Ashford Castle, surrounded by the immense lawns and beautiful forests of its 350 acre private estate, overlooking the sparkling waters and picturesque islands of Lough Corrib, is so grand, so beautiful, and so magical, that it is hard to believe your imagination is not playing tricks on you.
Yet real it is. In the 13th century a monastery stood on this site, but this was replaced by a castle which became the home of the Guinness brewing family in 1715. They massively extended the house and estate over the next two hundred years and in 1939 it became one of Ireland’s most impressive and renowned hotels.
The splendour of the setting and the exterior is more than matched by the lavishly decorated interiors. These boast ornate fireplaces, wood panelled walls, vaulted ceilings, crystal chandeliers and huge staircases, as well as rich fabrics and antique furnishings loving accumulated over hundreds of years by those with excellent taste and deep pockets. Not surprisingly it is regarded as one of the most magical wedding venues in all Ireland.
Guests dine in the George V Restaurant, built by the Guinness family to host the Prince of Wales in 1906. This is one of the premiere Castle Restaurants in Ireland, graced by the exquisite cuisine of Chef Stefan Matz. More informal dining is provided in Cullen’s Cottage Restaurant beside the river that runs through the estate, or in the castle’s atmospheric dungeons. The Drawing Room also serves light meals and snacks during the day, as well as a magnificent traditional Afternoon Tea.
The Prince of Wales bar, also created for the visit of the heir to the English throne, makes a wonderful setting for a relaxing drink. Given the castle’s previous owners the signature cocktail is Black Velvet – equal parts of Champagne and Guinness.
Each of the castle’s 83 rooms and suites is individually designed, some with four poster beds, open fireplaces and claw foot bath tubs. Many of the original features have been preserved but all are equipped with modern amenities including Wi-Fi and interactive TV.
Because the castle was for so long the private estate of wealthy families who loved their hunting, shooting and fishing guests enjoy a brilliant choice of activities. There’s some of the best salmon, trout and pike fishing in all Ireland, as well as a splendidly equipped falconry and equestrian centre. Golfers can play the estate’s 9-hole parkland course and the castle is within easy reach of some of the world’s finest links. There’s boating, cruising water skiing and kayaking on the lake, as well as tennis, cycling clay pigeon shooting and archery. For the less energetic there’s no shortage of enchanting walks, and a luxurious spa.
Add to this the generous hospitality and exceptional service for which the hotel is so famous and it’s no wonder it has been voted No1 Hotel in Ireland by Conde Nast Traveller Gold List 2013 and No3 best resort hotel in Europe in the Conde Nast Traveller Readers choice Awards 2012. Ashford Castle is a proud member of the Red Carnation Hotel Collection.