Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Like Living in a Fairytale...

My sis and I stayed in a castle. Yes...an honest to goodness real castle! Ashford Castle to be precise. And yes...it was as fantastic as it sounds! It was like living in a fairytale.

Ashford Castle is part of a 350 acre estate in the west of Ireland. Parts of the castle date back to 1228. It passed through several more families, including the well-known Guinness family, who purchased it in 1852. In 1939, Ashford was transformed into a hotel. In 1951, one of my favorite movies of all time, The Quiet Man, was filmed in the area and several of the stars of the film stayed at the castle. Ashford Castle was sold again in 1970 to John Mulcahy, who doubled the size of the hotel. A new owner began a major refurbishment in 2013. Two years ago, in 2015, Ashford Castle Hotel was voted the Virtuoso Best Hotel in the World. And...we got to stay there!

Back of Ashford Castle.
When we first arrived at Ashford, we were met at the gate by a "gatekeeper." He asked who we were (in a nice way). I half expected him to tell us we weren't welcome, but he replied, "You are number 8 on the list. Please follow the path and welcome to Ashford Castle." I have never been on the list before!

The approach to the castle from the car.

We then came to a second gate, where the gatekeeper welcomed us - by name! He told us to stop the car at the front door, where the valet would take it from there. 

Our room is the bottom window on the right.

Main entrance.

We were then escorted into the check-in lobby. We were offered and served a drink while we checked-in. So thoughtful!

I was drooling over the detailed woodwork!

When our room was ready, we were escorted there with a small tour.

Our room was gorgeous! See our names on the T.V. screen? How cool is that?

The walls are padded and covered in silk. If you look closely, you will see matching gold-braided thread along the seams. 

I have always dreamt of sleeping in a princess bed...

The detailing is top-notch. 

Behind the closet doors was a mini bar, safe, hats, slippers, and a picnic basket.

Can you believe this? A sanitized remote!

Down the hall is the bathroom and control panel. Yes, I said control panel. Nothing in the room will work unless the room key is hanging on the panel. Energy-efficient and all that.

The bathroom control panel is just outside the bathroom door. The bathroom...oh, the bathroom! See that? Heated towel rack and underfloor heating!

This is the dang fanciest bathroom I have ever, or will ever, see.

After we got settled in to our room, we decided to take a walk around the gardens. We had time to explore while we waited for our scheduled tea time. 

The weather was absolutely fantastic! 

Can you imagine having an outdoor wedding here? How could you possibly decide where to have it? The terrace? By the fountain? Which of the fountains? The lower gardens? Next to the lake?

The lake is Lough Corrib. We were going to schedule a boat tour, but it conflicted with our tea time. There is also a school of falconry, horse riding, a world class spa, and wine tasting.

I love this sign heading back into the castle. "Residents Only." I am one of those!

Time for tea! We had our afternoon tea in The Connaught Room, overlooking the lough.

Wouldn't it be fun to have tea in this little nook?

We had our tea at a table in the center of the room in front of the fireplace.

We had yummy finger sandwiches. Well, except for the salmon one. I could not get that taste out of my mouth fast enough. My fave was the avocado sandwich. It had cream cheese and almonds rolled around the outside.

Next was the scones. There was plain, raisin, and cheddar scones. We also had clotted cream, strawberry preserves, and lemon curd for toppings. The waiter recommended the cheddar scone with lemon curd. Sounds weird, but as they say...when in Ireland! It ended up being our favorite!

We had an assortment of petite desserts as well. I honestly can't remember what each of them were. I'm not sure which I liked best. The scones and sandwiches were really the best part.

When we were finished eating, the waiter boxed up our lone scone leftover and gave us each a little box of Ashford Castle chocolates.

We went for a little walk to check out the gift shop.

There was also a quaint little restaurant, but we were so full. In fact, we didn't eat again that night.

The next morning, we had a fabulous breakfast in the George V dining room. It was the most amazing buffet! They had actual honeycomb from one of the castle's beehives. There was a giant ham they would hand carve if you wished. It was amazing. Anything you could possibly want. You can also order off of the breakfast menu at no extra charge!

I had some pastries, streaky bacon and eggs, and I ordered eggs Benedict. I have always wanted to try eggs Benedict, and what better time than at a 5 star hotel? They were delicious, by the way.

As we were on our way to check-out, we stopped to pet the castle's Irish wolfhounds. These guys are enormous! It is hard to tell from the pictures, since they are resting after their daily walk. If you wake up in time, you are invited to join them on their walk. I wish I could remember both of their names. The white one is Garby, or Garvy.

We really didn't want to leave the castle. Can you blame us? We have one more day before heading home. Oh, and I have to show you this cute children's clothing store in the little village outside of the castle. Don't you love the name Scallywags!

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