Set on a narrow isthmus between Lough Corrib and Lough Mask on the County Mayo border near Maam Cross, the pretty, old-fashioned village of Cong is still as camera-ready as it was when John Ford filmed The Quiet Man here. Dotted with ivy-covered thatch cottages, this tiny village continues to have a worldwide fan base.

Just two blocks long, and bisected by the chocolate-brown River Cong, the village is surrounded on all sides by thickly forested hills. Almost larger than the village itself is the celebrated luxury hotel found here, Ashford Castle, much beloved by billionaires and off-duty celebrities. It was once the country estate of the powerful Guinness family. A public footpath runs from Cong Abbey through the grounds of Ashford Castle and out its gates and is a pleasant walk of about 3 km (2 miles)—or you could drop by for lunch, dinner, or even afternoon tea, to get a peek at Ashford's aristocratic interior. A still more romantic way to see the castle is on a boat trip run by the local Corrib Cruises.

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