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    Life Beyond The Lobby – Ashford Castle.

    Evocative of an elegant and bygone age, and yet perfectly adapted to the needs of this modern one, Ashford is the oldest castle hotel in Ireland. Once the Estate of Lord Ardilaun and the Guinness family, Ashford Castle in Cong, County Mayo, opened as a luxury hotel in 1939. In 2013 Ashford Castle became part of the Red Carnation Collection, which began a loving restoration project and it now offers 82 bespoke bedrooms and a lakeside cottage.

    Life Beyond The Lobby.

    Below is a short preview video from a series on BBC 2 called “Amazing Hotels – Life Beyond The Lobby“, featuring Monica Galetti and Giles Coren arriving at Ashford Castle in County Mayo. They are seen describing Ashford Castle as magical…. and even go on to say that “it looks like Camelot!”

    In the BBC2 programme, Monica and Giles visit Ireland to scale the imposing and ancient ramparts of Ashford Castle. With the help of hotel historian Fintan, Giles soon discovers that the castle has had a rollercoaster journey through the centuries, sporadically reaching moments of real jeopardy, only to be saved by a turn of events or new owners.

    In 2011, the hotel went into receivership but was bought in the nick of time and, after undergoing a £50 million restoration, has the ambition to be the best hotel in the world.

    The secret of Ashford Castle’s success.

    During their visit to Ashford Castle, Giles and Monica learned that the secrets of the castle’s success are the people who work there and the hotel’s strong, long-running community ties. Ashford Castle have a team of local family members co-working, some of whom have ancestors who served here too.

    After a crash course by the estate manager Thomas in how to greet guests with a sprinkle of Irish charm, Giles and Monica enthusiastically take up their posts and have varying degrees of success with their gatehouse-to-lobby communications.

    The Kennedy Suite at Ashford Castle, Cong Co. Mayo ©

    Dining at Ashford Castle

    Dining options at Ashford Castle, include the fine dining George V restaurant, the Dungeon and Cullen’s at the Cottage, or private dining is available in The Wine Cellars.

    Giles is guided through silver service in the George V restaurant, taking comfort from maître d’ Martin’s assurance that his charm makes up for his lack of table skills. Although charm doesn’t help Giles pass the four-poster bed-making test in housekeeping, he does impress a colleague with his prowess at vacuuming the intricate and expensive fabric wallpaper adorning the castle’s bedroom walls.

    George V Dining Room at Ashford Castle, Cong, County Mayo ©

    Activities at Ashford Castle.

    The Ashford Estate offers an extensive range of activities including Orvis fly fishing and Ireland’s first school of falconry. There is a 32-seat cinema, a library, spa, billiards room, cigar terrace and beautiful public lounges with complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi throughout.

    Monica adds some new strings to her hospitality bow by wrangling the hotel’s falcons (part of the on-site school of falconry), assisting a hotel supplier and local oyster farmer, as well as accompanying hotel forager Brian to a secret location to track down pepper dulse for the kitchen.

    The estate manager Thomas also deploys Giles and Monica in the clay-pigeon shooting range, where they clean guns, stack clays and take potshots for themselves. However on your luxurious visit to Ashford Castle you will be guaranteed to enjoy the onsite activities without partaking in any of the hard work involved in “life beyond the lobby”.

    (Note: the BBC iPlayer only works in the UK) 

    The school of falconry at Ashford Castle, County Mayo ©

    What does it take to restore an 800-year-old castle?

    Here is a lovely video by Red Carnation Hotels about the restoration of Ashford Castle and preserving it’s 800 years of history –

    Luxurious Vacation in Ireland

    Why not experience a luxurious tour of Ireland for yourself with Specialized Travel Services and include a stay at the magnificent Ashford Castle? We have a highly experienced team waiting to assist you plan your authentic cultural experience and to ensure it’s tailor made to your specific requirements. We can customize any of our Ireland tours to suit your specific tastes, budget and requirements and include the best of Ireland’s traditions along the way. Whatever you would like to do is up to you!!

    Take a moment to look at our luxurious private chauffeur vacations for some inspiration of what to include on your trip of a lifetime here. If the past year has taught us anything, it’s not to let these fleeting moments escape us….

    Maybe you would like to gift your loved one, your family, your friends or even yourself with the “Gift of Ireland”, and take your time to choose from our wide range of Ireland packages. We also offer luxurious 5 star honeymoons in Ireland in case you are planning your special day in 2022. Our Gift of Ireland “Gift Certificates” are available for purchase on our website and they make a wonderful valentine’s day gift, wedding gift, anniversary gift, birthday gift, or a luxurious Irish experience with family & friends and precious memories to treasure.

    To contact Specialized Travel Services complete the Contact form or email

    Afternoon Tea in the Connaught Room at Ashford Castle, Co. Mayo ©


    Note: Featured image at the top of the blog is an aerial shot of Ashford Castle, Cong, County Mayo ©

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      Walk in grounds of Ashford Castle, County Mayo ©
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      Suite at Ashford Castle, Co.Mayo ©
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      Oak Hall at Ashford Castle, County Mayo ©


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