Complete Guide to Visiting Ashford Castle in Ireland (2024)

I’ve spent collectively over six weeks in Ireland during my visits, and one of the places in Ireland that captured my heart is Ashford Castle.

Visiting this incredible castle is like stepping into a real-life fairytale!

In this post, I’m sharing everything you need to know about visiting Ashford Castle and some of my favorite pictures from our stay.

Let’s start with a brief overview of Ashford Castle’s rich history.

The history of Ashford Castle

Ashford Castle, nestled in the stunning County Mayo in the west of Ireland, boasts a rich and captivating history that spans centuries.

Originally built in the 13th century as a defensive stronghold, the castle has witnessed countless events and transformations throughout its existence.

Ownership history of the castle

The castle’s earliest roots can be traced back to 1228 when it was constructed by the Anglo-Norman de Burgos family.

Over the years, Ashford Castle passed through the hands of various noble families, each leaving their mark on the castle’s architecture and legacy.

In the early 19th century, the Guinness family, famous for their brewery empire, took ownership of the castle and transformed it into a luxurious estate.

During the ownership of the Guinness family, significant renovations and expansions were carried out, turning Ashford Castle into a grand Victorian mansion.

The castle’s iconic turrets, elegant interiors, and stunning gardens were crafted during this period, solidifying its reputation as a lavish and opulent retreat.

Throughout the 20th century, this historic castle transitioned from the former home of the Guinness family to its new chapter as a luxury hotel.

Notably, in 1939, the castle was purchased by Noel Huggard, who transformed it into one of Ireland’s premier hotels, welcoming illustrious guests from around the world.

Famous guests of the castle

Over the years, Ashford Castle has hosted many notable figures, including royalty, politicians, and celebrities, further enhancing its allure and prestige.

Its rich history and architectural beauty have also made it a popular filming location, with appearances in films such as “The Quiet Man” starring John Wayne.

Some famous figures who have visited Ashford Castle include Pierce Brosnan, John Wayne, Brad Pitt, John Lennon, Robin Williams, President Ronald Reagan, and Maureen O’Hara.

In recent times, Ashford Castle has continued to elevate its offerings, providing guests with unparalleled experiences, exquisite accommodations, and a wide range of activities.

Its timeless charm, coupled with the backdrop of Lough Corrib and the enchanting Connemara countryside, has made it an iconic destination for those seeking a taste of Ireland’s history and grandeur.

Today, Ashford Castle is a testament to its past, seamlessly blending its storied heritage with modern luxury and warm hospitality.

It continues to enchant visitors worldwide, offering an unforgettable experience steeped in history, elegance, and a touch of fairytale magic.

It is now a member of the Red Carnation Hotel Collection and was Ireland’s first of two Forbes five-star hotels.

Undoubtedly, it is one of the most beautiful of the Red Carnation Hotels and is one of the best weekend breaks in Ireland.

The entrance to Ashford Castle. The Castle is grey stone with square walls and arched entry points. There is an old Range Rover parked by the entrance with ornate lamp posts and stone dog statues on either side of the entryway.

Where is Ashford Castle Hotel located?

Ashford Castle is located in County Mayo, Ireland, on the County Galway border. Nestled near the picturesque village of Cong, the castle sits on the shores of Lough Corrib, Ireland’s second-largest lake.

The serene setting of Ashford Castle is surrounded by lush countryside, rolling hills, and enchanting woodlands, which provide a tranquil escape from the outside world.

This is one of the best photo spots in Ireland!

There are several transportation options available to reach Ashford Castle.

The nearest international airport is Ireland West Airport Knock, located approximately 45 kilometers (28 miles) away, offering convenient connections to major cities.

Additionally, Galway Airport and Shannon Airport are also within reasonable distance.

For those traveling by train, the nearest railway station is in Galway City, with regular services connecting to other parts of Ireland.

Ashford Castle is easily accessible by road as well, with well-maintained routes leading to the castle from major cities and towns.

The castle’s location in County Mayo allows visitors to explore the scenic wonders of western Ireland.

This includes the rugged Connemara region and the stunning landscapes of the Wild Atlantic Way.

If you’re traveling through County Galway to reach Ashford Castle, check out these castles in Galway on the way!

Accommodations at Ashford Castle

The rooms

Ashford Castle provides luxurious accommodations that are designed to offer a comfortable and elegant stay.

The Ashford Castle rooms and suites at the castle are beautifully decorated, combining classic elements with modern amenities.

The rooms are spacious and well-furnished, featuring cozy beds, fine fabrics, and stylish furniture.

Many guest rooms offer lovely views of the castle grounds, the peaceful Lough Corrib, or the scenic countryside.

The suites provide an extra level of luxury, with separate living areas, beautiful fireplaces, and antique furnishings.

Some suites even have private terraces or balconies, offering a peaceful retreat with stunning views.

We chose to stay in a Deluxe Lake View Room, and it was gorgeous! The room’s interior was magical, and our view overlooked the castle gardens and the lake as well.

It would have been tempting to spend all of our time in the room if it weren’t for all of the fantastic things there were to do at the castle.

Making reservations

Reservations can be made directly through the Ashford Castle website.

This is where you will find all of the different room options available, as well as check availability for the dates you need.

You’ll also have the option to book breakfast, dinner, and special dining as a package with your room.

We chose to do that bed & breakfast package and pay for our other meals separately.

Next, you can book extras like spa treatments, activities, or cakes and flowers for special occasions.

Although most things can be added on after your arrival at the castle, availability can quickly fill up, so booking in advance is better.

Activities and experiences at Ashford Castle

One of my favorite things about staying at Ashford Castle is how many incredible things you can do during your visit!

Here is a brief overview featuring just a few of the activities you can enjoy during your stay.

Outdoor experiences

The Ashford Estate covers 350 acres of woodlands, castle grounds, and the banks of Lough Corrib. There is no shortage of outdoor activities to enjoy here!

Take a private hawk walk

One of the most popular experiences at Ashford Castle is falconry. Falconry is a unique activity that allows individuals to interact with majestic birds of prey, such as falcons, hawks, and owls.

Ashford Castle offers a private Hawk Walk experience, where guests can take a guided stroll through the castle’s enchanting grounds with a trained hawk perched on their gloved hand.

During the Hawk Walk, guests can witness the awe-inspiring flight of these magnificent birds and learn about their characteristics, hunting techniques, and the historical significance of falconry.

It is a remarkable and educational experience that provides a deeper appreciation for these fascinating creatures and their relationship with humans throughout history.

Book an equestrian experience

Ashford Castle has a really great equestrian center on the property.

You can book various equestrian activities, including private horseback riding lessons, trail rides, and carriage rides.

I’ve had the pleasure of trail riding here twice now, and I can promise it is a magical experience!

Riding English style was an adjustment since I grew up riding Western style, but I learned quickly.

All the necessary equipment was provided, including gloves, boots, and a helmet.

Our horses were so cute, and each one had its own unique personality. Our riding instructor paired us with horses best suited to our riding level.

At Ashford Castle, everyone can enjoy horse riding with friendly guides and well-trained horses.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced rider, you will enjoy exploring the beautiful countryside around the castle.

Ride along twisting trails through the woods or enjoy the stunning lakeside views.

And getting pictures astride your horses with the castle in the background will create memories that will last a lifetime.

Try your hand at archery or clay shooting

If you consider yourself a marksman, consider booking an archery or clay shooting experience. Both take place at the castle’s dedicated shooting range.

While we didn’t try the archery, we did give clay shooting a go and it was admittedly a lot more fun than I anticipated it being!

Both of us participated, but surprisingly, I was really good at it. I even shocked the instructor, haha!

I chalk it up to beginner’s luck, but it was fun all the same.

Our instructor was really fun and taught us all of the different angles and techniques for shooting the clays.

If you’re looking for something unique and sporty, try this!

Go out on Lake Corrib

Lake Corrib offers a myriad of exciting activities for visitors to enjoy, including kayaking, fishing, and lake cruises, just to name a few.

One of the popular choices is kayaking, where you can paddle along the tranquil waters of the lake, surrounded by breathtaking scenery.

Whether you’re a novice or an experienced kayaker, Lake Corrib provides the perfect backdrop for peaceful exploration.

Fishing enthusiasts will find Lake Corrib a haven for angling. Known for its abundant salmon and trout, the lake offers ample opportunities to cast your line and try your luck from the shore or on a boat trip.

Consider taking a lake cruise on Lake Corrib for a more leisurely experience.

As you glide along, you’ll be captivated by the stunning lush green landscapes, and perhaps you’ll catch a glimpse of native wildlife.

The guides share fascinating stories about the lake’s history, folklore, and its significance in the local culture.

No matter which activity you choose, Lake Corrib promises an unforgettable experience, allowing you to connect with nature, appreciate the serene beauty of the surroundings, and create lasting memories on the pristine waters of this enchanting lake.

Hit the Ashford Castle golf course

At Ashford Castle, golf enthusiasts can enjoy a memorable golfing experience amidst stunning natural landscapes.

The castle boasts a private nine-hole golf course designed to challenge and delight players of all skill levels.

With panoramic views of Lough Corrib and the rolling countryside, golfers can tee off against the backdrop of this picturesque setting.

Whether you’re a seasoned golfer or just starting out, a round of golf at Ashford Castle promises a memorable and enjoyable experience in a truly remarkable setting.

Other fun things to do on the Ashford Castle grounds include bike rides, visiting the Quiet Man cottage, playing tennis, going hiking, exploring the Guinness Tower, and enjoying a picnic.

Indoor experiences

While there is plenty to do out on the castle grounds, there is also an abundance of things to do inside the castle.

Relax at the spa

The spa at Ashford Castle is a haven of tranquility, offering a range of treatments and facilities designed for ultimate relaxation and well-being.

Step into a world of serenity as you indulge in rejuvenating massages, invigorating facials, and soothing body treatments.

After your treatment, unwind in the stunning relaxation pool, where you can bask in the warm waters and take in the peaceful views of the castle grounds.

For those seeking a more active experience, the fitness suite is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment to help you maintain your fitness routine.

Stay on track with your workout goals while enjoying the elegant surroundings of the castle.

Complete your spa journey by visiting the steam room showers, where you can let the gentle steam envelop you, promoting relaxation and detoxification.

The steam room showers offer a rejuvenating experience, leaving you feeling refreshed and revitalized.

Whether you seek relaxation, fitness, or a combination of both, the spa facilities provide a serene escape where you can indulge in self-care and emerge feeling renewed and invigorated.

The Relaxation Pool in the Spa at Ashford Castle. There are two ornate chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, the walls are decorated with ornate tiles, and the pool is surrounded by lounging chairs.
Relaxation Pool in the Spa at Ashford Castle

Have afternoon tea

Indulge in the timeless tradition of afternoon tea at Ashford Castle. Tea is served in the Connaught Room, adorned with classic décor and beautiful views of the surrounding castle gardens.

As you sip on a selection of fine teas, expertly brewed and served in delicate china cups, you’ll be treated to an array of delectable treats. Included are finger sandwiches with various fillings, freshly baked scones with clotted cream and preserves, and various delicate pastries and cakes, each crafted with precision and artistry.

The attentive staff at Ashford Castle will ensure that every detail of your afternoon tea is perfect, from the elegantly tiered serving stand to the warm and welcoming service. Relax and savor each bite, engaging in conversation or simply enjoying the atmosphere.

Afternoon tea at Ashford Castle is a time-honored tradition that invites you to slow down, appreciate the finer things in life, and create cherished memories in the enchanting surroundings of this iconic castle.

A girl having Afternoon Tea at Ashford Castle
Having Afternoon Tea at Ashford Castle

Play a round of billiards

Playing billiards at Ashford Castle is a fun and entertaining activity that you can enjoy with friends and family.

Inside the billiards room, you’ll find a beautiful billiards table with all the necessary equipment.

Take turns using the cue stick to hit the balls and try to pocket them into the designated holes.

It’s a game of skill and strategy, where you’ll need to plan your shots and aim carefully to score points.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced player, the billiards room provides an enjoyable environment for friendly games and competition.

This was our first time playing billiards, and we found it to be a lot of fun!

Some local Irish visitors taught us the rules of the game, and we enjoyed learning from them.

Additionally, the billiards room itself is stunning! Definitely plan to stop in here during your exploration of the castle, even if you don’t have time to play a round.

A man playing Billiards in the Billiards Room at Ashford Castle. The table is green and there are six red lamps hanging above the table.
Playing Billiards in the Billiards Room at Ashford Castle

Catch a movie at the cinema

Did you know Ashford Castle has its own small cinema? It’s quite charming and luxurious, with plush red velvet chairs for maximum comfort.

If you wish, you can even hire this 32-seat theater for a private viewing and have the whole place to yourself.

You can watch various movies here, with a different film being played each night.

Perhaps the most popular one is The Quiet Man, starring John Wayne, which was actually filmed on the Ashford Castle estate!

Fresh popcorn is complimentary and is available to all hotel guests. Even if you don’t plan to stay for a movie, stop in to grab some popcorn!

Take an Ashford Castle tour

Ashford Castle is quite large, and it’s easy to get turned around in the various levels and hallways.

I recommend asking for a castle tour upon your arrival to familiarize yourself better with the castle for the remainder of your stay.

Not only will you have a better idea of how to find your way around, but you’ll also learn more about the castle’s history and hear stories about the various rooms.

Our guide even took us down to the wine cellar, which was pretty neat. We really enjoyed our tour!

Other fun things to do in Ashford Castle include reading a book in the library, playing a game of chess by the fireplace, and listening to beautiful live music in the late evening.

Dining at Ashford Castle

From exquisite fine dining experiences to casual fare infused with local flavors, the Ashford Castle restaurants offer a range of exceptional culinary options to satisfy every palate.

Additionally, we found the restaurants here to be very accommodating to those with dietary restrictions.

There are gluten-free and vegan options at every restaurant. Be sure to mention any dietary needs during your booking, and also mention them to your waiter.

There are seven Ashford Castle restaurants:

  • The Dungeon
  • George V Dining Room
  • The Connaught Room
  • Cullen’s at the Cottage
  • The Drawing Room
  • Stanley’s
  • The Prince of Wales Bar

The Dungeon Restaurant

Hidden beneath Ashford Castle lies the Dungeon Restaurant, an extraordinary dining experience that transports guests to a bygone era.

Descend into the castle’s depths and immerse yourself in a captivating dungeon surrounded by stone walls and flickering candlelight.

The menu here features traditional Irish dishes. Guests can expect a blend of classic and contemporary flavors, with options ranging from succulent meats and seafood to vegetarian dishes.

Each plate is thoughtfully designed to provide a remarkable dining experience within the captivating setting of the castle’s underground sanctuary.

The Dungeon Restaurant in Ashford Castle. The walls are red and there are pendants with family crests hanging from the ceiling. There are tables set throughout the room.
The Dungeon Restaurant in Ashford Castle

George V Dining Room

The George V Dining Room, named for King George V, at Ashford Castle, is the fanciest dining room in the castle.

Named after the former king of England, this dining room exudes timeless elegance with its grand crystal chandeliers, ornate ceilings, and luxurious furnishings.

The menu features a symphony of gourmet creations, showcasing the finest local and seasonal ingredients and offering a fine dining experience fit for royalty.

You can choose to indulge in a 5-course meal or order a la carte.

Note: Men are required to wear a jacket to dinner, and dressing up is strongly encouraged for everyone.

The George V Dining Room is also where breakfast is served every morning.

You can choose from various options, including a traditional Irish breakfast, omelets, pancakes, and more. We thoroughly enjoyed our breakfasts here!

The Connaught Room

The Connaught Room is mainly used for afternoon tea, which I briefly mentioned earlier.

This stunning dining room includes features like floor-to-ceiling windows, an ornate wooden fireplace, and a stunning Donegal Crystal chandelier.

During afternoon tea at Ashford Castle, you can experience a delightful array of finger sandwiches, an extensive selection of hot teas, and an assortment of freshly baked goods and treats, including mouth-watering scones and an enticing assortment of pastries.

This experience allows guests to immerse themselves in a truly enchanting tea-time experience that is second to none.

Read more about our experience having afternoon tea at Ashford Castle here!

Cullen’s at the Cottage

Set in a quaint thatched cottage adjacent to the castle, the Cullen’s at the Cottage restaurant offers a cozy and inviting ambiance.

Guests can indulge in hearty and flavorsome dishes that celebrate the best of Irish cuisine and explore additional worldwide dishes.

Fun fact: This cottage used to house the Cong Cinema. It was also where the very first viewing of The Quiet Man was shown, even before it was released in Hollywood!

The Drawing Room

The Drawing Room is perfect for a quick lunch or a very early dinner. The food here was really delicious!

While drinks are served here all day, food is only available from 12-6 and serves a variety of soups, sandwiches, and a few main courses.

The main draw to this dining location is the gorgeous views of the castle grounds and Lake Corrib out of the massive windows.

You’ll find yourself tempted to linger for a bit after your meal to take in the stunning landscape.


Stanley’s has a bright and fun atmosphere. This restaurant only seats nine people at a bar overlooking an open kitchen.

This darling restaurant is decorated like a diner with green and white wallpaper, green barstools, and a picture of Elvis Presley hanging on the wall.

Reservations are not accepted here, and there is no dress code, making it an informal and fun place to grab a bite to eat.

The menu features fresh options, including salads, sandwiches, and burgers.

The Prince of Wales Bar

And finally, we have the Prince of Wales Bar.

This gorgeous room is decorated with rich shades of green and ornate wooden paneling, with a stunning chandelier in the center.

The Prince of Wales visited in 1905 and this room was used as his private bar during his stay at Ashford Castle.

Today, this lounge is a great place to hang out for a relaxing drink. We enjoyed iced teas here while we waited for our room to be ready for check-in.

Note: There are also additional accommodations and dining options at The Lodge at Ashford Castle on the estate.

The gardens outside of Ashford Castle. The grounds are bright green and have plants and shrubs planted throughout. The castle is in the background and looks gorgeous.
Ashford Castle Grounds

Tips for your stay at Ashford Castle

Here are a few things you should know to help make your stay at Ashford Castle more enjoyable!

Make as many reservations as you can in advance

Make as many reservations as possible in advance to avoid disappointment and give yourself a better experience.

This includes dining reservations, spa services, and experiences you may want to enjoy on the estate.

Things tend to fill up very quickly and might be booked entirely by the time you arrive.

Additionally, some activities require pre-booking so that adequate staff may be available.

Most of the castle is only available for guests staying at the castle

Most of the castle is only available for guests staying at the castle, so please don’t show up hoping to explore and leave. You will be disappointed if so!

Some of the restaurants are available for those not staying at the castle, but they must be booked in advance.

Even if you dine in the castle, there will still be off-limits areas to those who aren’t overnight guests.

Prepare to be treated like royalty

We weren’t quite prepared for how we would be treated during our stay at Ashford Castle.

We might as well have been royalty in a palace! Everyone was so polite, and yes, even more so than your typical Irish!

From the gatekeeper and check-in hostess to the restaurant servers and activity guides, all of the staff treated us like we were their most honored guests.

It was very nice, but it also took some getting used to, haha!

What should you pack for a visit to Ashford Castle?

While most of the dress codes at Ashford Castle are very lax, there are still some things you will want to plan for.

The George V Dining Room is the only place we encountered an actual dress code, and that required the gentlemen to wear a suit jacket to dinner.

However, just because there isn’t a set dress code in most places doesn’t mean that you won’t feel underdressed in some settings.

We stayed here during our 3-week trip in Ireland and only had carry-on luggage, so we were limited on space.

We wore nice tops and jeans and sometimes felt a little out of place. During our next visit to Ashford Castle, we will find enough room to pack some nicer clothes.

That being said, we saw visitors in all types of outfits, from suits and ball gowns to more casual attire as we wore.

Make sure to pack appropriate clothes for any activities you may want to enjoy during your stay at the castle.

Remember that Ireland’s weather can be very temperamental, haha!

How long should you plan to stay at Ashford Castle?

While you can stay for just one night at Ashford Castle, I recommend staying for at least two nights.

As you can see in this post, there are many things to do, and you won’t be able to fit them into a super short visit.

That being said, Ashford Castle is a bit pricey for the average traveler. If it’s only in your budget to stay for one night, that’s still better than not at all!

I would recommend a 2-3 night stay if you can afford it both time and money-wise.

When is the best time of year to visit Ashford Castle?

In my personal opinion, the beginning of Fall is the best time to visit Ashford Castle.

The changing leaves are beautiful, and the primary tourist season is ending.

This means fewer visitors and a quieter castle. Additionally, prices tend to be a bit cheaper.

Shopping at Ashford Castle

There are two places where you can shop on the estate. The first is the Boutique at Ashford Castle, which includes a variety of Irish jewelry, clothing, and collectibles. This is a more upscale shopping experience and a great place to find something to wear to dinner, should you desire.

There is also an art gallery across the hallway with beautiful paintings drawn by local artists. If you choose to purchase a painting, you can ship it home so that you don’t have to take it with you on the rest of your trip.

The second place to shop on the estate is Mrs. Tea’s Boutique & Bakery, just a short walk across the bridge from Ashford Castle. This darling boutique has a wide range of items to choose from and is where I recommend grabbing your souvenirs from. This is also an excellent option for those visiting the estate but not staying in the castle.

Standing outside of Mrs. Tea's Boutique at Ashford Castle. There are fall decorations around the entryway, and the sign above the door reads, "Mrs. Tea's Boutique & Bakery"
Mrs. Tea’s Boutique at Ashford Castle

Private events and weddings at Ashford Castle

Ashford Castle is a magical location and would be an absolutely dreamy wedding destination!

The castle offers wedding packages best suited for intimate weddings.

Whether you’re getting married at Ashford Castle or spending your honeymoon there, the Reagan Presidential Suite (named after US President Ronald Reagan after his visit) is about as spectacular as it gets!

After all, this is one of the most romantic destinations in all of Ireland!

You can also rent certain parts of the castle (or even the entire castle!) for private events.

The hallway outside of Reagan Presidential Suite at Ashford Castle. The walls and carpets are green, there are ornate wooden elements, and a giant white-framed decorative mirror hanging above the green bench.
Reagan Presidential Suite at Ashford Castle

Closing thoughts about Ashford Castle in Ireland

Ashford Castle Hotel Ireland is one of the best castle hotels in the world and is for sure the best castle in Mayo County!

Staying here is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and is well worth the price tag.

Also, don’t assume this castle experience is for couples only. Ashford Castle is one of the best family resorts in Europe!

I hope you’ve found this post helpful in planning your trip to Ashford Castle.

And if you were on the fence about whether or not you should visit, I hope I’ve convinced you to do so!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on Ashford Castle as well! Let me know how your stay goes in the comments below.

Happy travels!

Much Love, Janae xoxo
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Janae, alongside her husband, Tucker, has turned the world into her playground. Having lived and traveled in an RV for over four years, she has trekked through 22 US national parks, ventured across 28 states, and explored the natural beauty of 12 countries. Some of her favorite travel experiences have been when she witnessed Iceland's shimmering Northern Lights, explored the rugged terrains of Southern Utah, and traveled across Ireland for almost two months. A lover of adventure and couple travel, Janae's writings have been featured in notable travel websites and magazines, and she has collected an online community of over 30,000 passionate fellow travelers.

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