Nestled in the lush forests of Ireland’s County Mayo and surrounded by a privileged natural environment, rises the stunning Ashford Castle. Located on the shores of the serene Lake Corrib, this medieval castle is a luxurious five star hotel that offers the amenities and lifestyle expected of European royal homes, much like the network of Spanish Paradors or the Pousadas in Portugal, but even older and more majestic.
Erected in 1228, Ashford Castle is Ireland’s oldest. It has come down as the ideal place to meet the medieval fantasies of the most discerning travelers. After being the subject of fierce battles and changing owners several times, in 1852 the castle was inherited by Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness and later by his son Lord Ardilaun, who ordered a meticulous renovation and added the Victorian west wing.
New roads were built and, in the surrounding areas, thousands of tree were planted. Finally, in 1939, when hotelier Noel Huggard acquired the property, it was opened as a sumptuous hotel, which welcomes guests from around the world to offer them one of the most memorable experiences of their lives.
Every corner of the legendary Ashford Castle is covered by history’s invisible patina. The gleaming halls and corridors, and its exquisite rooms and suites, have been carefully restored to their former, keeping intact significant historic details.
The rooms take us to a world of refinement and elegance, seamlessly combining antique pieces with modern conveniences. Most of the spacious suites are located in the oldest parts of the castle, dating from the 13th and 17th centuries. All feature king size beds with canopy and retain the original fireplaces. From each of the suites, guests can revel in contemplation of breathtaking views of the lake.
However, it is not only the splendid interiors and classic architecture that make the Castle a mandatory destination while in Ireland. Its imperturbable rural environment opens a wide range of options for the visitor’s delight: afternoons at the spa, golf course, horseback riding, fishing and water-skiing are among the amenities offered in and around Ashford Castle.
Sail through the placid waters of Lough Corrib under the tutelage of renowned Irish historian, Captain Patrick, or take a romantic tour of the lake aboard a typical wooden boat, manufactured in the castle following the strict rules of traditional Irish design.
Guests can also practice falconry, a popular activity during the Middle Ages, with origins so old, they are extremely difficult to trace. Experience, personally, the symbiotic relationship between man/woman and hawk, one of the activities that define the extraordinary experiences of this part of Ireland.
Nearby, travelers interested in history and literature, can visit the village of Cong, birthplace of Oscar Wilde, where they can relive scenes from John Ford’s 1952 classic film The Quiet Man, starring Barry Fitzgerald and Maureen O’Hara. In fact, if you visit the village you can take a tour of the Quiet Man Cottage Museum, an innovative concept that offers a perfect replica of one of Ford’s most memorable sets.
A fitting way to finish the perfect day is to enjoy the best of regional haute cuisine at the George V restaurant, or if you prefer a more casual experience, delight your palate with the dishes served at Cullen’s bistro.
Allow yourself to be pampered by the discreet and efficient service from one of the best trained staff in the world, enjoy the luxurious comfort of your room or get lost in the history and sophistication of the Green Isle. At the beautiful Ashford Castle, you will live an experience you will never forget, leaving you with one thousand excuses not to come home. ■