Life in a Castle on the Emerald Isle
It was once again, time for a Koelle family vacation. This time we were headed to Ireland. We started our adventure on the west coast of The Emerald Isle.
Our first stop was Ashford Castle, a little over a two hour drive from Shannon Airport. My dad loves to drive but driving the narrow, winding roads along the Irish coast (on the other side of the road) was more difficult than he had anticipated, though he would be hard pressed to admit it.
We drove around Galway Bay and through The Burren, navigating through cow fields and cliffs but we had some pretty amazing views.
Ashford Castle is a former private castle turned one of Ireland’s premier resorts. It is located in County Mayo, next to the small town of Cong. Cong is known for little else than being the location of the The Quiet Man
Ashford Castle, founded in 1228 was formerly owned by Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness (of the Beer fortune) who operated the 26,000 acre estate. In 1939 it is bought by Noel Haggard from the Guinness Family trust and transformed into a hotel. It changed hands various times and in 2013 it was purchased by Red Carnation Hotels who initiated a major renovation and refurbishment.
The grounds are stunning and the castle both foreboding and intimate. It sits on the Lough Corrib, one of the largest wild salmon lakes in Ireland. My dad - an avid fly-fisher - took to the lake to try and catch one of the salmon that escape so many fishermen.
After Ashford we drove to Dromoland Castle - another great former castle estate turned into a premier resort. The castle has a history dating back to the 11th century and is one of the most famous baronial castles in the country. The hotel was transformed into a luxury resort in the 1960s and has remained a preeminent resort in Ireland ever since.
At Dromoland we had a golf lesson from famed golf pro David Foley who offers private lessons at their “Golf Academy.” It was fun to get back into the swing of things (pun intended). I used to golf as a child at my club but was mainly in it to drive the golf carts and eat the frozen milky ways with my friends. I had countless lessons as a kid but I have definitely let my technique lapse. David videotaped us to highlight our posture, grip and stance and I left feeling great for the round we played that afternoon.
The grounds of Dromoland are stunning - green and lush. There is a stocked pond for fishing, tennis, falconry and even paddle boarding. There great room service that includes a tray filled with popcorn, candy and ice cream.
Staying in centuries-old castle in rural Ireland transport you back in time. The formal dinners and heavy draperies are styled to emulate their traditional pasts. But both five-star resorts offer modern amenities, mini bars and massages for the most discerning of travelers.
Staying in these castles is one of the best ways to see Ireland - viewing it through a lens of its storied past. For any part time princess and castle enthusiast, Ashford and Dromoland are a must.