November 15, 2013

Cong, Ireland: Spend a night at Ashford Castle; hotel reviews

Ashford Castle  

In Cong, 30 mi. N of Galway.  83 guest rooms.  Breakfast included; 3 restaurants; 2 bars.  Health spa; bicycle rentals. 

back view of Ashford Castle in Cong, Ireland
back view of Ashford Castle in Cong, Ireland

One of the finest and most luxurious castle hotels in Ireland, this impressive property is set on 350 acres along the shores of Ireland’s largest lake, Lough Corrib, and the River Cong (both are famous for trout and salmon fishing).  It offers country sports that include horseback riding, fly fishing, golfing on its own nine-hole course, clay shooting, and hawk walks.  Guests can take leisurely walks through the grounds and along many paths, visit a variety of magnificent formal gardens, and as well as take boat rides on the lake.  A round of golf is complimentary with every stay.  Public rooms in the castle are fitted with wood-coffered ceilings, Waterford chandeliers, huge Chippendale mirrors, period furniture, fine art objects, and warming fireplaces.  Wi-Fi is free in the magnificent Drawing Room lounge, where a full afternoon tea is served. 

tea service in the Drawing Room at Ashford Castle in Cong, Ireland
tea service in the Drawing Room at Ashford Castle in Cong, Ireland

This castle dates back to the 13th century.  It was the Guinness family home from 1855 until 1939, when it became a hotel.  In 1970, it was acquired and developed by Irish-American John A. Mulcahy.  Visitors come from around the world and have included President Ronald Reagan, Oscar Wilde, John Lennon, Brad Pitt, Pierce Brosnan (who rented the entire castle in 2001 for his wedding), King George V of Britain, and King Edward VII--for whom a special billiard room was built.

Poshly appointed guest rooms include 83 in the original section of the castle that date back to the 13th and 17th centuries.  They feature high ceilings, traditional four-poster beds, original fireplaces, and antique furniture. Some have clawfoot tubs.  Rooms in the newer wing date to the late 1960s and are also quite nice.  I can attest that corner room 316 has a commanding view of the bridge and river and a lovely soaking tub.  Being in the center of this vast estate, as the castle is, makes for a deep quiet at night. 

Built in the late 1800s in honor of a visit by the Prince of Wales (the future King George V of England), the Prince of Wales Cocktail Bar is perfect for an afternoon or pre-dinner cocktail.  It is also the place to be a 6 p.m. on September 26 to raise a glass of Guinness in celebration of Arthur’s Day--the birthday of former owner Sir Arthur Guinness (all of Ireland does the same thing at this time).  When the Dungeon Bar is open, it is a fine option and features evening entertainment. 

The George V Dining Room offers elegant evening dining, as well as a more relaxed breakfast buffet in 
the morning.  For dinner, a jacket and tie are required, but if you forget to pack them you can borrow from a small closet selection.  The more intimate Connaught Room, located in the old wing, is open May through September.  Built about 10 years ago, Cullen’s at the Cottage operates within a spacious thatched-roof cottage and offers a less fussy and pricey, but still delicious, menu featuring items such as fish & chips, seafood pies, and steak.

updated September 8, 2023

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