In the small village of Cong, situated on the border between the counties of Mayo (which is in Connacht) and Galway, there is a remarkable castle. Lord Ardilion Guinness, whose lineage goes back to the creator of the famous Irish stout, Arthur Guinness, decided in 1870 to restore the pseudo-medieval Ashford Castle located there. Restored in the Gothic style, it is undoubtedly the most beautiful castle in Ireland today, despite its pseudo antiquity.
If you come here, you can not only enjoy the spectacle, but also relax in the castle itself, as it is now one of the most prestigious hotels in Ireland. Relax in your room in the evening and enjoy the fresh country air, the stunning lakes and, of course, another famous landmark of the area – the ancient Abbey of Cong, just to the north.
History of Ashford Castle
The history of Ashford Castle dates back to 1228, when construction began on a fortress on the lands of the ancient Irish kingdom of Connacht, intended for the protection and residence of the Anglo-Norman De Burgh family.
Since 1203, for more than three and a half centuries, Ashford Castle was home to the De Burgh family, which gradually changed its name to Burke or Burke.
In 1584, following the appointment of Sir Richard Bingham as governor of Connacht, broke out in the province, with Richard Burke’s widow, the ‘pirate queen’ Grace O’Malley, and her young son Theobald Burke as fierce leaders. The rebels’ bitter struggle lasted several years, but ended in defeat, and in 1589 Ashford Castle passed into the hands of Bingham, who began rebuilding the outdated structures and erecting new fortifications.
In the 1670s, the English Crown granted the lordship of Ashford to Dominic Brown, Baron of Galway and Brown, which was followed by a series of changes to the architecture of the castle.
In 1715 an elegant hunting lodge in the style of French country manors was built at Ashford Manor. By the end of the 18th century, Ashford Castle was in turn owned by several families whose representatives were related to the Barons of Brown.
A crucial event for Ashford Castle occurred in the mid-19th century: the ancient mansion was bought in 1852 by the richest man in Ireland, a successful businessman and generous philanthropist, Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness.
During Sir Benjamin’s lifetime, two new Victorian-style wings were added to Ashford Castle, and the grounds were considerably enlarged and planted with thousands of trees and shrubs.
In 1868, the castle was inherited by Arthur Edward Guinness, who continued his father’s work and invested heavily in the castle’s improvements. During this period, several of the castle’s buildings took on the features of the neo-Gothic style,
and in 1875-81 the west wing was completely rebuilt, for which Sir Arthur engaged the architects James Franklin Fuller and George Ashlyn.
In 1939 it was decided to sell the castle.
The new owner of the estate was Noel Haggard, already famous for his successful hotel business.
Thus began a new page in the long history of Ashford Castle, which became a respectable hotel, famous not only in Ireland but also in Europe.
In 1970, American millionaire John Mulcahy, who had often been a guest at the castle hotel, bought Ashford.
Since then, the Castle Hotel has changed ownership several times and since 2013 has been part of the Red Carnation Hotels chain. In spring 2015, the Ashford Castle Hotel opened its doors to visitors after a new refurbishment.
A Unique Hotel
The historic Ashford Castle, Ireland, which has been a unique hotel complex since 1939, will soon be able to be seen by foreign tourists in all its glory, as renovation and restoration works, which have been on and off for almost a year, come to an end.
The latest phase of the restoration work, started on 6 January 2015 by Red Carnation Hotels, which has owned Ashford Castle 5 since 2013, has touched the interior of the castle’s foyer, 14 drawing rooms, 68 guest rooms, courtyard and some of the surrounding areas.
The refurbished Ashford Castle Hotel will be able to offer a spa, a swimming pool, a 32-seat miniature cinema, a new library with vaulted ceiling and a cigar room.
Each room in this historic hotel is uniquely decorated. The design, décor elements, art and antiques, as well as furnishings and appliances were selected by the design team under the direct supervision of Beatrice Tollman, founder of the Red Carnation Group.
The castle has also been landscaped around the nine-hole golf course, tennis court and falconry school, according to the castle management.
Medieval Ashford Castle is located in County Mayo on the shores of picturesque Loch Corrib, near the village of Kong in the west of Ireland. The architectural complex was built in the early 13th century.
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