When we think of Ireland, we tend to think of good beer, the witty and happy locals, and the lush green landscape with castles, like something out of a fairy tale. And, if you know me, you’ll know that I love castles with their charming medieval architecture and breathtaking gardens. For my birthday and babymoon, my husband and I were treated to stay at some of the best castles in Ireland. Thus our grand adventure begins with Ashford Castle, a stunning and majestic place where magical meets luxury.
Location: County Galway, on the Mayo-Galway Border
Built in 1228 and gifted to the Irish government by the Guinness family, Ashford Castle is part of the Red Carnation Hotel Collection and won Hotel of the Year Award by the AA Hospitality Awards in 2017. With its recent restoration, luxurious rooms, and amazing food, we had to make this castle a stop on our trip. Ashford Castle offers a range of experiences for any traveler and I was eager to try everything I could during my stay.
Ashford Castle boasts one of the best falconry schools in Ireland and what a fantastic experience it was! Our instructor guide was so knowledgeable and friendly. The class was an hour and a half, and we spent it getting up close and personal with the birds of prey. My hawk, Inca, came from Peru, and I found her to be strikingly beautiful and powerful. We did a “hawk-walk” through the castle grounds, sending Inca through the groves and calling her back to perch on my arm. It was such an exciting and different experience, and it was easily the highlight of my trip! I cannot recommend the school of falconry enough.
Another thing I really enjoyed was simply strolling the castle estate. Ireland is such a gorgeous place, and walking among the trees and stunning gardens in the autumn, submerged in the warm fall colors, made the experience even more magical.
After mornings of strolling the grounds or a hawk-walk, nothing better than a traditional Irish afternoon tea to relax and decompress. The Connaught Room is a lavish and cozy room with intricate wood paneling, antique furniture, and a vista of the gardens and lake nearby. You do not need to stay at Ashford Castle to book an afternoon tea experience, although you should make a reservation in advance.
Meeting with the castle’s friendly wolfhounds resident, Cronan and Garvan, is another highlight worth mentioning. The dogs are like celebrities there, everyone wants to snag a picture with them!
How to meet them: at 9am every morning you can take part of a walk with them OR at 10am they come to the castle main hall (The Wood Pannelled Oak Hall) and hang out there for a little bit.
Also, I wouldn’t be able to talk about Ashford Castle without mentioning their state-of-the-art spa facility. The spa includes exceptional treatment rooms, a Hammam, a relaxing steam room and a beautiful terrace area. I could easily spend a whole full day there. It’s definitely a must do experience.
Note for the fast-foot traveler, I really recommend biking, especially to the village of Cong in County Mayo. You can borrow bikes from the Castle. The village is small but very picturesque with the stone walls along the road and the quaint homes. If you are hungry or in need of a coffee, you cannot miss the Hungry Monk Café. The people are welcoming and friendly, and the food is amazing. I have to say that my favorite meals and moments in Ireland were from small places like this where you could scope out the local flavor.
Hope you like the post! Let me know what your thoughts are in the comments. ♥