I shy away from really old buildings (as in 50 years or older, talk less of 780+ years old) for many reasons. Mostly because I’d rather not share my room with previous residents from generations past. So all senses were heightened even before I stepped into the impressive Ashford Castle located in Cong, County Mayo. Once home to the Guinness family, Ashford sits on 300 hectares of meticulously manicured lush land which would take days to explore if one were to attempt it by foot.
The roughly 1 mile drive from its intricately decorated gates, cutting through green fields that rolled on and on up to the castle itself at the edge of Lough Corrib gave me a few seconds to reflect. Rather, a few seconds to free up my mind from preconceived notions of luxury. God knows I have my opinions, and they don’t include flitting around 5-star digs just because I have incoming opportunities and access to do so.
Dingle the Owl welcomed us in style upon arrival, creating a powerful visual against the grand backdrop with uniformed staff lining up to greet us as well. They were key for me, these men and women behind neatly pressed uniforms and smiles. When I travel, I beeline it right for staff and feed off their vibe because they tell you, without words, just how a place truly works and the treatment margin between paying customers and daily workers.
Just how warm and real was this castle when the word ‘castle’ itself conjures up images of opulence and privilege?
In the next few days, Ashford would go on to show me its warmth in many ways; from the jovial chamber maids I kept bumping into everyday to Fiona, the falconer currently on her way to Oxford for further studies yet filled with humility so rare in this self obsessed social media age. With most of its staff clocking an average of over 5-8 years of continuous service at the castle, a couple multiple generation staff (parents/children), and an extremely low turnover rate, I felt like I’d walked into a cozy family home.
That quality alone is what makes a luxury property worth coming back to…way beyond high thread counts and melt-in-your-mouth succulent food.
And yes, residents from generations past do mill around the castle. From stories of jilted lovers roaming the halls of the older wing to actual captured photos of ghouls and goblins peeking in through windows, Ireland’s legendary tales of mystic and magic won’t disappoint you here.
Photo Gallery – Ashford Castle & Grounds (96 Photos)
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