Royalty Living at the Ashford Castle Hotel

Posted on July 23, 2010 by

Ireland’s emerald green fields and stunning rural landscapes are studded with historical castles converted into charming and lavish hotels. Among them, Ashford Castle Hotel stands out for its long and significant history, warm Irish hospitality and exclusive location by Lake Cong.

I’d come to Ireland to uncover the history behind this legendary castle and take a peek at aristocratic living. Criss-crossing the busy streets of Dublin, Alberto and I were out in the Irish countryside within an hour’s drive. Endless green hills and random cottages flanked both sides of the motorway. Just over 3 hours and we were staring at the ancient Ashford Gate and meandering past the towering Redwoods surrounding the castle.

Ashford Castle

 

A Regal Welcome

tn_IMG_7196 Only after five minutes of snaking past sparkling greens did the main house of Ashford Castle appear before us. Crossing an ancient stone bridge, the medieval tower at the end of it towered over us, like a solemn greeting. Welcome to the Land of Aristocracy and Knighthood, it seemingly echoed.

We entered the castle’s main building, only to be greeted by an air of warmth and elegance. In the company of good-humored and genuinely friendly staff, I quickly eased into the casual ambiance, something I had least expected from such an exclusive, high-end property.

Most of Ashford’s staff have been around for several decades, T.J. Mulcahy, the hotel’s Deputy General Manager told me. It’s no wonder they behave like a family, and the guests, vistors of their family home. Warm hospitality aside, the staff keeps every single detail in mind, including every guest’s last name.

Ashford Castle on a sunny day

Historical Role in Ireland’s History

Roof paneling and wooden furnishing in hotel lobby Ashford Castle has a significant role in Ireland’s history: it used to be the Guinness family’s summer residence centuries ago. The castle is thus a living testimony to the milestones and important events that have taken place in Ireland.

Its lavish Connaught Room, located in the far end of the hotel’s lobby, used to be the family’s dining room. Today, it is decorated with invaluable portrait paintings and china porcelain. The Drawing Room too is tastefully embellished with framed artworks from those days, as well as paintings and furniture dating back to the 13th century.

And that’s not just it. The intricately-crafted roof paneling and exquisite wooden furnishing in the hotel lobby are original, dating back to the 1200s. Although the main castle building was extended in the 1700s and later in the 1900s, designs and layout were kept to fit the castle’s overall aesthetics. 

Connaught Room

Suites Fit for Royalty

Back in my suite, I was astounded to find an inviting view of Lake Cong before me. The living room and sleeping area are separated by a door, and both rooms were equipped with TV and plush furnishing. Decorated with velvet upholstery, floral-patterned wall papers and carpeted flooring, the suite exudes a kind of sophistication only fit for royalty. Our bathroom, the size of my apartment room back at home, is a classic example of indulgence.

In the State Rooms, guests can snuggle in their four-poster bed, blanketed with burgundy beddings and white linen. These rooms, the best in the hotels, all look out into the expansive lake and fountain.

Ashford Castle State Room

Award-winning Cuisine

George V Dining Room, Ashford Castle And of course, a hotel fit for royalty has to dish up cuisine of world-class standards. Having recently nabbed the Best Chef Award 2010 (not his first time), resident chef Stephen Matz immaculately prepares modern cuisine with a traditional Irish twist.

I had the chance to sample the special dinner menu at the hotel’s in-house restaurant, George V Dining Room. As a highly-acclaimed restaurant in Ireland, George V is one of the most visited culinary establishments in the area and is reputed for its innovative flavors.

First dish on the menu: crisp local lamb fillet dipped in sun-dried tomatoes. At first glance, the dish looked simple and fairly minimalistic. But one bite and my mouth was assaulted by an explosion of flavors. Not one to exaggerate, I think I almost had a food orgasm right there. The second dish whetted my appetite more, as the chicken consommé warmed my stomach in preparation for the main course. The protagonist emerged to exceed all my expectations: the thick  but tender beef medallion was wrapped in a flurry of soft mashed potato and drenched in a savory sauce, a magical concoction for the carnivorous.

Medallion Beef Fillet at Ashford Castle inhouse restaurant

At George V Dining Room, the experienced supervisor, Martin Gibbons shared with me his life story. His grandfather had worked for the Guinness family, and now he is continuing his legacy by dedicating his life to the Ashford Castle. Having worked here for 36 years, his passion for the hotel and its cuisine shines through the sparkles in his eyes. Like its staff, Ashford Castle Hotel is deeply rooted to its monumental past and looks on to its bright future.

Disclaimer: My stay was sponsored by the hotel, but all opinions are my own.

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About Nellie Huang

Nellie Huang is the co-founder of WildJunket. As a professional travel writer with a special interest in offgrid destinations and adventure travel, she scours through the world in search for a slice of undiscovered paradise. In her quest, she's climbed an active volcano in Guatemala, swam with sealions in the Galapagos and built a school in Tanzania.

12 Responses to “Royalty Living at the Ashford Castle Hotel”

  1. Leigh July 22, 2010 7:48 pm #

    Lucky you staying there. I biked through the grounds last year and was mightily impressed.

  2. notjustagranny July 22, 2010 8:50 pm #

    wonderful!!! I love your style of writing, really brings it to life. the photos are fabulous, that meall looks really yummy. Ireland is my 2nd favourite place in the world after the UK. I have visited 9 times in the last 8.5 years and lived there for 6 months in 2001/2002. thanks for this post…..you have of course made me desirous of another trip. p.s. have you ever been to Castle Trim in Trim? not habitable but a fabulous castle none-the-less.
    Regards Cindy @notjustagranny

    • Nellie July 23, 2010 3:04 pm #

      Appreciate the kind words Cindy! Glad to see you here. I didn't know that Ireland is tops on your favorite places in the world list. Wished I'd spent more time in Ireland, it was a short roadtrip but loved it nonetheless. I didn't make it to Trim, definitely have to visit more castles the next time I'm there. :)

      • notjustagranny September 24, 2010 6:06 pm #

        Hi Nellie, thanks for your reply. Ah, yes there are some truly amazing castles to visit in Ireland. I am completly addicted to castles….. some folks say "seen one & youv'e seen them all" to which I strongly disagree….they are all unique and just marvellous. My favourites are those that are tumble down….an air of mystery resides. Blarney Castle is also a great visit as are many more. Hope you manage to go back soon. :)

  3. smithsj August 18, 2010 12:36 am #

    Hi, I stayed at Ashford Castle once. Wonderful time. We especially liked the Falconry school. Amazing experience. You can read about it on my blog: Designdestinations.wordpress.com
    Susan

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