Ashford Castle – A Hotel of Gothic Grandeur (History & Travel Tips)

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Ashford Castle is a breathtaking architectural wonder located near the village of Cong, on the side of Lough Corrib (a lake) in County Galway, Ireland. The castle is a Victorian and medieval sensation that has been standing for centuries. 

Ashford Castle was home to the famous Guinness family but is presently a luxury five-star hotel, a member of the renowned marketing organization Leading Hotels of the World. Ashford Castle has recently opened some areas for the general public to visit.

We are sure that this brief introduction has piqued your curiosity to explore more about this prestigious castle. Let’s dive into details about Ashford Castle and uncover the exciting things about this medieval wonder. 

Ashford Castle has a movie theater with 32 seats. It also has a popcorn machine, so you can get freshly made popcorn and enjoy the show.

The beautiful garden in front of Ashford Castle.
The beautiful garden in front of Ashford Castle. Ashford Castle flickr photo by Elin B shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license
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Frequently Asked Questions

FOR HISTORY | BEAUTIFUL IMAGES | INTERESTING FACTS | TRAVEL TIPS

Early History

From Monastery to Castle (13th Century)

Ashford Castle’s early history dates back to 1228 when the Anglo-Norman Burke family constructed a fortress on the grounds of a former monastery.

The de Burgos, whose surname became Bourke or Burke, had ruled the area for three and a half centuries. Ashford fell into the hands of its next owner after a terrible brawl between de Burgos’ soldiers and those of Sir Richard Bingham, the Lord President of Connaught. After Bingham took control of the castle in 1589, he expanded the defensive scope in order to make the castle more secure from invasion.

The land of the castle was given as a Royal Grant to Dominick Browne, a member of the Browne family, in either 1670 or 1678. The Browne family founded the estate of Ashford in 1715 and built a hunting lodge in the style of a 17th-century French chateau. The double-headed eagles, the Browne family’s coat of arms, can still be seen on the roof. A family member moved into and inhabited the castle in the 1800s. Thomas Elwood, a resident at Ashford in 1814, served as an agent for the Browne family.

A painting of the View of Castle Ward from the Doric Temple
A painting of the View of Castle Ward from the Doric Temple; National Trust, Castle Ward; William Ashford, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Legacy of the Guinness Family (19th-20th Century)

 A famous brewer named Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness purchased the Ashford estate in 1852. Under the care of the Guinness family, the castle property was expanded and the structures renovated to a Neo-Gothic design. The Lodge at Ashford Castle was built in 1865 to serve as a home for the estate manager and a place for guests.

After Benjamin’s son, Arthur Guinness, passed away in 1915, the castle was given to the Iveagh Trust, a non-profit organization that Edward Guinness (younger brother of Arthur Guinness) had established to provide low-income families with a place to live. Later, Noel Huggard purchased the property in 1939 and turned it into a distinguished, luxurious country inn.

The bridge outside Ashford Castle.
The bridge outside Ashford Castle. Ashford Castle – Exterior flickr photo by larrywkoester shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Conversion of Ashford Castle In A Luxury Hotel (20th Century)

Huggard made the castle a famous and renowned hotel, known for its historic beauty. In 1952, John Ford, a famous director, came to Ireland to shoot the film, “The Quiet Man.” Most of the movie stars stayed at Ashford Castle.

In 1970, John Mulcahy bought the Ashford Castle Hotel and turned it into a luxurious destination. He started the hotel’s expansion and restoration by doubling its size. He built a golf course in addition to developing a vast garden and grounds around the castle hotel. In 1985, the Ashford Castle was purchased by a group of investors with Irish-American nationality.

Classy interior at Ashford Castle.
Classy interior at Ashford Castle. Jlahorn, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Current Times

Today, Ashford is a fairytale and luxurious hotel visited by many admirers worldwide. It is one of the best castles in Ireland that you can visit. It consists of a hotel that features a swimming pool; bars and restaurants; elegant rooms; lush green grounds and gardens; and a back view of the beautiful vast Lough Corrib.

Highly qualified and trained staff welcome and serve the guests with dignity and respect. As a guest residing in the hotel, you can explore any part of the castle you desire. You can also arrange your ideal fairytale wedding on the grounds of the castle. It will give you the aura of royalty with a magnificent backdrop.

The beautiful view of Ashford Castle from above.
The beautiful view of Ashford Castle from above. Ashford Castle, Ireland flickr photo by larrywkoester shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Interesting Ashford Castle Facts

Following are some unique and interesting facts about Ashford Castle to further interest you:

  • It is not easy for a hotel to quantify itself as a castle in Ireland, but Ashford–standing on an ancient castle base–has well-earned its title. 
  • Ashford Castle has a movie theater with 32 seats. It also has a popcorn machine, so you can get freshly made popcorn and enjoy the show. 
  • Ashford Castle has 82 rooms in total, each with a different look. Every room of the castle is designed carefully with antique-style patterns and décor. Some rooms have bold colors, whereas some have neutral, allowing the hotel management to cater to guests’ differing tastes. 
  • After the visit of the Prince of Wales in the 19th century, the Prince of Wales Cocktail Bar was built. It has a gentleman’s club vibe with wood paneling, green tufted leather furniture, and a grand fireplace. 
  • The billiards room has a small bar where wines and other liqueurs are served, but smoking is not allowed inside. It is only permitted in the designated outdoor space attached to the bar, known as the cigar terrace. 

Visiting Ashford Castle – Tips and Tricks

Here is a detailed guide and some necessary tips and tricks to help make your visit to Ashford Castle worthwhile. Follow these tips to create an everlasting memory of your stay at this stunning hotel. 

The beautiful hall interior inside Ashford Castle.
The beautiful hall interior inside Ashford Castle. Ashford Castle flickr photo by joebaz shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

How to get to Ashford Castle?

You can take different pathways to get to Ashford Castle. Ireland West Airport Knock (NOC) is the nearest airport to Ashford Castle, however it is quicker to reach the castle via train. The Heuston–Galway train ran by Irish Rail leaves every three hours.

The ticket costs around €16-€24 ($16-$24 USD) and takes you almost 2 hours and 19 minutes. You can also take a bus from NOC to the castle, which will take around 2 hours and 30 minutes. 

Ticket Prices, Visiting Hours & Travel Tips

The price of the castle estate’s entry ticket is €15 ($15 USD). You can visit the restaurant, the grounds, the lake behind the castle, a small café, and a shop–however, it does not grant access to the castle interior. If you want to enter the castle, then you have to pay around €50 ($50 USD) to book the afternoon tea at Ashford Castle.

Only the outside of the castle is open to the general public regularly, but it can also be closed during any event. If you want to stay in the castle for a night, you have to pay a minimum of €639 ($639 USD), but the price rises depending on what room and experience you opt for.

The fountain inside Ashford Castle.
The fountain inside Ashford Castle. Ashford Castle flickr photo by rickh710 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

How Long Will It Take to Tour Around?

If you only plan to visit the castle areas open to day visitors, then it will take about 90 minutes to fully view the grounds and the beautiful walled garden to the sides of the castle.

If you plan to stay overnight in the hotel, it depends on you: which areas you want to visit and for how long.

Things To Do in Ashford Castle

Following are some of the things that you could do when you visit Ashford Castle.

As a Day Visitor:

  • The most important thing is to enjoy the spectacular view of the castle from the ancient bridge leading to the entrance of the castle proper. 
  • Visit the walled garden at the side of Ashford Castle, where the structural beauty intermingles with carefully planned natural beauty.
  • Behind the castle is the lake which has been a source of enjoyment and relaxation for the guests of the hotels and visitors for centuries. 
  • Ashford has a vast lush green space; take some time to admire nature’s beauty. It will make you feel energized and ready to explore the rest of the castle estate.
  • Some public rooms, bars, and restaurants are open to the general public. They have spectacular architecture and interior designs resembling medieval and Victorian-era structures. You may want to visit these to look at the hotel’s blend of Victorian and medieval architecture.

As an Overnight Visitor:

  • Visit the archery spot at the castle. If you have never tried archery, then it is the best place to have your first try.
  • The wine cellar is also a great place to visit. You need to book a private tasting to have the best experience. 
  • You can ride a horse at the estate, roaming around the beautiful surroundings of the castle. The staff will help you to get the best horse that suits you, according to your skills. Ride through the lush green grounds of the castle and create your own fairytale
  • Visit the George V Dining Room, a formal restaurant in the castle. It has a grand fireplace, Waterford Crystal chandeliers, and white tablecloths with a formal dress code. Men are required to wear jackets in the evening. They serve international and Irish cuisine with a touch of local ingredients..

Some words of advice and tips: 

Following are the tips that will help you when you visit the castle:

  • Ashford Castle has abundant activities within the estate to entertain guests. It is a favorite destination for people who want a carefree and relaxing break with their family and children. You can take your children there and enjoy your vacation.
  • You can take your pets to Ashford Castle. Ashford welcomes your four-legged friends, who are well cared for by the designated staff. 

Quick Video Tour of The Main Ashford Castle Areas

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Kainat Khalid
Kainat Khalid
Kainat is an English literature graduate with a profound interest in historical architecture. She has studied and explored the dusted pages of history for years which has ignited her passion to explore the existing remnants of our past glory and revisit them from a revised perspective. “There is no present without the past” is what she believes in and what drove her to begin cataloging these timeless historical monuments.

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