May 22, 2012

Ashford Castle

Of all the cool things we saw in Ireland, there was one experience that stood above the rest: Ashford Castle.

Built in 1228 and set deep in the heart of County Mayo, Ashford Castle at one time was owned by the Guinness family. It would have been memorable enough just to visit, but what made our time there so special is that we stayed there. A wee bit of a step up from the hostels!

Situated in an idealic spot along Lough Corrib, everything about the castle – the food, service, grounds, and parlors – were top notch. I was so embarrassed when the bellman carried our backpacks to our room.

We spent the early evening walking the extensive gardens, wooded paths and golf course with shamrock sand traps.

Since we’re spending a year away from our families, my parents had a great idea to celebrate all of the birthdays, anniversaries and holidays that we're going to miss. A few days ago we drew dates and Steve's birthday drew Ashford. We celebrated his (December) birthday over a 5-course dinner. Note the arms on his borrowed coat...he's bringing the capri-length dinner jacket into style.

The castle also provided excellent aristocrat people-watching. Halfway through dinner, a woman came to our table and asked us to join her while she entertained in the Drawing Room. She was employed by the hotel and was fairly good, but somehow the after-dinner entertainment turned into a karaoke show with guests who think they rule the world coming up to sing their favorite ballad. There was also a drunk girl who kept asking my dad if he was going to sing…we saw her later that night stomping around the castle with a candlestick in her hand.

I felt like I was living in a funny combination of the Titanic and the Game of Clue. It was such a fun night celebrating Steve’s birthday and living the high life in a castle. Most surreal moment? I believe it was Mrs. Peacock…with the Microphone…in the Drawing Room.

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