Go behind the scenes at Ashford Castle, the #1 Resort and Inn in Great Britain and Ireland.
I have the best job in the world. Not only do I get to help you vacation in inspiring destinations, experience different cultures, and meet new people…I have the opportunity to travel myself. One of the wonderful trips I recently took included a stay at the world-famous, five-star Ashford Castle, situated on the on the picturesque shores of Lough Corrib, in western Ireland. This exquisite property is one of the jewels in The Travel Corporation family, having been acquired by The Red Carnation Hotel Collection in 2013.
Step back in history
Ashford Castle’s rich history dates back to 1228 when it was it built by the Anglo-Norman House of Burke. The castle survived nearly three centuries of residence by the house of Burke (sometimes noted as Bourke or even Burgo). Though the family would build several castles throughout Ireland, Ashford would serve as their primary residence for more than 300 years. The castle eventually fell in the 15th century to the Bingham house during battle. It was this family who, over the next several generations, would fortify it and add interior enclaves.
The castle got its first taste as a lodge in the 1600’s when the Browne family turned it into a hunting lodge. Today the pair of eagles representing the Browne coat of arms is still visible on the roof of the Castle.
It eventually passed between several different proprietors over the years, until it was acquired by the famed Guinness family. Under the ownership of Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness — who purchased the property in 1852 — Ashford Castle was extended to include several Victorian-style additions as well as more than 20,000 acres of land. The castle remained in the Guinness family until 1939, when it was ultimately sold to the Huggard family. At this phase of the castle’s history, it becomes, for the first time, a top-rated, first-class hotel.
While continuing on as a sought-out hotel, the property also began to gain notoriety in pop culture. In 1951 director John Ford sought out and used the castle in his movie, “The Quiet Man.” Over the years many more film and television makers would go on to use the castle as a backdrop for their period stories. Most recently the castle is used as French Court in the CW drama “Reign.”
In the 1970s the castle expanded again, once again doubling in size under the new ownership of John Mulcahy. He also renovated the property, updated the gardens, and added a golf course. In the years following, the castle became a top destination, often named on many “Best Of” lists.
Operated as a hotel for more than a century, the castle came into The Red Carnation Hotel Collection in 2013. A two-year, $75 million renovation program, headed by architect Philippe Bonino and Red Carnation Hotels founder and president Beatrice Tollman. During this time, the renovations included the addition of a private, 30-seat theater inside of the castle and a cigar terrace. The Ashford added a state of the art spa and wine tunnels in 2015. Tollman and Red Carnation not only restored the 13th-century castle but reaffirmed its status as one of the most prestigious hotels in Europe — a true celebration of past, present, and future.
Today, Ashford Castle ranks as the #1 property in Ireland on Trip Advisor and is frequented by important figures from around the world including presidents and royalty. Of course, all guests of Ashford Castle feel like royalty with world-class accommodations, superb dining, and an array of noble activities to choose from including horseback riding, archery, tennis, and falconry.
Falconry at Ashford
Ireland’s School of Falconry is housed on castle grounds and offers a unique experience to castle guests. The oldest falconry school in Ireland, the signature experience is the private “Hawk Walk.” This sixty-minute tour gives guests the option to fly a Harris hawk around castle grounds within moments of arriving. The best part? Since the tours are one-on-one, the experience can be catered to everyone on a personalized level. This means an experienced falconer can explore new techniques, while first-timers or children can have a completely different experience. Even better yet- spectators are never charged to watch the hawks fly!
Dining at Ashford
Ashford Castle is as celebrated for its gastronomy almost as much as its history, as only the best in both
traditional and adventurous Irish cuisines are served. The castle offers four dining rooms, each with their own personality. From the grandeur of the George V dining room to the casual elegance at Cullens, there is something for everyone- including the option to dine at “Dungeons!”
The finest of cuisine is offered in the George V dining room, aptly named for a former guest, the dining room features live piano music and superb culinary delights. Of course, it’s important to have a traditional afternoon tea, served daily in the Connaught Room. Your tea is served with an assortment of wildflower accented cupcakes, scones, and finger sandwiches. Apart from the food, guests also rave about the celebrated and extensive wine cellars. The resort serves wine to your heart’s content in the dining rooms, but also offers cellar wine tastings to enthusiasts.
While visiting and enjoying my stay at Ashford my personal favorite activity was strolling the magnificent Castle grounds with two Irish wolfhounds.
Oh, and of course be sure to take a short walk to visit Mrs. Tea’s Boutique and Bakery, the castle’s exclusive boutique shop. It’s filled with gift items from local artisan suppliers, luxury Irish products, and freshly baked Irish treats. Yes, I did sample quite a few!
Experience warm Irish hospitality Each of the 83 rooms and suites represents traditional elegance with an immaculate amount of detail in the works of art, lovingly designed fabrics, and carefully chosen antique furnishings. The combination of original castle features and modern luxuries make these Corrib, deluxe, and lake-view rooms the perfect destination to experience Ireland. The warm Irish hospitality at Ashford Castle fills your stay with fine dining and a wealth of activities at your doorstep.