Nestled in a 350 acre estate lies Ashford Castle, founded in 1228 and once home to the famous Guinness family. As you drive through the stone gates, you will see why Ashford Castle has been named a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World and is a member of Leading Hotels of the World. The five-star luxury hotel boasts opulent rooms and suites, as well as gorgeous ornate interiors that will make you feel like a royal (the gracious staff makes sure of that!) With just a 45 minute drive from Galway, you have the option of staying at the castle or perhaps just visiting for the day. Whether you would like to relax in their spa that was recently awarded “Overall Spa of the Year 2018” by Irish Tatler, cozy up in their movie theatre with a bag of fresh popcorn, or roam outdoors on a horse, Ashford Castle has something for you.
No matter what you choose to partake in at Ashford Castle, I highly advise booking your stay and/or activities in advance. Many of the goings-on require a reservation, and it is also important to note that if you are not staying on the premises, there is a limited number of spots for things when you are not staying at the castle.
CJ and I started our day off at Ashford Outdoors, which leads activities such as archery, clay shooting, zip lining, and off roading. We reserved a one hour trailing riding adventure, which was so wonderful! Please see my post on our horseback riding experience at the link here.
Next, we walked from the equestrian centre to Ireland’s School of Falconry. We had a reservation for their one hour Hawk Walk, where we each had our own hawk perched on our hands as we meandered through the woodlands on the castle grounds. Please see my post on our falconry experience at the link here.
After hanging out amongst the gorgeous greenery that is the backdrop of Ashford Castle, we changed out of our outdoor clothing and into afternoon tea attire! The traditional pastime of Afternoon Tea has been preserved at the castle since 1868. In fact, you are able to see the original silver tea set displayed in the Connaught Room. This tea set was presented to Lord and Lady Ardilaun to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary in 1896. Lord Ardilaun was the son of Sir Benjamin lee Guinness, who purchased Ashford in 1852 and extended the estate!
The afternoon tea menu consists of sweet treats, sandwiches, and scones. If you have any dietary restrictions, the staff will be happy to provide you with a gluten free, vegetarian, or vegan afternoon tea menu. The tea list itself has black, white, green, herbal and fruit fusion teas, and more. CJ had the Irish Afternoon Gold tea, which he loved so much that he bought some Irish Afternoon tea the very next day to take home! I had a tangerine tea, which was lovely. Experiencing the elegant ritual of afternoon tea time was elevated by sitting in the Connaught Room, complete with a hand carved fireplace, paneled oak walls, and a Donegal Crystal chandelier.
We were sent on our way with a little box of chocolates made in house (they were absolutely divine, I ate them all before they melted). The estate and the castle itself is absolutely unlike anything I have ever seen, the staff is positively impeccable, and the events you can partake in are one of a kind. We will definitely be back to soak up more of what Ashford Castle has to offer.