a Movie
Furnished with red velvet armchairs, classic confectionary stands and vintage movie posters, the 32-seater cinema was added as part of the hotel’s restoration. A mix of modern and classic movies are screened each day in the theatre which can also be booked for private family viewings.
The Billiards Room and its adjoining Cigar Terrace is one of the castle’s most relaxed spaces. This cosy den features a regulation size snooker table, plush leather sofas, an open fire and r egularly hosts live screenings of sporting events. The bar is stocked with 20 different whiskeys and around 30 types of cigars which can be enjoyed on the cigar terrace.
Try a Guinness
The hotel’s opulent Prince of Wales Bar takes its name from the Prince of Wales who visited Ashford Castle in 1905. Today guests can enjoy a selection of cocktails, over 60 Irish and Scotch whiskeys, cognacs, brandies or a creamy pint of Guinness (it would be rude not to), served by seasoned bar staff who have a combined experience of 80 years.
Where to Eat
- Afternoon tea has been served at Ashford Castle since 1868. These days, the Connaught Room devotes itself to this tradition. Guests can look forward to a selection of delicate finger sandwiches, homemade cakes and petit fours paired with a choice of specialty teas or champagne. Adjacent to this is the cosy Inglenook Room with its carved wooden fireplace which still bears the Guinness family motto Spes mea in deo, “My hope is in God”.
- Located just a scenic stroll over the bridge from the castle, Cullens at the Cottage offers casual dining in a thatched cottage setting. Specialities include fresh lobster, oysters and a selection of ales.
- Bistro-style dining is available in The Dungeon Restaurant, which can be found on the lower ground floor of the castle. Originally the Guinness family pantry, the vaulted ceilings are now festooned with banners, coats of arms and medieval flourishes. Traditional Irish food is a speciality, as is the steak which is cooked in a Josper oven.
- Featuring Waterford Crystal chandeliers, rich fabrics and timber panelling, The George V Restaurant is Ashford Castle’s Castle’s formal dining room. Helmed by Executive Chef Philippe Farineau and Executive Pastry Chef Paula Stakelum, (with a few recipes borrowed from owner Beatrice Tollman) guests can expect meticulous attention to detail throughout.
- Offering spectacular lakeside views and a casual, buzzy atmosphere, The Drawing Room is the perfect place to enjoy a morning coffee, light lunch or dinner with the family. Live traditional Irish music performances take place nightly.
- Stanley’s intimate, 9 seater 1950s-style diner takes its design inspiration from The Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles and Elvis Presley’s Graceland mansion. A popular spot for a late breakfast or brunch, the menu is casual and fun and includes pancakes, waffles, burgers, grilled sandwiches, bagels and salads.
How to Get to Ashford Castle
Have you visited Ashford Castle? What did you think? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts and feedback!