There are castles. Then there is Ashford Castle a place so sublime that you’d nearly need to pinch yourself into not believing that you’d just set foot inside some mythical Hollywood fairy-tale. Steeped in opulence, grandeur, and history Ashford Castle has it all: Epic sieges, romance, splendour, jaw-dropping scenery, breathtaking architecture, and loads more!
The people who have entered these hallowed grounds reads like a who’s who of world history- Princess Grace of Monaco, Ronald Reagan, Oscar Wilde, Johnny Cash, Sharon Stone, John Wayne, and the list goes on and on and on.
In many Ashford Castle is an irresistible force, it seizes your mind like a rip-tide that refuses to release its grip. Every inch of the place is scrutinised to ensure that you receive maximum pleasure. At Ashford Castle perfectionism knows no bounds. Even the grass takes on a certain aura with the lawns manicured and tended to with all the care and perfection that a heart surgeon would bestow upon a much-loved patient. You could almost imagine the greenkeeper getting down on his knees and using a pair of scissors to clip a single strand of grass that rebelliously waved in the wind. That is the level of detail and class that this location personifies.
But where did it all begin? What was the acorn in the ground that was to grow into such a magnificent edifice?
The original structure was built in 1228 by the De Burgo Family also known as the Burkes. The De Burgos where an Anglo-Norman family who ruled over this area for three centuries until disaster struck when a greedy English Solider by the name of Sir Richard Bingham demanded that the Burkes and other local chieftains pay a tax towards the crown. The Burkes refused.
Ashford Castle then became the scene of one of the most epic sagas in Irish History. The battle that was fought at the Castle in the 16th century between the Burkes and Sir Richard Bingham would make the TV series Game Of Thrones look like a kindergarten play. Eventually, after a bloody battle, the stronghold fell to Bingham who went on to refortify Ashford in preparation for any retaliatory attacks.
In around 1670 the estate, by royal decree, was passed on to Dominick Browne who was Mayor of the Province of Galway. The house of Browne proceeded to build some further works in the site in the style of 17th-century French château.
Most of the modern Victorian style structure to the castle was added in 1715. Other styles that were added to the premises include, as we have already seen, a French- style chateau and also a neo-gothic touch. The many different styles of the castle all combine to make this castle one of the finest of its kind not only in Ireland but the world.
In 1885 the estate was purchased by Sir Benjamin Guinness who went on to further renovate the structure and make it into the place that we now all have come to know and love. When Sir Benjamin died his son Lord Ardilaun oversaw the development of a huge area of woodland surrounding the location. The castle stayed in the possession of the Guinness family until 1939 when Noel Huggard had the honour of purchasing the property. In 1951 the legendary film the Quiet Man was filmed a short mile away from the grounds. In the meantime, a number of other owners purchased the place, most notably the legendary Irish American Businessman Chuck Feeney.
Nowadays, the Castle is like a living breathing museum. Everywhere you look there is something that grabs your attention and not only grabs it but demands your attention. Ashford Castle is one of them places that leaves a long imprint on your memory.
A secret here, a secret there. An ancient story from the past that still has the power to send a shiver down your spine. Just when you think you’ve seen it all Ashford Castle reveals something new. Almost like the wonderment one feels when they come across a beautiful flower in some place that it has no earthly right to be.
Back From The Dead
But with such a splendid structure upkeep becomes vital and in the early 2000’s the place began to fall into disrepair. But like Knights in shining armour The Tollman Family road in and rescued the stricken maiden. All it needed was a bit of love, care, affection, and of course, plenty of money and the ancient edifice was breathed back into life.
Ashford Castle arose like the Phoenix from ashes to not only become an Irish Castle but THE Irish Castle. Not satisfied with becoming the premier Irish establishment for luxuriousness in 2015 an influential Las Vegas travel company crowned the place best hotel/castle in the whole world.
The premises boasts a number of luxury suites that ooze relaxation, elegance, and all-round comforts. An added benefit of staying here is that each bedroom offers breathtaking views across the gardens and out into the stunning waters of Lough Corrib. Dining at Ashford Castle is an experience in itself with some world class food on offer that will be sure to have you salivating at the mouth.
If you visit during the May to September period you’ll be able to take advantage of the Connaught Room which offers a mouth-watering French a la carte menu which is prepared by a world-renowned Michelin Star Chef. If you favour a more lively setting you can always take a trip to the Dungeon Bar which is located on the Castle grounds. You can always decide to take in some of the delights that of the cellar which boasts over 600 premium world-class wines which act to ensure that no visitor will ever go thirsty.
There are a number of other activities that Ashford Castle offers such as a 9 hole golf course and some prime fishing on the world famous Lough Corrib. The place also boasts one of the most prestigious Equestrian Centres in the country and so if you are into your horses well then this is the place for you! An unusual activity you can partake in is Falconry with the Falconfirst Faconry School giving you the rare chance to get up close and personal with some killer birds of prey.
If the weather is overcast and damp, fear not, because Ashford Castle boasts a superb health and beauty centre which comes action-packed with a sauna, steam room, and a full offering of beauty treatments.
You could always decide to take in some of the daily showings of the classic film “The Quiet Man” which was filmed in the nearby village of Cong.
Overall, it is safe to say that Ashford Castle is a special place offering visitors the ultimate fairytale castle experience. The place affords visitors some exquisite views inside and outside the grounds and if you are looking to visit some of the best Castles in the world look no further than Ashford Castle.
Where does this never-ending river of gifts actually end? The answer is that it doesn’t because Ashford Castle is the place that keeps on giving and giving. Like a passionate romance, just when you think your partner has shown you all she can she then goes and pulls another astonishing surprise out of the hat. To truly know this location is impossible but what you do know has your gasping in admiration. The connection between Ashford Castle and the true connoisseurs of life is a romance for the ages, a romance that is to go on and go.