Screenshot 2014-02-18 10.37.39From.the.BoatAshfordSittingRoomBarFalconryConnell.Dinglepath Dad. Grounds Castle

Ashford.Cullens

Built in 1229 as a medieval castle on the banks of Lough Corrib (Lake Corrib) in County Mayo, Ireland, Ashford Castle is now five star luxury hotel that celebrates an interesting history.  The Castle has expanded with the centuries and its many owners, including the Guinness family.  The grounds are breathtaking and the property’s rich history is palpable from the moment you drive through the main gate and wind for over a mile through lush, green scenery.  The stone bridge over the River Cong marks the actual entrance to the Castle and once you cross it, you are greeted by name by members of an extremely friendly and helpful staff that continue to treat you like royalty for the duration of your stay.

I loved our cozy room that had a beautiful view of the swans making their way from the lake to the river. As the weather was chilly and rainy, I appreciated the coziness of the upholstered antique furniture, even if a few of the pieces could benefit from a facelift!

The hotel offers many unique activities. Dad and I took advantage of the opportunity to cruise Lough Corrib, which has roughly 1,200 little Islands.  We disembarked at Inchagoil Island, famous for it’s two churches and evidence of an early Monastic settlement. We also jumped at the chance to literally try our hands at falconry. Ireland’s School of Falconry, the oldest established school for falconry in Ireland is conveniently located on Ashford Castle’s grounds. Not knowing what to expect, we were delighted to have such a knowledgeable and savvy guide, Connell. Stoker and Swift were our hawks to fly for the morning. There is no rush like having a large hawk flying at full speed, swoosh down on your hand!  Connell also explained the politics of hawk flocks. There is one dominant female bird in the pack. Rua currently rules the roost. However, even when we took out Stoker, a teenage male, and Swift, an older female, he follows her lead while trying to act out and pull some pranks.  We also got to meet Dingle, the cutest, large resident owl at Ashford Castle. Falconry was a highlight, and exceeded our expectations. My favorite unscheduled activity was running the Castle’s acres of wooded trails. I honestly felt like I had been taken back in time and that Robin Hood might pop out behind a tree at any moment.

Ashford Castle offers several dining options. Our first night we opted for the fancy George V dining room and enjoyed an impressive 4 course tasting dinner — Dad was blown away by his pork en croute. The staff was extremely attentive and friendly, the only improvement would be dimmer lighting.  All things considered though, I actually preferred Cullen’s at the Cottage, the property’s cozy, casual option. It was adorable and I loved my scallops!  Also, do not miss breakfast while staying at the Castle.  We became discerning connoisseur’s of Irish Breakfasts, and Ashford Castle’s takes the prize. A decadent spread of everything imaginable.  Fit for a Queen!

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