Location: Mayo-Galway border, Ireland.
Built: 1228 (and later).
Condition: 5 star luxury hotel.
Ownership / Access: Red Carnation Hotels.
Opening times: Check their website for more info.
Price of admission: Check their website for more info.
Notes: Ashford Castle is a medieval castle that has been expanded over the centuries and turned into a five star luxury hotel near Cong on the Mayo-Galway border, on the shore of Lough Corrib in Ireland. It is a member of the Leading Hotels of the World organisation and was previously owned by the Guinness family. The Castle passed to Ardilaun's nephew Ernest Guinness. It was gifted to the Irish government in 1939. Noel Huggard opened the estate as a hotel, which became renowned for the provision of its country pursuits, such as angling and shooting. Noel Huggard's parents had been in the hotel business in Waterville, County Kerry, since 1910 and his grand daughters, Louise and Paula, run The Butler Arms Hotel there to this day. In 1951, the film director John Ford came to the west of Ireland to film The Quiet Man, starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara. The grounds of the castle, as well as nearby Cong, formed the backdrop for much of the action in the film. In 1970, the castle was bought by John Mulcahy, who oversaw its complete restoration and expansion, doubling its size with the addition of a new wing in the early 1970s, building a golf course and developing the grounds and gardens. In 1985, a group of Irish American investors, which included Chuck Feeney and Tony O'Reilly, purchased Ashford. The Castle was sold by these investors in 2007 for €50 million to Galway-based property investor Gerry Barrett and his family. While some of Barrett's extensive property loans were to be managed by the Irish National Asset Management Agency (NAMA), Ashford was financed by Bank of Scotland (Ireland), who placed the property in receivership in November 2011, though the hotel continued as a going concern, run by the Tifco Hotel Group, an Irish hotel management company. In September 2012, it was voted the best resort in Ireland and the third best in Europe by Conde Nast Traveler. In October 2012, the hotel was put up for sale and was valued at around €25 million, half of what Barrett paid in 2007. The hotel currently has 83 bedrooms, six of which are suites. Barret's plan to add another 13 penthouse bedrooms and 30 lodges in the castle grounds has not gone through. In May 2013, the hotel was bought by Red Carnation Hotels, a group which owns several other boutique hotels, for €20 million. The new owner plans a major refurbishment and the sale is expected to preserve the roughly 160 jobs (high season, dropping to 120 in low season) at the property. According to the receiver, Ashford Castle was profitable even during the period of receivership. Niall Rochford, long-time manager of the property, has said that staff accepted a 20% to 30% paycut to ensure the hotel's survival.In January 2014, the new owners acquired neighbouring Lisloughrey Lodge, with plans to add it to the resort. Ashford Castle itself was scheduled to reopen on 14 March after major refurbishment that began in early January. Today, most of the guests come from the United States (60 percent; 30 percent from Ireland; 10 percent from elsewhere), with Californians accounting for the largest share. The castle re-opened in April 2015 following major refurbishment. All 820 windows were replaced, a new lead roof installed, and its stonework repointed. Around €47m was spent on restoring the property. In its time the castle has played host to many notable guests, including: King George V and his consort Queen Mary; John Lennon; George Harrison; Oscar Wilde (whose father, Sir William Wilde, had an estate adjacent to Ashford, where the writer spent much of his childhood); President Ronald Reagan; Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex; US Senator Ted Kennedy; John Wayne; Brad Pitt; Pierce Brosnan; and Prince Rainier III of Monaco and his consort, Princess Grace.
How To Get To Ashford Castle (Map):
Ashford Castle Links:Ashford Castle On Wikipedia
Web site of Ashford Castle
Photosynth of Ashford Castle
National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, entry for main castle
Ashford Castle in the Irish Tourist Association Survey of 1945