Visiting Ashford Castle Was Like Stepping Back in Time
The 13th Century Ashford Castle is set on the northern shores of Lough Corrib, the second largest lake in Ireland. It’s a half hour from the medieval city of Galway on the West Coast of Ireland, amidst acres of beautiful gardens and forests. Once the country estate of the Guinness family, it was transformed into a luxury hotel in 1939 and was voted the best resort in Ireland by Condé Nast magazine in 2008. From the moment you enter the lavishly decorated great hall to the elegant guest rooms with their high ceilings and sweeping views of the estate, you know the experience cannot be equaled.
The day we arrived, we couldn’t believe our eyes when we drove up the long road to our castle that was to be our home for a few days. The second we stepped out of our car, the staff made us feel like we were kings and queens.
Ashford Castle in Cong, County Mayo, Ireland is truly magical place. Ashford is a gorgeous castle in a fairy-tale setting. You must come here and treat yourself to the ultimate luxury and comfort at this amazing hotel, Ashford Castle.
We were awe struck by the brilliance and grandeur of years gone by that came alive with its objects d’art, paintings, ancient furnishings, heavy drapery and fine upholstered furniture. The setting and grounds are absolutely breathtaking. Although the property is one of Ireland’s landmark luxury hotels and known for romance, it’s kid-friendly too. Acres and acres of gardens and grounds provide hours of entertainment and the hotel offers phenomenal on site programs including falconry, horseback riding, and fishing.
We were told the Castle had a gymnasium and health center on the premises but we were too busy to enjoy these because we were at the School of Falconry and learning the art of Clay Pigeon Shooting. Our room was beautiful and was fully equipped and every little detail was taken into consideration and the amenities were lovely. Staying at an Irish castle is an experience not to be missed. The restaurants were superb and the dinning room of the George V Restaurant was a gourmet experience with absolutely the best service. Breakfast had way too many choices and I loved the Irish linen napkins and sterling silver service.
School of Falconry
We were very fortunate to be a guest at the Ashford Castle, School of Falconry where we learned the fine art of Falconry. Ireland’s School of Falconry at Ashford Castle was an experience that I’ll never forget. The walk from the castle makes you wonder what this place could have been like 700 years ago.
When we arrived at the gates of the Falconry school, we were greeted by Fiona who would be our falconer. We were shown around grounds and visited the 30 or so birds that are kept there and then we were introduced to our Hawk that we were going to fly around the grounds. My son and I were each given a thick weathered leather glove for our hand and the glove was long to cover the forearm and then we were taught how to hold our hawk.
As we walked the vast gardens of Ashford, Fiona was kind enough to share the history of falconry. During our Hawk Walk we also learned how to handle and fly Harris hawks, a species renowned for their easy-going temperament and unusually sociable nature. We set off to fly our hawk around the magnificent woodlands to fly the hawk and learn to have it return to our glove.
To fly the hawk you release the birds by throwing them into the air. They fly into the trees and follow you as you walk, waiting for you to flush out game, which they will then kill for you. There was no game, obviously, so they just followed us through the forest, periodically flying close to our heads to remind us they were there. When we wanted to call them back, we stuck our fist, placed a bit of food on it, and then looked at them. If you didn’t look at them, they wouldn’t come!
As you fly the hawk around the gardens of Ashford Castle, your instructor will explain about the history of falconry, the hawk’s exceptional eyesight, their speed and agility and how the hawks are trained. All of the Hawk Walks are private, you will not be joined in with people you don’t know, so you not only have privacy but a falconer and team of hawks all to yourself.
After our walk we were introduced to a great eagle owl, his name was Dingle. The best part of the lesson was our introduction to Dingle, a European Eagle Owl, and the largest species of owl. He was an absolutely gorgeous owl and I fell in love with him instantly. Make sure you check out the slideshow above to see the photos of him; he’s magnificent. After our day of Falconry we explored the gardens and rested. The next day we enjoyed the lavish grounds to shoot clay pigeons. My son was an excellent shot. I was good too, but not as good as “young eyes”. We shot several times while we were in Ireland and truly enjoyed this new sport.
Ashford Castle is Ireland’s most magnificent castle and one of the most luxurious resort hotels in the world. You really must experience it!