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Ashford Castle Review
Massive, flamboyantly turreted, Ashord is the very picture of a romantic Irish castle and this famed mock-Gothic baronial showpiece, dating from the 13th century, and rebuilt in 1870 for the Guinness family, has been wowing visitors like President Reagan, John Travolta, Brad Pitt, and Pierce Brosnan—who got married here—ever since. Nearly bigger than the neighboring village of Cong, it is strong on luxury and service, yet maintains a relaxed atmosphere in which guests of all ages feel totally at ease. Kids immediately associate the castle with Hogwarts; ask about the multi-generational family packages. Deluxe guest rooms have generous sitting areas, heavily carved antique furniture, open fireplaces, and extra-large bathrooms. Standard bedrooms in the discreetly added new wing are smaller, with marble bathroom fittings and Victorian-style antiques. The suites in the original castle building are vast, with double-height windows and Georgian antiques, and are blissfully comfortable. The Prince of Wales Cocktail Bar (named for the one who visited in the 1890s) is the venue for elegant pre-dinner drinks. The cuisine, by distinguished chef Stefan Matz, is stylish and unfussy. The hotel makes the most of its superb location at the head of Lough Corrib, and the surrounding formal gardens are possibly the most neatly manicured outdoor space in Ireland. The riverbank has been landscaped to facilitate angling, but don't miss the chance to walk with a hawk on your arm at the onsite School of Falconry.
A mile-long driveway flanked by undulating lawns introduces the imposing grey stone castle sprawled along its secluded lakeside location. Dating from 1228, Ashford is steeped in romance and legend: younger visitors immediately recognize Hogwarts, the theme of its family breaks. The 350-acre estate showcases traditional outdoor pursuits, including golf, horse-back riding, fly fishing, and falconry. Ashford's interior offers unique opulence, blending stodgy old sofas with priceless antiques. Once you get over the sheer scale of the place, you will feel uncannily at home, thanks to cheerful, attentive staff. No wonder the celebs and royals on Ashford's Wall of Fame are repeat visitors.
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