Ashford Castle, Ireland

Dark Hedges Northern Ireland
Photo by Mnieteq/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images
Ashford Castle is set on the shores of Lough Corrib, which is known for its brown trout, salmon and pike fishing.
Ashford Castle is set on the shores of Lough Corrib, which is known for its brown trout,
salmon and pike fishing.

We’re just back from Ireland where the nearly 790-year-old Ashford Castle has reopened after a two-year restoration project. Here’s our review.

Set against a backdrop of woodlands and lakes, Ashford Castle, formerly owned by the Guinness family, has been restored to its former glory. Overseen by Red Carnation Hotel’s founder and president, Beatrice Tollman, and architect Philippe Bonino, the work has retained the resort’s classical and historical elements which give Ashford Castle its charm, but, we say, guests can expect five-star luxury alongside the posh surroundings.

Structurally, the property has undergone multiple changes, with new stonework, windows and roofs. Behind the scenes, the castle’s kitchens have even been moved closer to the dining room to ensure quicker service. Keep an eye out for the antique additions throughout the public spaces, including the late 19th-century suit of armor and the two stone Irish wolfhounds.

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Under the restoration, no two guest rooms are the same. All 70 rooms and 15 staterooms and suites have been completely refurbished. Key elements include the raw silk wallpaper, original artwork and antique pieces combined with modern technological touches such as mood light dimming and I-Luv speakers.

Prince of Wales BAR has fine wood paneling, traditional furnishings and original fireplace.
Prince of Wales BAR has fine wood paneling, traditional furnishings and original fireplace.

For VIPs looking for the top digs, we love the split-level Reagan Presidential Suite. It has its own separate seating area, perfect for enjoying the daily complimentary canapés and floor-to-ceiling views of the lake, Lough Corrib.

Good to know: History buffs will want to stay in one of the castle’s six staterooms, which are all located in the oldest part of the castle (dating back as early as the 13th century). These rooms have original fireplaces, spacious sandstone tubs to soak in, as well as a four-poster bed. 

Traveling with children in tow? The hotel has added an array of new kid-friendly additions to its amenities. On arrival, young travelers will receive the red-carpet treatment with a greeting of freshly made cookies from the kitchen, personalized with their name. Little “knights” will be gifted a sword and sheath, whilst aspiring “princesses” and “fairies” are given a tiara or fairy wings. When the kids aren’t exploring the vast grounds they can be kept entertained with the Lego room service menu as well as a new children’s games room.

Adults can seek refuge in the new billiards room or kick back with a Cuban cigar and lake views on one of the castle’s new terraces. Top Tip: Enjoy a rare Irish whiskey on the Connemara marble bar top in the enhanced George V bar whilst checking out the antique displays in the tabletops.

Note: Luxury travel advisors sending their top clients should contact General Manager Niall Rochford ([email protected]), who, with 14 years of experience at Ashford Castle, will be there to help with any of your A-listers’ needs.

When guests have finished exploring every nook and cranny of the castle, they can head outdoors and explore the 350 acres of sprawling landscape. Aviary enthusiasts will want to check out the resort’s enhanced Falconry school, Ireland’s first, where visitors can walk through the woodlands whilst flying their own Harris hawk. Those wanting to raise their heart rate can visit the two updated tennis courts, complete with new all-weather surfaces (a must with the rainy Irish weather) and an onsite tennis coach to help guests perfect their game. Golfers can make a hole-in-one on the fortified 9-hole course, whilst aspiring fishermen can reap the knowledge of one of the six fishing ghillies on site. Advisors can enlist Thomas Breen ([email protected]), the property’s activity coordinator, to make any on-resort reservations for VIP clients. 

Suites (below) come with king- size beds and sofa beds, a large private dining space, and a luxurious bathroom (above).

For those seeking shelter on a rainy day, we recommend wiling away an afternoon in the red velvet surroundings of the hotel’s new 32-seat cinema room. There will be an array of movies available, including a daily showing of “The Quiet Man,” which was filmed on site, as well as a selection of films starring the countless stars who have stayed at the castle (check out the 2nd floor gallery to see all the famous faces who have graced the halls, from Brad Pitt to Grace Kelly). Moviegoers in need of some refreshments will enjoy the freshly made popcorn from the castle’s kitchen.

Suites come with king- size beds and sofa beds, a large private dining space, and a luxurious bathroom (above).For guests craving a bite to eat, we suggest a visit to the enhanced Connaught Room. Here hotel residents and visitors alike can enjoy the famous afternoon tea along with garden views. Nibbles include finger sandwiches, warm scones and wild flower adorned pastries and cakes (our favorite is the Connemara whiskey lemon scented cupcake) alongside some speciality teas. Kids can feel like a real lord or lady with the afternoon tea for junior guests including milkshakes and other homemade treats. A must do is dinner in the George V Dining Room. Guests can dine under one of the new sparkling Waterford Crystal chandeliers whilst the resident pianist plays in the background. Take your pick from hearty fare such as the slow roasted rib of beef served with a homemade béarnaise sauce and a red wine and shallot jus. Top Tip: Guys will need a dinner jacket and tie whilst dining. Ladies don’t forget to dress up, too!

Looking for a more intimate setting, we got a sneak peek at the old coal bunkers which have been converted into an underground wine store. Guests will be able to dine in the private cellars or enjoy a tipple in the wine tasting rooms. Have a larger group? The wine rooms can fit up to 40 guests.

Ashford Castle has saved the best for last with the final piece of its renovations, the new spa and pool, which opened in July. We suggest taking sanctuary in one of the five spa treatment rooms, perhaps with a top-to-toe aromatic stone massage, a deep detoxifying herbal wrap or a Gommage marin toning body polish using guerande sea salts with verbena and rosemary. Men can also get some much needed TLC with the speciality range of just- for-him treatments, including massages and facials. Hint: Guests can also keep active with a dip in the ozone-filtrated swimming pool and a trip to the technogym.

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