Child friendly hotel, Co. Mayo – Ashford Castle, Cong, Co Mayo, Ireland
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About Ashford Castle
You can see for yourself why this breathtaking castle hotel in County Mayo was voted number 1 Irish Hotel by Condé Nast Gold List in 2010. It dates back to the 13th Century, is set on the beautiful Lough Corrib, has acres of manicured gardens and woodland, individual elegant rooms – I could go on. It’s amazing to think that somewhere so elegant and luxurious welcomes our mucky, sticky little creatures – but it does, and very warmly!
Ashford Castle is an amazingly elegant hotel, converted in 1939 from a 13th Century country estate once belonging to Lord Ardilaun and the Guinness family. The location, on the shores of Lough Corrib and amidst acres of beautiful gardens and forests, is breathtaking. The interior is as spectacular as you would imagine with fantastic original features such as the lavishly panelled great hall, and all the 83 guest room are individually decorated to the highest standard. You can expect lovely opulent attributes such as sumptuous four poster beds, enormous bathrooms and delightful lake and river views.
Clare, Paul, Ruby and Ted visited:
There's not much I think of that can top your first view of Ashford Castle as you approach from the beautiful wooded drive through the golf course. When you turn the corner and first see the dark, impressive battlements rising out of the landscape with the glistening waves of Lough Corrib behind it, it's really a breathtaking moment. The castle's history stretches all the way back to 1226 and almost looks like it's grown in its environment rather than been built.
A drive over the bridge and through the fortified arch takes you up to the front of the Castle. Ashford has everything we wanted from a castle - the dark heavy stone battlements, turrets, a moat (unfortunately now drained), suits of armour, dark wood panelling and galleried halls, heraldic pennants - along with all the luxuries you'd expect from a 5-star hotel. The kids couldn't have been more impressed - Ruby stated "It's spooky just like a Scooby Doo castle, but WAY cooler!" which is high praise indeed. The castle is even reported to have its own friendly ghost, a lady who walks through the oldest part of the castle, and the kids were most disappointed not to have met her during our stay.
The service at the hotel was second to none. All the staff were incredibly friendly and helpful with a relaxed service style which made our stay feel like a home-from-home (if only our home was like this!). The attitude to children in the hotel is very welcoming - it feels like of course the children are welcome and why wouldn't they be?
Our fabulous room was luxuriously decorated with antiques and traditional fine furnishing. We had two windows in the eaves in which the children sat happily reading, overlooking the magnificent fountain on the lawn which stretched down onto the shores of the Lough. Robes and slippers had been provided for us, with special treatment for the children with mini robes, and special pink or blue slippers embroidered with the castle logo (as opposed to our plain white slippers - very jealous) and a cute teddy wearing a mini Ashford Castle t-shirt for each, which the kids couldn't believe they got to keep and take home! The evening turn-down service also included chocolates on the pillow which were eagerly scoffed without mum or dad even getting a whiff of them!
We took an early evening walk through the grounds to the local village of Cong, which was famously the setting for the 1952 John Ford film ‘The Quiet Man' starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara. We'd arrived a little too late for a casual meal in the Drawing Room (available til 6pm), or to book an early table at Cullens (a bistro style cottage in the grounds of the castle) so we ate at a pub in Cong. We returned for a glass of the black stuff in the Drawing Room whilst the kids played chess, spectated by a group of American visitors who were having a cheeky wager on whether Ruby or Ted would be victorious! (It was luckily a draw).
The kids returned to the Drawing Room to listen to Brendan, the accomplished resident pianist, who after finishing his first song proceeded for the next hour to give the kids an impromptu music lesson on the piano and regaling them with tales from the orchestra and of famous Irish musicians. Soon after we retired to our room to watch ‘The Quiet Man' which is always available on the Castle's TV menu, which the kids delighted in spotting all the landmarks we'd visited earlier that evening! Although the kids fell asleep we thoroughly enjoyed this quaint, old-fashioned depiction of Ireland (favourite quote - "Would you like a stick to beat the lovely lady with, sir?" - thankfully John Wayne declined!!)
My morning shower was a delight as while I stood under the water I could look through the glass door of the walk-in shower through to the bathroom window and straight out over the lawn onto the lough. You really can't beat that as a view to wake up to. Breakfast was a sumptuous delight with a huge selection of delicious fare from the buffet - alongside the usual fruit and homemade pastries there was also local smoked salmon and roast ham carved from the bone. The children enjoyed made-to-order pancakes with berries and maple syrup, delivered to the table under a cloche and presented with a 'Ta-da!'
We needed a long walk to burn off all those calories after breakfast so we spent the morning walking through the beautiful woodland paths around the estate, skimming stones and paddling in the lough. As we walked back towards the castle we were lucky enough to catch up with a family who were setting off on a Hawk Walk, a personalised falconry lesson (just one of many activities available at the estate) and saw the large bird of prey flying to glove up close - thrilling.
A single night stay is just not long enough in this very special hotel and we hope to come back again very soon - I'm hoping for a Xmas break here!
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