If you want to experience the dream vacation of a lifetime and the true essence of Ireland, the Ashford Lodge and Castle is the place for you. Do you want to feel like royalty, be pampered, and experience a real Irish castle? The property hosts loads of activities without breaking the bank; then West Ireland is calling your name!
As Ireland’s first and only Forbes five-star hotel and former castle of the Guinness family, this is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The estate covers over 350 acres of impeccably manicured grounds and walking trails. As an airline pilot, I travel the world and have access to some pretty amazing places. Ashford Lodge has just landed as my number-one destination! Follow along with me on this amazing journey and get inspired to make it your number-one destination too.
1. Ashford Lodge
The Lodge was built in 1865 for the estate manager of the castle. It is a quiet, white-washed, two-floor property with 64 well-appointed rooms. Nestled on top of a hill, the Lodge has incredible views of Lough Corrib, a small quaint bay, and rolling green hills. Inside the Lodge is Wilde’s Dining Room, an elegant and modern restaurant that serves mouth-watering, classical, locally sourced dishes. Included in your stay is a daily two-course, delicious Irish breakfast. The ambiance, setting, food, and impeccable service carry over as the goal of each team member’s Irish charm is to make a difference for each and every guest.
A lovely Quay Brasserie and a bar are also available if you choose to snuggle into a comfy chair gazing over the sweeping views of Lough Corrib, or stroll and see the collection of fine art. The most enjoyable part of staying at the Lodge is the informal and intimate setting while still having access to the castle and its grounds at a fraction of the price!
2. Luskin Suite
The Ashford Lodge is a hidden gem offering a classic castle setting with a contemporary offering. I stayed in the Luskin Suite. The room was plush and modernized with all the amenities that made me feel like a queen! Each room has elegant surroundings, Egyptian cotton linens, deluxe thirsty cotton towels perched upon a towel warmer, thick robes, and slippers. The Luskin Suite also includes a chocolate fudge turndown service!
3. Ashford Castle
The Ashford Castle resides below the Lodge and is a short 5-minute walk through one of the most enchanting forests I’ve ever seen. If you aren’t up for the stroll, or it starts to sprinkle, a complimentary Range Rover is always available to give you a ride down to the castle.
Guests staying at the Lodge have the same access to experiences as those who stay at the pricier castle.
There are so many activities at the castle, however, it’s hard to only pick a few. There is something for everyone. They offer an equestrian center, fishing, boat rentals, bicycling, trap shooting, a nine-hole golf course, archery, a boat cruise, tennis, a traditional afternoon tea service, a spa service, and miles of walking trails. You can join the daily morning organized walk with the castle’s resident Irish Wolfhounds or join a docent for a historic walk through the preserve’s trails. You can soak up some movie history strolling through the buildings used during the filming of The Quiet Man, starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara.
One of the best activities I did for myself didn’t cost a cent! I unplugged, put on my windbreaker and tennis shoes, and walked. I walked miles, alone and in the silence of the forest. I heard a symphony of birds chirping while my footsteps crunched on the gravel. I didn’t hear the roar of jet engines or the clicking of rushing heels in the airport, and I rarely spotted another guest. This magical area is a place to come to unwind and be pampered.
Pro Tips: If you happen to catch a salmon or black trout, the restaurant will prepare it for you. If dining at the castle, remember to wear a coat and tie! Be sure to reserve your activities in advance with a reservation specialist.
4. Falconry School Of Ireland
It was hard to choose, but I lucked out and felt like I won the golden ticket when I experienced a private hawk walk at the castle’s Falconry School. It is the first, oldest, and finest Falconry school in Ireland. Flying hawks is an experience of a lifetime! My time with “Pippin,” the Harris hawk, was one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced. They are well cared for, flown daily, and awe-inspiring birds you can experience in an up close and personal way. We walked and flew together, strolling through magnificent green pastures, trees, and onto groomed trails. The power and grace of these remarkable creatures are awe-inspiring. I would return to Ireland just for this!
5. The Wilde’s Restaurant
After a full day of activities, I worked up quite an appetite. The calming cottage feel of The Wilde’s restaurant is a nice juxtaposition with its “white tablecloth” service. I started with a recommended glass of Austrian sparkling wine and a chicken consommé and puffed pastry soup. There is nothing simple about an Irish basket of freshly baked bread and Irish butter with sea salt. My entrée was a spectacular locally sourced rack of lamb served with potatoes dauphine and vegetables. It was followed by a decadent dessert of dark chocolate mousse with butterscotch ice cream infused with sea salt. I am a self-proclaimed, world-traveled foodie; this dinner was superb! For breakfast, I was spoiled with a two-course Irish breakfast. I started with freshly squeezed juices, selections from Mueslix, fruit, and Irish porridge followed by a main entrée. I chose Irish eggs Benedict. It was a fabulous meal to fuel another day of activities.
Pro Tip: The Lodge offers room specials including a three-course dinner.
6. The West Coast
Most travelers choose to stay in or around Dublin on the east coast of Ireland. But the truly magical storytime images of Ireland lie in the countryside on the west coast. The beauty of the west coast has loads of unspoiled windswept coastlines, woodlands and valleys, winding narrow roads with little traffic, and herds of sheep dotting the fields. Adding to the breathtaking scenery are tiny towns and villages with cobblestone streets, thatched-roof buildings, and quaint pubs dotting the main street.
The Emerald Coast of Ireland is filled with history, rugged beauty, and friendly residents. This part of the countryside has authentic Irish culture, rugged scenery, and towering cliffs you won’t find anywhere else.
Pro Tip: If you love Guinness beer, come and see how nature inspired its creation! The castle at one time was owned by the Guinness family.
Daily flights from the U.S. to Shannon (SNN) airport make getting to the castle a breeze. It’s a short 2-hour drive north to the property. I recommend stopping halfway for a walk and tea in the town of Galway, most notably the largest Gaelic-speaking population in Ireland. Cobblestone streets and Irish pubs, shops, and restaurants make up the true Irish charm of this famous little corner of the world.
Watch a youtube video on driving on the left! Save your receipt for goods purchased. You can get your VAT tax returned at the airport when you depart. During October, the castle has a Harry Potter-themed Halloween event with live hawks! Consider traveling in the off-season to get even better room rates!