Let’s get some basics out of the way. It’s a good thing there’s a lot of room at Ashford Castle, particularly for awards. Just this year it was selected by readers of Condé Nast Traveler No. 4 in Resort Hotel in Europe, No. 2 in the Top 25 Luxury Hotels in Ireland, and No. 3 of all properties. Last year it place third in the U.K. and Ireland with readers of Travel + Leisure. Green Hospitality awarded it Gold for Best Practice, and Tatler gave chose the spa as its top pick for 2019. Forbes Travel Guide inspectors awarded it 5 stars, its highest ranking.
The Forbes inspector writes, “Set on a sprawling, 350-acre estate on the banks of Lough Corrib, Ashford Castle’s grounds are nothing short of epic — think green and wild Irish woodland, serene lakeside views, and the crowning glory, a majestic turreted castle that dates back nearly 800 years. Inside, the service is as warm and welcoming as the luxury hotel’s crackling open fires.”
In terms of service, the guide says, “Managed by a team of exceptional staff, the former home of the Guinness family expertly blends luxurious pampering with traditional Irish hospitality. Whether it’s kitting you out with a wax jacket and boots for a hawk walk, arranging a wine-tasting experience in the cellar or giving a bespoke treatment in the spa, no request is too large, no detail is too small and discretion is always paramount.”
There are 83 individually designed rooms and suites, a trademark of owner Red Carnation Hotels.
There’s an executive golf course, horseback riding, biking, hiking, boating, falconry, clay pigeon shooting, or just relaxing.
Chad Clark of Chad Clark Travel says, “It truly is a magical place, from the time you approach the front door. The staff and hospitality are unrivaled. It’s really close to perfection.”
He says to make sure to book the movie theatre for your own private showing. He says Ashford Castle is ideal for families, couples, or golf trips, where spouses can split up and both have plenty to do. If you are planning to do a golf tour of Ireland, he recommends winding up at Ashford Castle “for at least four days, more if you can.”
Keith Waldon of Departure Lounge says Ashford is for “Luxury travelers of all ages who love history, tradition, culture, and outdoor activities.” Like Clark, he says the falconry is a must.
Of the staff, he says, “The warmth and genuine happiness of the staff is contagious…They are remarkable with memorable spirit and true pride of service.”
Is there anyone who wouldn’t enjoy Ashford? “Those seeking modern design and city or urban surroundings need not come unless they’re taking a break from that,” he says.
Galway Airport (GWY – 4,299 ft. runway) is 27 miles from the castle, while Ireland West Knock Airport (NOC – 7,546 ft. runway) is 40 miles, and Shannon Airport (SNN – 10,495 sq. ft. runway) is 84 miles.
Clark says Ashford Castle is a good example of why it makes sense to work with a travel advisor. Of the 83 keys, 77 are varying size rooms which in some cases are akin to suites. For example, Deluxe Family Queen Rooms have two queen beds and oversize bathrooms.
Reagan Presidential Suite
Bedroom: 14.9ft x 25.4ft
Sitting area: 12.6ft x 18.5ft
Main bathroom: 5.3ft x 20.4ft
Small bathroom: 4ft x 5.3ft
Named after President Reagan, who stayed at the castle in 1984 as a personal friend of former owner John A. Mulcahy, the Reagan Presidential Suite is located in the oldest wing of the castle. It features the original fireplace, an antique George III style four-poster bed, original artwork, individually sourced antiques and spectacular views of Lough Corrib.
The split-level suite offers two bathrooms and can be combined with two adjacent rooms – the Kennedy Suite and a Corrib Lake View Room – to become a private three-bedroom wing of the castle.
Bedroom: 15.4ft x 24.9ft with 15ft high ceilings
Bathroom: 7.5ft x 17ft
Named after US Senator Ted Kennedy, who stayed at Ashford in the early 1980s, the Kennedy Suite (one of the Castle’s exceptional Staterooms) is located in the oldest wing of the castle and features an impressive selection of antique furniture, including a 19th-century walnut bed, an early 18th century Spanish Armoire and an early Victorian Rosewood center table.
The Kennedy Suite enjoys spectacular views over Lough Corrib and can be combined with the Reagan Presidential Suite to complete a private three-bedroom wing of the castle.
The Hideaway Cottage
This former boathouse dates back to the Guinness era and is situated a stone’s throw from the castle on the shores of Lough Corrib.
Surrounded by private gardens with lake views, guests enjoy the soothing sound of lapping lake waters. Access to the cottage is through secure gates.
The Cottage has been lovingly restored, the unique design uses reclaimed material such as stone and old fireplace lintels from the Estate. Features of the Cottage include hand-crafted parquet flooring, original artworks, lush fabrics, and a blue Murano glass chandelier. Custom furniture pieces include French Empire marquetry chests of drawers, a 20th-century four-fold European canvas screen, and a late 19th century pair of walnut armchairs covered in tapestry by Brunschwig & Fils.
Custom furniture pieces include French Empire marquetry chests of drawers; a 20th century, four-fold European canvas screen; art by Louis Icart and a late 19th century pair of walnut armchairs covered in tapestry by Brunschwig & Fils.
Dine alfresco on the pier, weather permitting! The lake reflecting the stars in the evening is a memory that will stay with you for a lifetime. Enjoy private dining or any of the dining facilities available on the Estate.
Clark says dining is a highlight equal to everything else at Ashford Castle. He says it starts with breakfast. There is a carving cart with a personalized selection of breakfast hams. Then, get your day started right by choosing your favorite whiskey as an addition to accent your porridge.
George V Dining Room
Ashford Castle has been hosting distinguished guests for almost 800 years – one of the most prominent being the Prince of Wales, who subsequently became George V of England. In honor of his visit in 1905, the Guinness family built a special dining room that still bears his name proudly to this day.
With rich, paneled walls and twinkling Waterford Crystal chandeliers, there is a grand sense of occasion. Chef Philippe Farineau, recently awarded two rosettes by the AA Hospitality Awards, combines with much-loved recipes of Beatrice Tollman and complemented by a fine selection of wines from Head Sommelier Paul Fogerty.
Recently, George V Dining Room earned Wine Spectator’s 2020 Best of Award of Excellence. For the ultimate experience, go for the Tasting Menu.
As its name would suggest, the restaurant is on the lower ground floor of the castle. The bistro-style menu offers a focus on traditional Irish cuisine beneath the historic curved stone ceiling.
The menu includes Smoked Skeaghanore Duck Salad; Beef Carpaccio with Aged Parmesan, Parmesan Crisp, Nasturtium, Charcoal Oil; Fresh Dingle Crab Cakes; Dooncastle Oysters; St Tola Goat’s Cheese Salad; Lamb Neck Irish Stew, and Killary Mussels.
Cullen’s at the Cottage
This traditional thatched cottage – which used to be Cong Cinema, showing films on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and the first place to show The Quiet Man even before it was shown in Hollywood – today provides a relaxed dining experience.
International and local dishes inspired are inspired by Red Carnation owner Beatrice Tollman, including her delicious signature dish Chicken Peri Peri. It is slow-cooked in a rotisserie oven in the main dining area. Open seasonally, from March through to October, Cullen’s is just a short stroll over the bridge from the castle.
The Drawing Room
As you enter The Drawing Room you’ll immediately be struck by the views across the manicured lawns out across the expansive Lough Corrib. It’s an ideal setting for morning coffee and light lunches from the bar menu.
Think Traditional Fish and Chips; Fillet of Wild Cod in Beer Batter – Pickled Cucumber; Breast of Buttermilk; Ashford Kitchen Beef Burger, and the likes of signature Atlantic Fish Cakes.
Stanley’s gives an American, Elvis Presley inspired diner experience with a twist where a mahogany-and-marble counter bar overlooks an open kitchen. Expect a lively conversation as you watch the chef prepare signature dishes, including the Patty Melt hamburger, the grilled Black Monterey Jack cheese sandwich, and the Elvis sandwich, a combination of peanut butter, banana, and streaky bacon.
The Connaught Room
The lough-facing Connaught Room provides a venue to enjoy private dining or a traditional Afternoon Tea – a ritual that extends back to 1868 at Ashford Castle when Lord and Lady Ardilaun would take Afternoon Tea to discuss the events of the morning and the plans for that evening.
The Prince of Wales Bar
Built in the late 1800s, the bar is to this day reminiscent of its captivating past, with its opulent fabrics, fine wood paneling, traditional furnishings, and original fireplace creating a warm and welcoming ambiance – the perfect place to enjoy your favorite tipple or a pint of Guinness. In 1905 the bar was visited by the Prince of Wales, who subsequently became George V of England.
Billiards Room & Cigar Terrace
At the Billiards Room partake in a game of billiards, sink into comfy chairs or enjoy Irish tapas. Located on a rooftop corner of the castle, discover the Cigar Terrace with fantastic views overlooking the River Cong and beyond. With a feature awning, locally made in the village of Cong, and low glass tables with wrought iron chairs, the Cigar Terrace is a beautifully designed space with a flagstone floor in which to relax and enjoy a whiskey, cognac or cigar, or simply to enjoy relaxing in a wonderful setting overlooking the river Cong. It can also be reserved for private parties.
4. Estate Activities
Both Clark and Waldon say the Ashford Castle Experience is as much about the activities as the equally amazing castle you will be staying in. There’s no shortage of what you can do, and both say you can easily stay for an entire week, particularly if you are a repeat visitor to Ireland.
Situated on the banks of Lough Corrib and the River Cong is one of the most famous fisheries in all of Ireland. Covering 44,000 acres, Lough Corrib is the largest of the three lakes in the area and well known for its brown trout, salmon, and pike fishing. Your Ghillie (guide), Frank Costello, is internationally recognized as one of the most knowledgeable experts on fishing Lough Corrib, having lived beside the lake his entire life. From fly fishing lessons to half and full-day trips, Frank will tailor your experience to suit your ability and preferences.
For competent fishermen, try fishing on nearby Lough Mask and Lough Carra, or further afield in Connemara. The Cong River at the hotel is a great option for very experienced and able-bodied salmon fishermen. Traditional hand-crafted 19ft clinker wooden boats are used and all fishing gear is supplied.
Discover the ancient form of falconry at the oldest established Falconry School in Ireland. The one hour private Hawk Walks gives you the opportunity to fly your very own Harris Hawks under the guidance of a private instructor. After you have been introduced to your hawks you’ll set off into the woodlands to fly your hawks, as they follow you from tree to tree through the woods before swooping down to land on your gloved fist.
Clay Shooting & Archery
Enjoy this ancient sport played by kings and lords for centuries. The indoor and outdoor center means this activity is not weather dependent Set up according to the National British Grand Championship guidelines, it uses rubber 3D targets and arrows that are the only ones of their kind in Ireland.
Cycling and Kayaking
The Ashford Estate itself has some great cycling trails and the countryside, with its relatively quiet roads and spectacular scenery, is a cyclist’s idea of heaven.
Kayak on the River Cong accompanied by your very own experienced guide. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon and is suitable for all ages and levels of fitness.
Woodland paths and spectacular scenery from the saddle will captivate novice and experienced riders alike. From the shores of Lough Corrib, Lough Mask, and into the mountains of Connemara to the west, the area couldn’t be more magical for horseback riding.
Situated within easy walking distance of the castle, trail rides and lessons are available for all ages and abilities and are accompanied by an experienced guide. Hard hats and Jodhpur boots are provided. There are also pony rides for your junior equestrians.
Zip-Lining and Tree Climbing
Perhaps one of the most surprising offers is Zip-Lining and Tree Climbing. Your journey will take you through trees such as Beech, Oak, Monterey pines, Scots pine, and European fir trees. There are up to 20 different obstacles and seven zip lines, split between three courses. It’s suitable for both adults and younger adventurers alike.
Explore and tour Ashford Bay on the majestic Lough Corrib by Stand up Paddle Board. Take in the views of the Ashford Estate, Lisloughrey Quay, far-reaching landscapes, and spot aquatic life. Stand up Paddle Boarding or SUP originated in Hawaii as an offshoot to surfing and is ideal in calm light wind conditions. Ashford Bay and Lough Corrib with its sheltered inlets provide a unique environment to explore and enjoy this magnificent area.
There are two newly resurfaced all-weather courts for complimentary play.
5. Spa and Wellness
The Spa at Ashford Castle was awarded ‘Ireland’s Best Hotel Spa’ in 2019 for the 4th year in a row by World Spa Awards and we were also voted ‘Best in Sustainability’ in the 2019 Irish Tatler Awards. The focus is on restoring beauty and balance through treatments and spa journeys, personalized for you.
Afterward, unwind and visually indulge in the three exquisite seashell chandeliers and a mesmerizing Tree of Life mural stretching the length of the relaxation pool. Facilities include five treatment rooms, a Hammam, steam room, and a terrace area with views over the tranquil waters of one of Ireland’s largest lakes.
There is a 9-hole, 2,996 yards par 35 parkland course on property that is perfect for those of you who can’t go a day in Ireland without picking up the clubs. The course was designed by the renowned Irish golf architect Eddie Hackett and integrates a wide variety of natural features and hazards to create challenging par 3s, exciting par 4s, and a formidable par 5.
Ashford Castle is also surrounded by some of the finest Links Golf Courses in the world, including Connemara, Carne, Enniscrone and Sligo. The hotel is ideally located to reach other noteworthy courses such as Ballinrobe, Castlebar, and Westport.