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 in 1951. Dotted with ivy-covered thatch cottages with a cookie-cutter cuteness that may appear somewhat contrived, this tiny village still provides a wonderful photo backdrop.
Just two blocks long, and bisected by the chocolate-brown River Cong, the village is surrounded on all sides by thickly forested hills. Besides the much-vaunted Quiet Man connections, which may be puzzling to those who are not fans of the classic movie, you can walk among the riverside remains of the 12th-century abbey, and discover its Monks' Fishing House. Information boards in the village will guide you to a stone circle and the richly carved Market Cross. 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 footpath runs from Cong Abbey to Ashford Castle, and out its gates is a pleasant walk of about 3 km (2 miles). There is now a €10 admission fee to the grounds of Ashford Castle unless you have prebooked lunch, dinner, or afternoon tea. A still more romantic way to see the castle is on a boat trip run by the local Corrib Cruises from the public pier in Cong.