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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