Ashford Irish Castle wants you to live like royalty

me You must admit, it’s good to know the exact coordinates of the luxury course: 53° 32′04″ N 9° 17′06″ W. Or, to put it mildly, Ashford Castle, the hotel and resort just outside the town of Kong, County Mayo, in the Republic of Ireland.

I recently spent five nights there, and my only complaint is that I didn’t spend six. Unlike most hotels of my acquaintances, the place I left was not voluntary. In a similar way, I turned my vocabulary upside down. Welfare And pampering It’s the words that make my crumbling Presbyterian spirit writh in a sort of trembling “Get behind me, Satan.” user. But then, after my time in the castle, I had to wonder if I had ever met only hoteliers who didn’t know proper ways to administer luxury or pamper (although my mental jury is still divided on what kind). From pampering, this is a word also often found in the same sentence with the word resort, a language that has largely lost its charm, even at Ashford Castle).

Good service is only part of what you get. And once you add in the quality of the food in the hotel’s many restaurants, the luxury of common spaces and single rooms, the usual resort amenities (golf, spa), and unique surroundings—336 acres of well-landscaped woodland and gardens, all adjacent to the largest lake in the Republic of Ireland—you begin The bargain has to be logical.

However, no hotel earns five-star ratings simply on the basis of attentive service, good food, and even finer thread count. There has to be something more than that, and in the case of Ashford Castle it’s twofold: history and location. The hotel’s 83 rooms occupy a building that makes you feel at every turn of the stairs and every look from a floor-to-ceiling window as if you are wandering in Downton Abbey (And if you can afford Ashford Castle, you might already be one of those people, like Violet Crowley, who unknowingly asks, “What’s a weekend?”). But it is not a set, or not completely. Yes, plenty of 19th century artwork has been captured in estate sales, but the hotel was once the country estate of a wealthy family, so the illusion of going back is not an illusion. It is just now that the order is turned upside down and that it is the servants who dress for the evening at dinnertime.

Once you get out of the hotel, in almost any direction, there will be no illusion, or rather the illusion and reality is one. Fountains, endless lawns, landscaping here subject to strict discipline while there nature is left loose in a romantic riot of color and form, paths that lead through woodland to more gardens, more cobbled walks and more woods, tennis courts And More Gardens: These morphing views that never stop giving way to more vistas somehow manage spaces that are at once huge and intimate, working on you like a tonic. Once you start walking, you find yourself tempted at every turn and curve to see what lies beyond. Just a little further. And a little more. And Irish weather is what it is, you can go for an hour hike through this intensity and before you are done you have enjoyed all four seasons.

Ashford Castle has been a hotel since 1939. But honestly speaking, it was once a castle (hotel motto: Excellence since 1228). Construction has been sporadic but unending since the thirteenth century, with the addition of a pavilion here and a tower there, until sometime in the twentieth century the building settled into its present form: a wandering gray structure surmounted by towers and ramparts, surrounded by a moat. Built on the site of a ruined abbey, the castle was owned and fought for by Normans, Irish nobles, and English Protestants for seven centuries before it was acquired, in 1852, by Guinness, a wealthy brewing family, who used much of their fortune to buy respect and a place in society. Upscale. With 26,000 acres of hunting and fishing, Ashford Castle was their lure for the wealthy and diverse members of the royal family, and the bait proved tempting enough to help convince Arthur Guinness to supremacy.

In its life as a hotel, Ashford Castle changed owners and fortunes several times until, recently, it was acquired for a relatively bargain price of 20 million euros by the Red Carnation Hotel Group, which soon set out to pump about 75 million euros into the property … I would like to I’d say it’s getting great again, but I’m not sure it was that great before.

A word here about restoring old hotels, which often doesn’t mean restoring so much as upgrading and modernizing, almost erasing the original character of the hotel – which it made you cherish in the first place – almost. The water pressure is good, but the character is gone. Let the small details suffice: You used to be able to gauge the quality of a hotel by the quality of the stationery and complimentary envelopes placed in the room’s desk. Now, keep in mind that no one today spends much time writing letters in hotels or anywhere else, and hoteliers have noted: The last time I stayed at the upgraded Shelburne in Dublin, they stopped leaving out any stationery at all. ، required to write character. I am happy to report that Ashford Castle continues to deliver the good stuff.

Niall Rushford, the hotel manager, once told a news reporter, “Of the two words in our hotel’s name, the word ‘castle’ is the important one. This makes Ashford unique and original. People want to live the dream, to be king or queen for a day.”

Ashford Castle sells fiction, but the component parts of the fiction are real enough: It was a castle, it was a country estate—it would be crazy not to trade that.

As far as I could see, the hotel does its best to realize this fantasy of its guests. The service is eager and expert without being panicked. The staff is friendly and helpful even when there is no need for it; For example, the porter drew me in to admire one of the nineteenth-century paintings lining the lanes, and took the time to explain how the disastrous history of famine and land reform was depicted in what was so vividly imagined: a horseback landlord sympathetically looking at him sympathetically expelled by the roadside. I didn’t know if I would be more impressed by the fact that the castle would hang such a painting or that a random employee was a skilled and friendly translator.

On cultural matters, Ashford Castle has a conceptual, if not entirely forgiving, fixation on John Ford’s Irish softball fairy tale. the quiet manFilmed partially on the hotel grounds and can be shown on every TV screen in every room and twice a week in the hotel’s luxurious cinema. But for the most part, the hotel’s staff tries hard not to distort the history – fortunately for the hotel’s original story, the Guinnesses and their ancestors were among the “good” owners in the 19th century predating national independence – and it’s also a first-rate function of celebrating regional culture.

There is an amazing list of ways you can get away in the castle, including the usual ones (golf, fishing, trap shooting), and more obscure ones (shooting, hunting, horseback riding). But it would be foolish not to make your first stop at Ireland’s Falconry School, which is a short walk from the hotel. When you first feel a hawk’s claws tightening on your gloved wrist, you’re suddenly glad you’re wearing that glove. Then the hawk shoots off your wrist and when it rises, it’s as if a part of you has suddenly taken flight as well. We rarely come close to brutality, and it might sound easy to call it exhilarating, but that’s what it is.

After falconry, the coolest activity in the castle was, well, not quite in the castle. Meet the Makers in the castle takes you on day trips to meet and learn from the craftsmen and craftsmen working in western Ireland. Directed by Eoin Warner, a documentary filmmaker and authority on Irish folk life, today’s itinerary includes visits by at least three craftsmen, including fishermen, blacksmiths, weavers, woodworkers, storytellers, potters and organic farmers. The trip I joined included visits with basket weaver Joe Hogan, traditional flautist and flute maker Marcus Hernon and his violinist son Briandan Hernon, and chefs Philippa Duff and Sinad Foyle, who run Sea Hare, a popular Connemara restaurant that celebrates localities. Sources. And getting there and back through the blazing sun and shade beauty of Connemara’s shifting mountainous landscape, books an almost perfect day.

Ashford Castle sells fiction, but the making up parts of the fantasy are real enough: It was a castle, it was a country estate – it would just be crazy not to trade on it. And the hotel rounds out its part of the deal with top-notch service and amenities and staff who embrace their roles so perfectly that you never see the mask slip off. Robert Bow, a hotel restaurant and wine program manager with 35 years of experience on the premises, is expert enough in everything he does, whether he’s touring a wine cellar or whipping up the silver lining of a newly arrived entry to the table, that I started describing it mentally using Words that Wodehouse publishes to describe Jeeves’ feat, such as when “Jeeves was glistening across the room.” So it’s not at all surprising that Poe is the keeper of the lore about the Ivory, the ghostly little girl who haunts the castle, or that he knows how to tell the story so beautifully that you can’t help laughing and shivering at everyone. Once. In Ashford Castle, everyone is good at what they do, right down to ghost stories.

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