Ashford Castle: The Experience

Located in Mayo, Ireland

With Ireland’s second largest lake at the doorstep and hundreds of acres of parklands to explore, Ashford is a royal gateway to a wide range of experiences, whether it’s a zip-lining adventure, a peaceful afternoon of fly-fishing, or an encounter with the traditions of rural Ireland. Head out on your own to discover the region—the castle will provide maps and guides—or take part in activities arranged through the property.

See our sample itinerary describing how you would experience this lodge during a 4-day stay.

Things to Do

The following experiences are included in the cost of your stay.

Morning walk

Join the resident Irish wolfhounds, Garvan and Cronan, and their owner for a morning walk around the castle grounds and get a history lesson about the role of this rare breed has played protecting sheep over the centuries.

Nature Walks and Hikes

Set out on a self-guided nature walk on the property, tracing the shores of Lough Corrib through ancient woods, wandering among exotic tree species brought here by the Guinness family, or heading into the hills for a hike.

Tennis

Courts and rackets are available for guests, and lessons can be arranged at additional cost.

Bicycle Riding

The castles has a supply of some 60 bikes, which can be taken out by guests for individual exploration of more than 20 miles of paths that loop through the property, far from the road. Or sign up for a bike tour (at additional cost) with a former Olympic cyclist.

Foraging

Follow the castle’s pastry chef as she forages for edible wildflowers, and learn about the properties and flavors of native blooms and herbs.

Cinema

Movies are screened at 2:30 pm and 9:30 pm every day in the castle cinema and are open to all guests. The matinee, at 2:30 pm, is geared for kids. Private screenings can be arranged at extra cost, subject to availability.

Library Tour

Meet the local librarian for a closer look at the unique collection of books in Ashford’s library (subject to availability).

Billiards

Furnished with antiques and cozy leather chairs, the billiards room invites guests to shoot a game, play cards, or simply relax with a book.

Golf

Tee times at the nine-hole par 35 golf course on the castle grounds are complimentary for guests, and a stock of Titleist clubs are available for use. The course, designed by Eddie Hackett, is open year-round. There are numerous courses in the surrounding area, including Connemara Golf Links (27-hole course in Ballyconneely) and County Sligo Golf Club (27-hole course in Rosses Point), and world-renowned courses throughout Ireland that can be accessed by helicopter or vehicle. The hotel concierge can help arrange tee times.

Optional Activities and Experiences

The following experiences are offered at an additional cost.

Fishing and Boat trips

Set out on the water with Ghillie (guide) Frank Costello in a traditional wooden boat he hand-crafted, and learn about the history and ecology of the area as you explore the many islands and inlets of Lough Corrib on an outing tailored to your interests. Wild brown trout and Atlantic salmon thrive in these waters, and Frank is also certified to lead fly-fishing excursions. Boating excursions are limited to three guests. Charter a powerboat for your own lake adventure (up to 8 guests) or board the 80-passenger family-owned Isle of Inisfree for a lake cruise with a historical or musical theme.

Horse riding

With miles of wooded trails and lakeshores and the Corrib Mountains nearby, this is an ideal spot for trail riding. Outings can range from one hour to a full day and are geared for riders of every skill level. Private lessons, pony rides for children, and horse-drawn carriage rides are also available at the castle’s Equestrian Centre. Hardhats and jodhpur boots are included.

Kayaking

Rent a kayak and paddle out on the lake to soak in the tranquility of this magical spot. You may also opt for a guided kayaking tour, or a “pedal and paddle” tour, which combines a bike ride with a kayaking excursion.

Falconry

This is the home of Ireland’s oldest school of falconry. Find out about the traditions and history of this age-old pastime as you learn from a falconer how to fly your own hawk through the woodlands.

Zip-lining and Tree-climbing

Zoom from tree to tree on a zip-line adventure, stopping at wooden platforms built high in the branches. The course is open to adults and children eight and over (there is a height and weight minimum). Or climb more than 100 feet up a huge North American Monterey pine using built-in wooden slats, and take in a true bird’s-eye view.

Archery

Try your hand at a medieval sport long played at the castle. No matter the weather, guests including kids over seven (who are at least as tall as the bow) can practice their aim at 50-meter indoor and outdoor target ranges.

Wine tasting

Beneath the opulent main rooms of the castle, a network of stone passageways once allowed servants to access the coal bunker, where they would fill buckets with coal to heat individual rooms. These 19th-century tunnels have been transformed into a series of wine cellars and enchanting spaces where guests can sample a wide range of excellent old world and new world vintages and enjoy a private meal.

Food and Drink

Ashford Castle’s main restaurant is indeed fit for a king: it bears the name of George V, who dined here as a guest of the Guinness family in 1905, when he was the Prince of Wales. In this sumptuous dining room, where crystal chandeliers sparkle and a pianist plays softly, Executive Chef Philippe Farineau serves exquisite dinners using locally sourced ingredients and paired with excellent wines. Jackets are required and ties requested in the George V Dining Room. A more casual experience can be enjoyed across the way at Cullen’s at the Cottage, where a menu inspired by hotel owner Bea Tollman is offered in a charming thatched cottage from March to October. Or immerse yourself in medieval grandeur in the Dungeon, which serves up traditional Irish fare amid suits of armor and stained glass windows.

Private meals can be arranged in a number of lovely spaces within the castle—including the secret passageways that now serve as the wine cellar, and light meals and cocktails are served in the Drawing Room, the Prince of Wales Bar. Afternoon tea has been a revered tradition at Ashford Castle since 1868, and today’s ritual still bears the trappings of centuries past. Settle in at the Connaught Room to enjoy the view with a cup of specialty tea—or a glass of champagne—as well as delightful bites, from finger sandwiches to fresh-baked scones and pastries. And stop by the Cigar Terrace for a taste of the finest single pot still whiskey, a spirit unique to Ireland.

Spa

At the Spa at Ashford Castle, you can enjoy a massage or an invigorating steam in the hammam and then take in lake views while relaxing on the terrace. With five treatment rooms, the spa offers an extensive range of treatments, including hot stone massage, aroma and marine therapy, regenerating facials, refreshing scrubs, detoxifying wraps, and pampering beauty treatments. Several lines of excellent beauty products are featured—including one made in nearby County Sligo and derived from seaweed and other natural elements. The Spa is also the first wellness facility in Ireland to offer PureFlow, a treatment that uses counter-pulsation technology to optimize blood flow and promote detoxification in the body. The gym at the castle is equipped with new fitness equipment and a personal trainer who can tailor a session to individual goals.

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