Warm freshly baked scones with jam and cream are served daily atop delicate chinaware in the Connaught room of Ashford Castle, the jewel in the crown of the Red Carnation Hotel Collection. Accompanied by either a warm beverage or champagne, this afternoon tea ritual is heightened by the glorious views the 13th century castle offers of the Lough Corrib, the largest lake within the Republic of Ireland.
Here’s what you can expect from a visit to this iconic building and why it deserves a place on your travel bucket list:
In 1228 Ashford Castle was founded and built by the Anglo Norman de Burgo family. Since then it has had many other families take ownership, including the Browne family in 1715, the Guinness family (owners of the famous beverage brand) in 1852 and finally the Red Carnation Hotel Collection in 2013, with president and founder of Red Carnation Hotels, Mrs Beatrice Tollman, leading its restoration.
It owes its architectural beauty to its different owners, with each impacting the way the castle is presented today. The de Burgos constructed its medieval grandeur, the Brownes introduced an elegant French style chateau, the Guinness family are to thank for its regal Victorian influence and the Tollmans, its modern luxury.
Along the way its different owners have collected a variety of treasures, something captured perfectly in the Connaught room, where the silver tea set of Lord and Lady Ardilaun (of the Guinness family) is displayed. BeatriceTollman, as founder of Red Carnation, has also added her own antiques to the hotel from her family’s extensive travels, along with 130 exquisite chandeliers.
The castle’s beauty and surroundings have attracted many notable figures over the years, including Hollywood greats John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, who stayed here in 1951 during the filming of “The Quiet Man,” a romantic love story based in Ireland.
From the Golden Age of Hollywood to the opulent rooms of modern Ashford Castle, guests are met with elegance at every corner. Deluxe furnishings, outstanding details and striking views can be found in all its suites, while the renovation of the castle’s boathouse to a luxurious hideaway cottage, offers guests a private getaway.
Other rooms to explore during your stay include an award-winning spa, cinema, cigar terrace, billiard room and wine cellars.
Dining options at this five-star hotel do not disappoint. Offering all the splendour you should expect from a fine dining experience, you’ll enjoy a delicious Farm-to Table menu of delights, with locally sourced food in the George V restaurant. A favourite is the plate of slow roasted rib of beef, served with béarnaise sauce and a red wine and shallot jus. End your courses with a tempting desert. The Nyangbo frozen chocolate mousse served with estate grown crab pear gel is particularly good.
More casual food options can be found in the Dungeon. Located on the lower ground floor of the castle, the restaurant serves traditional Irish cuisine. Or perhaps opt for a relaxed dining experience at Cullen’s at the Cottage. This pretty thatched building used to be the Cong Cinema and was the first place to show Hollywood hit, “The Quiet Man.” The menu includes meals inspired by owner Beatrice Tollman, such as the delicious signature dish, Chicken Peri Peri. This venue is found just a short walk from the castle.
There are plenty of activities available for those wanting to make the most of their stay at the castle. From falconry to horse riding, clay shooting, cycling, tennis, canoeing and fishing, you’ll have lots on offer to keep you entertained.
And for those looking for a relaxed stay, the castle offers wine tastings, daily movie screenings and spa treatments in its luxurious spa suite. Having recently been awarded the “Overall Spa of the Year 2018” by Irish Tatler, it provides guests with a number of treatments, personalized to their requirements. Its state-of-the-art facilities are spread across five treatment rooms, a Hammam and a steam room. It also holds a terrace area which offers beautiful views over Lough Corrib lake.