Live like a Queen in County Mayo, Ireland

Live like a Queen in County Mayo, Ireland

Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, winds along the country’s western seaboard for 1,500 miles passing through Counties Mayo, Galway, and Clare. A drive along this route takes you past craggy coastlines, limestone landscapes, and surprisingly sandy beaches. Take a detour from this dramatic natural beauty and delight in a visit back in time at Ashford Castle.

Ashford Castle, Ireland

Ashford Castle

This celebrated, medieval, 13th-century castle located on the Mayo-Galway border and on the shores of Lough (Lake) Corrib, was originally the seat of the De Burgo Family. It has changed hands and was expanded several times over the centuries, becoming the home of the Guinness family in 1852.  It was sold in 1939 and transformed into a world-renowned resort hotel.

To see excellent exterior shots of the castle, check out the TV show Reign (a Game of Thrones meets Marie Antoinette period drama). It’s filmed on location at Ashford. Also, rent John Ford’s classic 1952 film, The Quiet Man, which brought Hollywood royalty, John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, to the castle grounds and nearby picturesque village of Cong.

Ashford Castle, Ireland

Actors from the TV show “Reign,” which films on location at Ashford Castle

Overflowing with Irish hospitality, this 350-acre sporting estate features classic country past times like skeet shooting and archery juxtaposed with modern amenities. Yes, you will feel truly regal as you weave yourself into the fabric of this fabled estate. Become the star of your own “costume drama”—explore Lady Ardilaun’s walled gardens, bike past ancient Irish pines, amble through woodland paths, and end the day with tea in the castle’s Drawing Room.


Fishing: Our boys were excited to drop a line in the River Cong a fishery famous for brown trout and Atlantic salmon that runs adjacent to Ashford Castle. The resort’s Orvis endorsed gillie (fishing guide), Frank, came well equipped with boat, bait, and tackle.


The boys geared up for a morning of fishing on Lake Corrib and the River Cong

Sporting clays: Novice and experience shooters will enjoy the range, with targets that simulate the game available in this region. Beginners will be thoroughly briefed on safety and etiquette.

Ashford Castle, Ireland

In Clay Shooting, each stand features a different target with a distinct trajectory and speed

Falconry: This was our most memorable activity, run by Ireland’s School of Falconry (the oldest established falconry school in the country). Sign up for the Hawk Walk. After a brief training with an instructor, fly Harris Hawks on the grounds of the castle and through the woodlands. What an experience to see these powerful but graceful birds take flight, swoop through the trees, and then land safely back down on our gloved hands.

Ashford Castle, Ireland

With exceptional grace and speed, each Harris Hawk is well trained, gently returning to your gloved hand

Falconry at Ashford Castle

The one-hour Hawk Walk takes you through the castle’s lush woodlands

Dining: The hotel offers a range of choices from Cullen’s Cottage (traditional pub & tea room) to George V (full Irish breakfast and fine dining) to the cozy, belowground Dungeon (bistro-style menu). Also try Wilde’s at nearby sister property, The Lodge at Ashford Castle, for fine Irish cuisine.

Ashford Castle, Ireland

Ashford Castle’s entry hall — romantic and stately

Ashford Castle, Ireland

Take time to enjoy a spot of tea in the Drawing Room

Village of Cong: One afternoon we took a stroll on the footpath to nearby Cong, a pocket-sized town filled with proverbial ivy covered thatched cottages in pastel hues set against a backdrop of wooded hills. (It’s easy to see why John Ford selected it as the location for his famous film). Stop at The Quiet Man Museum, Ladys Buttery Art and Craft Gallery for handcrafted items by local artisans, and the Hungry Monk Café for traditional Irish stew.

Village of Cong

Lush and lovely village of Cong is dotted with ivy strewn cottages

Lake cruise: Local, family-run passenger ferry, Corrib Cruises, operates year-round on Lough Corrib. Board the Inisfree, their 80-passenger vessel, from the castle pier and embark on a two-hour tour of the lake, including a walk around historic Inchagoill, one of 365 islands. On board there’s a full bar serving ample pints of Guinness, and plenty of Irish music, song, and homespun tales of life on the Corrib. (Be ready for a great photo opportunity of Ashford Castle from the water.)

Ashford Castle, Ireland

Board the “Inisfree” at the Castle pier and enjoy a tour of Ireland’s largest lake

Lake Cruise, Ashford Castle, Ireland

The “Corrib Music Cruise” features traditional music by local (and very charming) resident, Martin Noon

Day trip to Cliffs of Moher: This natural attraction, formed 320 million years ago, rises a staggering 702 feet at its highest point over the Atlantic Ocean for a stretch of over five miles. Grab an audio guide from the Visitor Center and walk along the Burren Way to the various viewing platforms and catch a glimpse of puffins nesting in rocky shelves far below. Climb the narrow spiral staircase in O’Brien’s Tower (built in 1835) for a great vista of five counties and the Aran Islands. Movie buffs will recognize these dramatic shale and limestone cliffs from scenes in Harry Potter & the Half Blood Prince and The Princess Bride (where they were humorously referred to as the Cliffs of Insanity).

Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

The Cliffs of Moher loom large over Ireland’s Atlantic coast

Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

Marking the cliff’s highest point, O’Brien’s Tower offers views of Connemara and the Aran Islands

Day trip to Galway City: Less than an hour’s drive away is the City of Galway, filled with eclectic restaurants, stylish boutiques, and annual festivals. Talk a walk around Quay Street brimming with pubs and entertainment or visit the weekend Farmer’s Market to load up on Irish delicacies. Stop by the Philip Treacy-designed g Hotel to see how this famous royal milliner applied his unique over-over-the top esthetic to this boutique property.

Travel Tip: No trip to Ireland is complete without a visit to Dublin. Check out my recent blog: Three Days in Dublin, for what to see, where to stay and where to dine.

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Three Days in Dublin

Three Days in Dublin

It’s so easy to fall in love with Dublin: a compact, walkable city with an abundance of museums and sites, a thriving, eclectic restaurant scene, and a reverence for literary and historical figures. What sets it apart from other European capitals? The Irish wit and wisdom freely dispensed by Dubliners.  Guides, taxi drivers, and proverbial Irish bartenders are the true ambassadors of this city, always ready to share a wry quip or firm opinion.

We settled into the Westbury Hotel, centrally located just off bustling Grafton Street, giving us easy access to bistros, shops, and cafes. Our days kicked off with organic Irish porridge and smoked salmon omelets at the hotel’s main restaurant, Wilde, and ended with afternoon tea and hot chocolate in The Gallery. In between? … many pleasurable hours soaking up Irish history, culture, cuisine, and libations.


Double-decker Bus Tour: In London, they’re red, in Dublin, green of course! This hop-on, hop-off sightseeing tour takes 90 minutes and includes 23 stops on its main route—ideal for first-time visitors.

Walking tours: Often, the best way to experience a city is on foot. For a proficient guide, try historian Pat Liddy and his team of professionals for group or private tours.

Trinity College: Wander around the cobblestone quads of Trinity College, one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in Europe, and visit its most important treasure, the Book of Kells, the 9th century, illuminated four-gospels manuscript. Continue on to the Old Library’s Long Room and marvel at the 200,000 volumes of old and rare books lining the high shelves of this barrel-vaulted, oak-paneled room. (Astute Star Wars fans will recognize this as the CGI Jedi Archive in Attack of the Clones).

Trinity College, Dublin

Over the summer months, Trinity College allows visitors to book a guest room on campus

Long Room, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland

The Long Room’s historic collection includes a rare copy of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic

Guinness Storehouse: There’s nothing like the taste of Guinness in Ireland—like a smooth, chilled cappuccino, complete with white, frothy head. When it reaches the States, it’s just not the same. This seven-floor brewery tour, located in the 19th-century warehouse, teaches you all about Dublin’s famous brew, “the black stuff.” When you reach the top, enjoy a complimentary pint in the Gravity Bar offering 360° degree views of the city. Book tickets online for discounts and to avoid lines.

Kilmainham Gaol Museum: If you saw the historic biopic Michael Collins (starring Liam Neeson) you would be well versed in the historical significance of this gaol (jail), now a monument to Irish nationalism. It served as the main jail for imprisoned leaders of the rebellion again British rule. Walk through cells and the stonebreakers yard and hear tales of the harsh life of an inmate and Ireland’s deadly struggle for independence. Get there early—tickets are on a first come first served basis.

Guinness Storehouse, Dublin

The Storehouse tour includes a lesson on how to pour the perfect pint of Guinness in six easy steps

Kilmainhan Gaol, Dublin, Ireland

A visit to Kilmainhan Gaol gives you a profound appreciation for Ireland’s history

St. Patrick’s Cathedral: Unlike Manhattan’s St. Patrick’s (Catholic) Cathedral, this is the Protestant Church of Ireland’s national cathedral. It is affectionately known as the “people’s cathedral.” The Guinness family, well known for its philanthropy, helped restore this beautiful Medieval-style building when it sadly fell into disrepair.

Georgian Dublin: Georgian architecture (flat-fronted, five-story row houses that ring gated grassy squares) is a big part of Dublin’s charm. Most notable is Merrion Square with its ivy-strewn buildings boasting colorful and ornate doors, home to Irish author, Oscar Wilde.

St. Patricks Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland

Check the St. Patrick’s Cathedral website for a listing of public concerts and recitals

Georgian Architecture, Dublin, Ireland

Georgian architecture dates back to 1741 and takes its name from the reign of the four King Georges

Irish Jewish Museum: This small but comprehensive museum, located in the former 19th-century Walworth Road Synagogue, was opened in 1985 by Chaim Herzog, Irish-born former President of Israel. The ground floor is filled with memorabilia honoring the Irish Jewish community; upstairs is the original Synagogue.

Phoenix Park: Twice the size of New York’s Central Park, it’s one of the largest city parks in Europe. This verdant, woodland also contains the Dublin Zoo and the President’s Residence, Áras an Uachtaráin.

James Joyce Centre: Learn about the life of the famous writer and his greatest novel, Ulysses, which tells the story of Dublin’s Leopold Bloom during the course of just one day – June 16, 1904. If you haven’t read this important (but VERY lengthy) piece of literature, rent the 1967 Academy Award nominated movie.

The Old Jameson Distillery: Situated in the original home of world-famous Jameson, the tour includes a brief film on the craft of Irish whiskey making from malting to milling to mashing. At the end, sample a glass—triple distillation is the key to its smoothness.

Jameson Distillery, Dublin, Ireland

To go from grain to glass, Jameson must mature for several years in wooden casks


Lively and busker-filled pedestrian area Grafton Street and Nassau Street (adjacent to Trinity College) provide plenty of shopping choices. For authentic made in Ireland wares including Waterford, Galway Crystal, Belleek pottery, Jimmy Hourihan and Aran sweaters, try Kilkenny Shop, Blarney Woolen Mills, House of Ireland, Kevin & Howland, and Monaghans. For department store shopping, visit Ireland’s own Brown Thomas. Distinctive Powerscourt Centre offers antique and boutique shopping in a converted 18th-century townhouse. Afterwards, stop for a coffee at famous Bewley’s.


Rustic Stone: Award winning Irish chef, Dylan McGrath, uses the best seasonal ingredients and stone cooking to create simple yet exceptional, healthy dishes.

Cliff Townhouse: Make a reservation for a special dinner at this elegant Georgian townhouse and boutique hotel overlooking St. Stephen’s Green. Their modern Irish menu features plenty of seafood.

Fade Street Social: Another venue by Dylan McGrath, this lively restaurant includes a Gastro Pub, Tapas Bar, and rooftop Winter Garden. Dishes are prepared with the freshest of ingredients – you’ll experience what farm-to-table truly means.

Matt the Thresher: Hands down the best fish ‘n’ chips with mushy, minty peas in Dublin. The high-ceilinged, bright room, hearty seafood, and friendly and professional service, make this the perfect, casual-dining spot.

Matt the Thresher, Dublin, Ireland

Dive in to Matt the Thresher’s beer battered Fish ‘n’ Chips

Gotham Cafe: We are from NY, so we are serious about pizza, but this small bistro got four thumbs up. Little did we know—they use a stone pizza oven imported from Washington State. The menu features New York neighborhood-named pies like the “Soho” (fresh spinach and feta cheese) and the “Chinatown” (barbequed Peking duck and hoisin sauce).

Temple Bar: A lively area filled with restaurants, cafes, and bars, it comprises a network of streets from Dame Street to the River Liffey. There’s lots of culture here too, so check local papers for listings.

The Brazen Head: Ireland’s oldest pub (dating back to 1198) is also a famous music venue. Legendary alumni include Van Morrison, Mary Black, and Garth Brooks.


Boutique properties, The Westbury; and the Merrrion, historic Shelbourne Hotel; conveniently located Westin (near Trinity); and contemporary-styled Radisson Blu Royal.

Brazen Head, Dublin, Ireland

Have a pint and enjoy traditional Irish music and folklore at The Brazen Head

Herricks Travel American ExpressReady to plan a unique trip for you or your family? Contact me at For more information on my trip planning services, please click here.

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