BRAD PITT and John Travolta have stayed there. So have Princess Grace of Monaco, Rod Stewart and Tony Blair.
The dazzling list of celebrities, royalty and world leaders who have graced the halls of Ireland’s spectacular Ashford Castle in picturesque Cong, County Mayo is endless.
And it might surprise you to know that even yours truly and her family have sampled the grandeur of this five-star retreat, lured by its famous links with the Oscar-winning film
The Quiet Man, starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara.
We were treating ourselves to a luxurious break at what was once the summer residence of brewing magnates the Guinness family.
Among its glittering accolades, Ashford Castle was last year voted the best hotel in the world by luxury travel advisory Virtuoso.
We were here to mark a special anniversary, but with one catch – we’d decided to take our young daughter along.
Romance out of the window? Not at all! Magnificent five-star Ashford Castle, set in 350 acres, on the picturesque shores of Lough Corrib, caters for everything from romantic breaks to family activity holidays with aplomb.
We received a warm welcome from our porter who had walked the 13th Century castle’s halls for decades, rubbing more than his fair share of celebrity shoulders along the way. He was tight-lipped about his encounters as we headed to our lake-view room. But with a little gentle coaxing he revealed: “Ah now, I did look after your man, Pierce Brosnan, and then there was former US President Ronald Reagan.”
Booking a weekend break to Western Ireland we were thrilled to find convenient flights from Edinburgh to Knock and Shannon airports and a hire car journey to Cong of one to two hours.
Days were spent angling on the River Cong – my hubby being dubbed King Cong after landing a 13lb salmon on the fly.
Our horse-mad little girl spent her hours riding in the estate’s woodlands and enjoyed the thrill of flying Harris’s hawks at Ireland’s School of Falconry on site.
Our grown-up son (who couldn’t make the trip) was green with envy to learn Ashford boasts a nine-hole course designed by renowned Irish golf architect, Eddie Hackett.
There’s so much to do, such as zip-wiring, archery, clay pigeon shooting and boat trips, that although the breath-taking beaches and mountains of Connemara were close by, we just couldn’t drag ourselves away.
Ashford Castle recently saw the completion of a multi-million pound refurbishment after being taken over by the Red Carnation Hotel Collection. It now boasts 83 spectacular rooms, suites and a hideaway cottage on the shore of the lake, all offering hospitality on a grand scale.
Guests can enjoy a state of the art luxury spa and swimming pool, a new billiards room and a cigar terrace.
The hotel even has a 32-seat premier cinema with luscious red velvet chairs, and jars of sweets and popcorn on tap.
Private screenings are available by arrangement. There is even an opportunity to watch the iconic Quiet Man more than six decades after it was shot.
Ashford Castle has an irresistible, magnetic pull, thanks to its adherence to excellence and elegance and the easy-going charm of its staff.
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