Fifty minutes in a helicopter will take you from Dublin to Ashford Castle, a stunning piece of medieval history and one of Ireland’s most blissful rural retreats.
On the shores of Lough Corrib in the western county of Mayo, this majestic residence has stood at this spot for nearly 800 years, was once home to the Guinness family and now thrives as a luxury hotel honored by The Leading Hotels of the World. Founded by the Anglo-Norman de Burgo family in 1228, the estate totals 350 acres of landscaped gardens, lakes and woodland, with the fish-rich River Cong running through its heart and gorse-flecked mountains beyond. Approaching the castle by helicopter gives you the feeling you’ve hit on something pretty special. Touching down on the pristine lawn, you’ll be handed a cold glass of champagne and a choice of five-star indulgence, country pursuits or a bit of both. The adventurous can go fishing on the river or lake—Lough Corrib is one of Europe’s best salmon and brown trout fisheries—or try their hand at falconry, horse riding, archery or clay pigeon shooting. Swap tales of elusive fish back at the hotel spa, before a gourmet meal in the regal dining rooms. When you finally put your head down for the night, you’ll be in the same suite once enjoyed by King George V, Ronald Reagan and a host of other household names. This is aristocratic Ireland at its very best.