Ashford Castle

Sample Itinerary—A Royal Retreat

Curated exclusively for National Geographic

Step into the centuries-old story of Ashford Castle and live like the nobility that once graced these stately halls. Make yourself at home on the sprawling estate, and explore the surrounding countryside and Lough Corrib, Ireland’s second largest lake, with a unique range of guided excursions and activities.

Your experience at the lodge will be tailored to your interests. The sample itinerary below was designed for National Geographic travelers and can be customized as you wish. Some experiences featured in this itinerary incur an additional cost.

Highlights

  • Meet with a local historian to delve into the fascinating story of this 800-year-old castle, and the role of the Guinness family in its preservation (National Geographic Exclusive).
  • Watch a border collie herd Connemara sheep at a hillside sheep farm in the Irish countryside.
  • Learn about the ancient sport of falconry and set your own hawk flying through the estate’s ancient woodlands.
  • Taste new and old world vintages in a subterranean wine cellar converted from historic stone tunnels.

Day 1—Arrive Mayo, Ireland

Drive through the grand stone gates of this 800-year-old castle, cross the drawbridge, and wave at your four-legged greeting party—Garvan and Cronan, the resident Irish wolfhounds. Get settled in your regal chamber, then take afternoon tea accompanied by traditional snacks in the stately Connaught Room, which overlooks Lough Corrib. Get acquainted with the sprawling castle, from the Billiards Room and wood-paneled library filled with hundreds of antiquarian books, to the shop stocked with fine Irish tweed and linen. For dinner tonight, dig into house-made Irish stew surrounded by the suits of armor and stained-glass windows that adorn the Dungeon.

Day 2—Castle History

Wake up to a full Irish breakfast under crystal chandeliers in the sumptuous George V dining room. Spend the morning exploring the 350-acre estate, home to Ireland’s oldest school of falconry. On a guided hawk walk, hear about the traditions and history of this age-old pastime and learn how to fly your own hawk through the ancient woodlands. Play a round of golf on the 9-hole course, designed by Eddie Hackett; try traditional skeet shooting or archery; or ride through the countryside on horseback or bicycle. After an active morning, enjoy a hearty lunch in the elegant Drawing Room, then meet with a local historian to delve into the castle’s fascinating history. Descend underground to the castle’s stone tunnels and taste old and new world vintages in what is now an atmospheric wine cellar. Dine at Cullen’s, serving a menu of locally sourced ingredients. A former cinema, this thatched cottage was the site of the first public showing of The Quiet Man, starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. End the night watching the classic film at the castle’s own 32-seat cinema.

Day 3—Lake and Country

After breakfast, board the 80-passenger Isle of Inisfree for a scenic cruise on Ireland’s second largest lake, with views of the Connemara Mountains. After disembarking, embrace rural Irish life on a visit to a hillside sheep farm, and witness Connemara blackface sheep get herded by a border collie. Enjoy lunch with locals in a charming pub, then spend the afternoon at the castle’s spa. Indulge in a massage or other signature treatment, and float in the relaxation pool under a mosaic mural. Or, join the castle’s resident Ghillie (guide) on a traditional wooden boat he built by hand, and angle for Atlantic salmon or pike in the rich fishing waters of Lough Corrib. Toast your final evening with pre-dinner Champagne, followed by an eight-course chef’s tasting menu with wine pairings.

Day 4—Depart

Enjoy one last breakfast in the George V dining room before departing.

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