The Getaway: The Lodge at Ashford Castle
Short breaks in Ireland
Rita de Brun checks into a revitalised Lodge at Ashford Castle
Set the Mood
The Englishman (my partner) spied a piano and sat down to play.
I made a beeline for the bookshelves. Dipping through old hardbacks from authors as diverse as Thackeray and Enid Blyton, I settled down for a fireside read.
Built in 1865, The Lodge at Ashford Castle was originally home to the Guinness family's estate manager. A year ago, it was acquired by Red Carnation Hotels, and even in that short time, the hotel's fine food, warm ambience and eclectic, bordering-on-edgy décor has come to reflect the essence of Bea Tollman, Red Carnation's charismatic owner.
For us, ensconced in a library chair and piano stool, the trip felt more like a sojourn to a friend's posh country home than a visit to a chic hotel.
A suite at The Lodge
The Englishman and I stayed in the bridal suite, which has a private terrace overlooking the majesty of Lough Corrib and the prettiest little harbour imaginable at Lisloughrey Quay.
Why it's so utterly charming is difficult to pinpoint.
Maybe it's the depth of the velvet pile on the oversized sofa that stretches the length of the fire. Maybe it's the bed - wide enough to provide rest for half-a-dozen warring insomniacs without risk of accidental elbowing in the night, comfortable enough to induce the slumber of all slumbers, and alluring enough to banish shyness and elicit romance - if not feral abandon - in the most virginal of brides and grooms.
Or maybe it's the stand-alone bath, strategically placed alongside the bed, in front of an enormous mirror, and so obviously built for two.
Falconry at Ashford Castle
As Ireland's School of Falconry is located on Ashford Castle's estate, we took a hawk-walk.
This was an exhilarating experience, though not for the squeamish - it involved feeding dead, two-day-old chicks to the hawk perched at the end of my outstretched arm. I looked away… but there was no avoiding the heady stench or the crunching sound of feasting.
Later, when the birds were back on their perches, we found ours, in the bar at Ashford Castle.
By opting for the Lodge's 'Four Seasons Four Reasons' package, a stint at clay pigeon shooting was included in our stay. Being no stranger to the sport, the Englishman hit clay after clay. I hit the first clay pulled, then missed the rest. This was an improvement on the last time I tried, when every time I pulled the trigger, the only thing that got whacked was my right cheekbone.
As there was a wedding reception at The Lodge the night we stayed there, we felt a little outnumbered; although entirely welcome and extraordinarily well looked after.
The Lodge at Ashford Castle
Get me there
Located on the shores of Lough Corrib, just outside the village of Cong in Co. Mayo, The Lodge at Ashford Castle stands on 350 acres of magnificent parkland.
It's less than an hour's drive from Galway city, and less than two minutes from Lisloughrey Quay, from where you can take a relaxing cruise on the lake (corribcruises.com).
The Lodge (094 954 5400; thelodgeac.com) is a dandy, country house hotel of the elegant kind. Its 'Four Seasons Four Reasons' package includes dinner, bed and breakfast and clay-pigeon shooting, and is priced from €199 for two. Upgrades to the bridal suite cost from €75.
Hawk-walks at Ireland's School of Falconry at Ashford Castle itself cost €70 (094 954 6820; falconry.ie).
There's more to Cong than Ashford Castle and its estate. Check out the Quiet Man Museum for a trip down memory lane, and drop into The Hungry Monk on Abbey Street for a bite of lunch. It's a sweet, simple cafe with friendly service and homemade treats. Score!
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