About Ashford Castle
Voted the most romantic hotel in Europe, Ashford Castle is a fairy tale venue. Boasting suites tucked away in turrets, breathtaking views, and luxurious accommodations, it is unlikely anyone will forget a wedding event hosted at Ashford Castle. Before we get into the unbelievable details of this extravagant venue, let’s dive into the castle’s history.
Although Ashford Castle has a truly remarkable history, its greatest claim to fame is its standing as the former home of the Guinness family. This 800-year-old castle has played host to notables and royalty, including The Prince of Wales (later King George V), George Harrison, John Lennon, Rory McIlroy, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex and President Ronald Reagan (to name a few). After a five-year restoration that included the talents of local experts and artisans, Ashford Castle remains an impeccable example of medieval and Victorian architecture. Although the walls may be ancient, the Red Carnation hotel inside is the picture of luxury.
After the castle re-opened in April 2015 following major refurbishment (820 windows were replaced, a new lead roof installed, and its stonework repointed), Ashford Castle has gone on to be awarded as a Forbes five-star hotel, as well as the Ashford Castle Spa, making them the first and only hotel in Ireland to hold two Forbes Five-Star awards. A few other awards of note include No. 1 in The 5 Best Hotel Resorts in the UK and Ireland (Travel + Leisure 2022), 5 Star Hotel Bar of the Year (Bar of the Year Awards 2022), and Winner of Sustainability Initiative Of The Year – Communities (The Travel Industry Awards 2022).
Why I Love Planning Weddings at Ashford Castle
Honestly, who wouldn’t love planning a wedding at Ashford Castle? It’s like coordinating a fairy tale! With its gorgeous acres of manicured gardens, lush forests and lively woodland, there is magic floating on the breeze and over the sparking waters of Lough Corrib. Additionally, working with the team of professionals at Ashford Castle is truly a rewarding experience in itself. It is nearly impossible to run out of things to do or options for entertainment. A wedding at Ashford Castle can be customized to fit the personalities of every couple that decides to say their ‘I Do’s’ at this enchanted place.
My other favorite detail? The accommodations at Ashford Castle are beyond compare. Each of the 83 rooms have been lovingly designed and individually restored, whilst taking every effort to incorporate the latest modern luxuries. The unique works of art and antique furniture are carefully and meticulously curated. Every one of the team’s efforts comes to fruition as you and your guests take in the sumptuous fabrics, custom designed carpets, exquisite towelling, feature lighting and drift off to dreamland on bespoke beds wrapped in Egyptian Cotton bed linens.
Ashford Castle Ceremony and Reception Spaces
No matter what you’re dream wedding looks like, Ashford Castle can make it come true. With the castle’s 83 bedrooms and suites, gatherings of all sizes can abide on the gorgeous property. From 16 to 160 guests, the sky is the limit. You can even hire the entire estate and make the entire place your own, allowing you and your wedding party to enjoy the full castle experience without interruption.
When I think of an “unforgettable experience, I think of an “exclusive use” wedding at Ashford Castle. This means all estate activities are available for your and your guests to enjoy (this includes falconry, equestrian, golf, river cruising, fishing and spa treatments), exclusive use of all restaurants and bars including The George V Dining Room, and the underground Wine Cellars for a magical pre-wedding event. Sweets can be provided by the epic PaulaPastry. Soak in a ‘secret garden’ feel when we plan your ceremony in the Walled Garden. Retreat to the Maigue Suite, or to Oak Hall located at the heart of the castle, where your reception will have your guests reminiscing for years to come.
Need more options? Say no more. How about hosting your ceremony in the Castle’s Drawing Room? Were you imagining more of a church vibe? Saint Mary’s Church Cong is located in the village, just a three-minute drive from the Ashford Estate. Just 40 minutes further, you’ll find historic Ballintubber Abbey, a popular destination for many a bride and groom. When all is said and done, couples can retreat and recover at The Boathouse or the legendary Reagan Presidential Suite.
Let’s look into some of these options a little further.
The George V Dining Room
Produced exclusively for the Ashford Estate, creative Irish cuisine inspired by the first seasonal ingredients from the West of Ireland is presented by Executive Chef Liam Finnegan in The George V Dining Room. Along with fresh produce foraged from the estate itself, alongside an extensive wine cellar, it’s no wonder The George V Dining Room has hosted distinguished guests from almost 800 years. Your guests can dine where the Prince of Wales (also known as George V of England) dined in a special dining room built in honour of his visit in 1905.
Experiencing Chef Liam Finnegan’s culinary brilliance is not limited to just the Dining Room- there’s also casual dining in the beautiful setting of Cullen’s at the Cottage or the atmospheric Dungeon, or a delightful Afternoon Tea in the elegant Connaught Room. A note to all my couples who value sustainability and shopping local: Ashford Castle proudly shares the same beliefs. In the castle’s six restaurants and three bars, much of the produce is sourced locally or grown in their own gardens and polytunnels.
Here’s something I’m really excited about – PaulaPastry! Who better to provide your wedding day treats than award-winning chef, Paula Stakelum? Ashford Castle Estate has launched a new chocolate and patisserie concept, PaulaPastry, developed by by Chef Paula Stakelum herself. Crafted in small batches by Paula and her team, each delectable treat comes with meticulous attention to detail and the finest flavours possible. Your guests will write home about the signature chocolate shards, indulgent praline spreads, chocolate-covered nuts, and hot chocolates.
The Wine Cellar
Listen closely, my friends. If you want to impress, invite your guests to follow you into the secret tunnels of Ashford Castle. They will gasp in awe as they take in the historic passageways that were unearthed during the renovations and be taken aback even still when they experience a private dinner and wine pairing in these 16th-century tunnels. The cosy ambience and soft lighting is the perfect atmosphere for an intimate celebration. The knowledgeable Head Sommelier will educate your guests on his carefully curated wine list. He may also inform you of the history of the cellar and its beginnings as the old servants’ entrance to the coal bunker where buckets were gathered and delivered to warm up each of the rooms of the castle.
The Walled Garden
If you’ve always imagined Ashford Castle as your wedding venue, but you’ve envisioned something more outdoor and garden-themed, they’ve got you covered. The gardens at Ashford Castle are something out of a ‘secret garden’ fantasy. Restored with loving attention to its original formation in the 1890s, the great formal Main Parterre, the beautiful Walled Garden full of perennial borders, fruit and vegetables, and the long Terraced Walk and Broad Walk are perfect for an open-air ceremony. Afterwards, you and your new spouse can spend time wandering and reflecting in the great woods, where the wildlife and great ancient trees add towering and unparalleled ambiance.
Treat your guests and indulge in speciality teas, delicate finger sandwiches with traditional fillings, warm scones and handmade pastries in the Connaugt Room. The floor-to-ceiling windows offer spectacular views of the manicured gardens and Lough Corrib. Not to mention the captivating Donegal Crystal chandelier, panelled oak walls, and hand-carved fireplace. I think a Welcome Brunch would be fabulous in this space. It’s also available for Afternoon Tea or a private Wine Dinner.
Everyone’s breath will be stolen by the incredible Oak Hall, one of the remaining features of the Guinness period. The crystal chandelier that hangs overhead looms largely, but not as largely as the castle’s 80kg (170lb) Irish wolfhounds (beautiful and docile dogs) who are often found relaxing here, among the fresh flowers. In Oak Hall, you’ll also find the castle’s guestbook, an enticing read full of names, both celebrity and royal. Above the hall, on the mezzanine is a library of over 800 antique books. It’s a spectacle to behold and a remarkable place to greet your guests for a cocktail hour!
One of my favourite spaces at Ashford Castle is the restored boathouse, located a few minutes from the castle, on the shores of Lough Corrib. Constructed more than a century ago, The Boathouse is a hideaway for two, an intimate and private escape, a place to relax in isolation. Originally used by the Guinness’ to store Italian Riva boats, The Boathouse offers lake views that will fill your heart with peace and your ears with the soothing sounds of lapping lake waters.
When you’ve had your fill of the expansive views, you and your new spouse can retreat to the marble-lined bathroom and soak in the deluxe tub for two after dining à deux inside or al fresco on your private lakeside terrace. If you can ever get your fill of the incredible architectural and interior design detailing (including handmade timber parquet floors, original art, bespoke Murano glass chandelier, and king-sized bed), you’ll find two bicycles for jaunts around the property. Return home, enter through the gates, unlock your front door, and find your 24-hour butler ready to take your dessert order. Is this a dream? If it is, I promise to ask the incredible staff to not wake you two up!
The Reagan Presidential Suite
Located in the oldest wing of the castle, I always recommend The Reagan Presidential Suite. There is nothing more romantic for a bridal suite than an original wood fireplace, antique George III style four-poster bed, original portrait art, individually sourced antiques and spectacular floor-to-ceiling views of Lough Corrib. This split-level suite offers two bathrooms and can be combined with two adjacent rooms – the Kennedy Suite and Corrib Lake View Room – to complete a private three-bedroom wing of the castle.
This suite also includes a complimentary bar, complimentary viewing of “Quiet Man” (the movie filmed at Ashford Castle), 24-hour in-room dining, and many other exclusive amenities. Definitely the kind of perks all couples will want to take advantage of!
Additional Events and Activities
From Ireland’s first and finest falconry school, to horse-riding, golf, fishing, tennis, kayaking, archery, clay pigeon shooting and cosy movie nights in our stylish private cinema, Ashford Castle has a myriad of experiences and activities to keep your guests entertained. Here are just a few:
For hundreds of years, the grounds of Ashford Castle have been hailed as one of the finest sporting estates in all of Ireland, if not the world – which is proudly continues to this day. I am a confident fan of the dedicated Activity Coordinators, Michael and Fiona, who will guide each individual to the perfect past time. For example, those who love a day on the lake, experienced Lough Corrib guide, Frank, will take anyone out in the traditional wooden boats he hand-crafts himself. As a local marine and approved countryside guide by the Irish tourist board, Frank offers guided boat trips on Lough Corrib for up to three guests at a time, visiting its many beautiful islands.
Another option is falconry! An experience of a lifetime for those flower girls and ring bearers 7 years and older. Truly, the oldest established Falconry School in Ireland is an experience for those of all ages. Bond with a new hawk friend before sending them into the woodlands, gasping as they follow you from tree to tree, ready to return to your gloved hand when you call for them. Using their exceptional eyesight, speed, and training, the hawks will allow you to learn all their fascinating traits (via the Falconry School instructors, of course). What a unique and incredible memory to send your guests home with!
The Spa at Ashford Castle
Imagine spending time with your closest friends in this incredible place of relaxation. It is unlikely you’ll find a space that is more well known for its ability to rejuvenate and refresh in the entire country. This is why The Spa at Ashford Castle was awarded ‘Ireland’s Best Hotel Spa’ in 2021 for the 6th year in a row by World Spa Awards and we were also voted ‘Best in Sustainability’ in the 2019 Irish Tatler Awards.
If you’re going to spend time at Ashford Castle, I would highly recommend spending a significant amount of time at The Spa. The team is dedicated to restoring beauty and balance through treatments and spa journeys, personalised for each of their guests by exceptionally skilled therapists. I can’t recommend them highly enough. Your entire wedding party (and guests, as well) will leave feeling restored and renewed.
A Five Star Focus
Believe it or not, I am just scratching the surface of all the venue spaces and experiences Ashford Castle has to offer. If you’re interested in learning more, you can visit their website listed below. If you’re ready to take the leap and plan an incredible fairytale wedding at this magical castle in County Mayo, get in touch! Together, we can create something as marvelous as you absolutely deserve!
Ashford Castle Wedding Venue at a Glance
Address: Ashford Castle, Cong, Co. Mayo, F31 CA48, Ireland
Phone: +353 (0) 94 954 6003
Slán go Fóill,