Whilst stumbling across overflowing pots of gold at the end of magical rainbows is unfortunately nothing more than fiction, booking a stay at Ashford Castle is the next best thing when it comes to finding pure gold in Ireland.
We arrive on a (rare) glitteringly sunny Friday afternoon, and as the taxi glides through the vast grounds towards the Pemberly-like building, the castle itself is not alone in welcoming us.
Waiting eagerly with identical beaming smiles, we find an enormous procession of staff standing outside the hotel to greet us eagerly. Such a welcoming feels like something out of a Hollywood film – but as I’m soon to realise, a lot of staying at Ashford Castle can feel like fantasy.
Inside the grey stone walls, opulence awaits. With lavish decorations, ruby red interiors and enormous chandeliers, walking into Ashford’s entrance is impressive enough in itself. Once the lavish home of the Guinness family, the building dates back to 1228, and was recently painstakingly restored to its former glory by Red Carnation Hotels. It’s beautiful – the sort of place that immediately has you peering around in awe.
Upstairs, my awaiting Stateroom suite makes even more of an impression. Creature comforts await – a four-poster bed, roaring fire, luxurious chairs, flowing curtains – all surrounded with stylish decorations, interesting books and little extras that make the space feel like it’s lavish enough for the likes of royalty.
It’s a room to marvel at. It doesn’t come as a surprise therefore, when I later learn that George V was fond of a visit – in fact, Brad Pitt, Felicity Hoffman, Barbara Streisand and Ronald Reagan have all reclined within Ashford’s walls.
Ideal for those who love old school charm, every single one of the 68 guest rooms (plus 14 staterooms and suites) have been carefully refurbished. The attention to detail is obvious with the exquisite fabrics and original artwork – but it’s paired with modern touches, think I-luv speakers, electronic blinds and mood light dimming options.
I’m here to relax, and so the spa is a must. Award-winning and impressive in its own right, the staff here know their stuff – if you’re a spa-seeker, this is one for the bucket list. Voted Ireland’s Best Hotel Spa 2016 at the World Spa Awards, it’s a soothing space that aims to break away from tradition, recommending more than the usual treatments to tailor to guests’ specific requests and ailments.
Built in the shape of a striking bronze conservatory, the spa echoes an ambiance of peaceful serenity – you can easily spend an entire afternoon here without realising. Must-try treatments include the World Weary Traveller, a muscle warming seaweed wrap that aims to alleviate high stress levels, ease aching muscles & revive the senses with powerful deep tissue massage.
The massages here are especially excellent, and the gorgeous mosaic-flecked pool and additional treatment rooms make the perfect spots for wiling away the hours with a glass of champers in one hand (and complimentary treats in the other).
Activities and food
Ashford Castle places emphasis on perfection and precision – everything here is tailored to the highest quality. From sourcing local ingredients for dishes to using the finest fabrics for interiors – the details have been carefully chosen, and the result is exquisite. Even the sporting staff for outdoor activities have Olympian pasts.
There’s numerous venues here to whet your appetite, but dining at the Prince of Wales restaurant is ideal for something special. Serving dishes created by acclaimed Chef Philippe Farina, who was recently awarded two rosettes by the AA Hospitality Awards, there’s a plentitude of fresh, seasonal options just waiting to be savoured. Expect more chandeliers, truly superb service and a very content stomach.
First established in the 12th century, this awe-inspiring castle remains every bit as magnificent 800 years later. Offering far more than just a room or a facial, a stay at Ashford Castle is not one you’ll be forgetting in a hurry.
Make it happen
Where: Ashford Castle, Cong, County Mayo, Ireland F31 CA48
Price: Rooms at Ashford Castle start from €595 a night for a double room, on a bed and breakfast basis.
Reservations: To book call 0035 394 954 6003, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.ashfordcastle.com
Words by Sophie Ritchie