The luxurious Ashford Castle is arguably one of the best known of the many Irish castle hotels.
If you’re planning to visit county Mayo, and you want to do so in style, Ashford Castle could be the place for you.
This impressive medieval castle has changed hands throughout the centuries, and now functions as a luxury hotel and resort. Even if you don’t stay there, it’s worth checking out this incredible piece of history.
Some quick need-to-knows about Ashford Castle in Mayo
Although a visit to Ashford Castle is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
Ashford Castle sits on the banks of the mighty Lough Corrib, right on the County Galway/County Mayo border. It’s just a 5-minute drive outside the charming village of Cong, known for its underground streams and rich history.
2. A very brief history
Ashford Castle dates back to 1228, when it was first built by the House of Burke. The Burkes eventually lost the castle in 1589, when it was expanded for the first of many times. In 1852, the castle was purchased by the famous Guinness Family. In 1939, the estate was sold once again, and was finally transformed into the first iteration of the luxury hotel we know today.
3. One of the finest hotels in Ireland
The castle has passed hands several times since it was first transformed into a hotel, but it has always remained one of the best hotels, not just in Ireland, but possibly the world. Top-notch service is assured, while the estate features everything from golf courses to world-class spas.
A brief history of Ashford Castle
The castle was first built in 1228 on the site of an ancient monastery by the de Burgos (the Anglo-Norman Burke family).
The de Burgos held the castle until 1589, when it fell to Sir Richard Bingham, the Lord President of Connaught. After taking the castle, Bingham had a fortified enclave built.
It’s not clear whether it was 1670 or 1678, but in one of those years the castle passed to the Browne Family, who received it in a royal grant.
By 1715, the Browne’s had established the estate and had a grand hunting lodge constructed. Drawing inspiration from a typical 17th century French chateau, the roof was decorated with the family coat of arms, a double-headed eagle.
The Guinness family
In 1852, the castle and its estate was bought by Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness of the famous brewing family. During his time, he extended the estate by 26,000 acres, added Victorian style extensions, and planted a veritable forest of trees on the grounds.
His son, Lord Ardilaun, carried on the work, adding even more buildings, this time in the Neogothic style. A passionate gardener, Lord Ardilaun developed huge swathes of woodlands, and later rebuilt large sections of the castle and added battlements throughout.
From castle to hotel
In 1939, Lord Ardilaun’s nephew, Ernest Guinness, sold the castle to Noel Huggard. Huggard opened the estate up as a luxury hotel, which soon became renowned for offering an array of country pursuits.
Since the 1970s, various hotel developers have bought, owned, and expanded the estate, with additions such as new wings, golf courses, and gardens springing up in recent decades.
Ashford Castle is currently owned by Red Carnation Hotels, and regularly ranks among the world’s best hotels. Over the years, guests such as John Lennon, Oscar Wilde, King George V, Ronald Reagan, Robin Williams, Brad Pitt, and many more, have enjoyed a luxury stay at Ashford Castle.
What to expect from a stay at Ashford Castle
At present, the Ashford estate encompasses a whopping 350-acres, providing endless opportunities and activities. Here’s what you can expect from your stay at Ashford Castle.
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You can stay at the castle or the lodge
On the Ashford Estate you’ll find numerous buildings, and you can stay at either the castle itself, or the equally exquisite lodge (check prices).
Rooms and suites at the lodge are typically a lot more affordable than those within the castle proper. There’s also the Hideaway Cottage, a small lakeside getaway that offers intimacy and privacy, while boasting all the luxury services on offer at the castle.
The lodge dates back to 1865, so if you’re looking to stay somewhere more than 800 years old, the castle is probably the better choice. Having said that, the lodge boasts incredible views over the estate, and provides ample opportunity to spoil yourself (check prices)!
A host of activities on-site
With more than 350-acres of grounds, there are endless country pursuits and sports to indulge in at Ashford Castle.
The estate offers a veritable playground of things to do, and guests at the castle for hundreds of years have enjoyed classic country pastimes that include; Falconry, fishing, horse riding, shooting and archery.
You can still enjoy these activities, as well as a host of more modern pursuits, including: golf, kayaking, cycling, zip-lining, stand-up paddleboarding and tennis
As well as outdoor activities, there’s plenty to do indoors too. An exquisite spa and wellness centre will put mind, body, and soul at ease, while the cinema is a great place to chill out. There are also a number of cultural experiences and workshops to explore.
The rooms, dining and the very fancy bar at Ashford Castle
You can expect to dine like royalty at Ashford Castle, which boasts an array of top quality restaurants and tearooms. Each offers an exquisite dining experience, amid spectacular surroundings, with dishes from award-winning chefs to tantalize the taste buds.
There are 6 different restaurants at the castle, each offering something a little different. The George V Dining Room offers a fine dining experience, while the atmospheric Dungeon provides a bistro style menu. Meanwhile, Stanleys is a relaxed American style diner, and Cullen’s at the cottage offers a casual atmosphere with great views of the castle.
The Drawing Room is ideal for a coffee or a light lunch, while the Connaught Room is the perfect place to take afternoon tea or a wine dinner.
A fine place for a pint
The Prince of Wales Bar is one of the finest places to grab a pint in all of Ireland. Built in the 1800s, the bar is packed full of character, with wood paneling, rich fabrics, warming fireplaces, and traditional furniture. They offer pints of Guinness, as well as a selection of cocktails, spirits, wines, and alcohol free beverages. You can also enjoy a guided whiskey, gin, or wine tasting.
The Billiards room and Cigar Terrace is another superb place to relax with a glass of your favourite tipple and a fine cigar. They offer an exquisite selection of the finest Irish single-pot whiskey, unique to the country and a real treat.
There are 83 rooms and suites in the castle, each beautifully designed and featuring a blend of traditional decor with modern touches. A number of rooms offer spectacular views over Lough Carrib, while others boast panoramic views over the estate. Each is furnished with extremely comfortable furniture, with unique artwork and decor throughout.
The suites and staterooms take things up to the next level, offering huge amounts of space, 4-poster beds, antique furniture, original fireplaces, and private dining areas. Each and every room never fails to impress, and only the finest linens, towels, bathrobes, and slippers are provided.
Things to do near Ashford Castle
While there are seemingly endless things to do in the castle grounds, there’s lots more to explore nearby too.
One of the beauties of a visit to Ashford is that it’s a stone’s throw from many of the best things to do in Mayo. Here are some suggestions.
The village of Cong is packed full of history and olde-worlde charm, and it’s just 5 minutes drive from the castle. Home to thatched cottages, curious boutiques, quirky cafes, and gorgeous bridges crossing the lake, it’s a superb place to relax and stroll a little, taking in the local sights and sounds.
2. Tourmakeady Wood
Tourmakeady Waterfall is like something from a fairy tale, and if you feel like stretching your legs and being one with nature, this is the place to do it! There are a number of walking trails to enjoy, though the most popular has to be the Tourmakeady forest trail, which follows the banks of the Glensaul River, before arriving at the magnificent Tourmakeady Waterfall.
The Connemara district is packed full of exciting things to do and breathtaking things to see. With sections of coastline looking out to the Atlantic Ocean, to the forests and mountains of Connemara National Park, you could spend weeks exploring the various bays and historical sites.
FAQs about visiting Ashford Castle hotel
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from is a stay at Ashford Castle hotel worth it and is there much to do on the grounds.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
Is a stay at Ashford Castle hotel really worth it?
A night at Ashford Castle hotel isn’t cheap. If you have the budget, it’s definitely a unique experience to say the least. However, if staying here is really going to hit your bank account, there are plenty of other great hotels in Mayo that’ll suit your budget.
What is the Lodge at Ashford Castle like?
We’ve heard good things about the Lodge at Ashford Castle. Currently, on Google Reviews, it’s rated 4.7/5 from 629 reviews.
Can you visit Ashford Castle if you’re not staying there?
You can visit the grounds (you need to pay to access them) but you can’t actually walk into the castle itself (as far as we know).