Sit back, relax, and get ready to take a journey to Ireland for the next couple of weeks. Sure, I will have some blog posts on holiday recipes and other things, but we just spent eight days in the West of Ireland, and I am back with a full heart and hundreds upon hundreds of photos and sweet memories.
On the first trip back to Ireland I made with my husband, his parents took all of us to lunch at Ashford Castle in Cong, County Mayo. My jaw dropped at the beauty of the castle and the elegance and delicious food. It’s been almost 10 years since that visit, and a wedding, two houses, and many nieces and nephews have happened since. On this past trip, we all returned to Ashford for Sunday lunch.
The castle, which was recently purchased by Red Carnation Hotels, goes back to 1228 when a castle was built on a monastic site and run by the de Burgo family. Its history is long and winding, and the building has housed many famous guests including Oscar Wilde, King George V, John Lennon, John Wayne, Princess Grace of Monaco, and many others.
Arriving at Ashford Castle is pretty grand in itself. There’s a gatekeeper and a long road that winds through the golf course and leads you up to another gate over a river, then the castle.
On the inside, Ashford Castle exudes regal beauty, with plush carpets, ornate chandeliers, and comfy chairs.
While we sat in the lounge waiting for lunch, we had a round of drinks, mine a perfectly chilled Manhattan. A Manhattan in a castle on a Sunday afternoon felt pretty darn decadent!
And the view from of Lough Corrib from the lounge just couldn’t be beat.
Sunday lunch at Ashford involves a prix fixe menu with choices for appetizer, entree, and dessert. The Irish are known for their smoked salmon, and I went with a traditional and simple preparation, fresh salmon with a bit of fresh salad and lemon.
Entrees are on the heartier side, and choices included Connemara lamb, pork, and hake. Entrees are all served under silver domes which are dramatically removed at the same time by members of Ashford staff.
The pork came on a cart and was carved tableside. We felt so spoiled!
Since we were surrounded by beautiful water, I went with a fillet of hake with sweet creamed carrot, prawn bisque, and boiled potatoes. It was the perfect choice, filling but not too heavy, each of the elements’ flavors coming through without being overbearing.
Portions were generous but not overwhelming, and I was left with plenty of room for dessert, a Sticky Toffee Pudding with Rum Raisin Ice Cream. Yum.
The wine selection at Ashford is impressive, with pages and pages of wines including some very expensive ones. A bottle of Drouhin Pouilly-Fuissé Chardonnay went well with our hake and salmon and was just a delicious wine.
One of the best parts about lunch at Ashford Castle is being able to wander the beautiful grounds after. Every nook and turn has some sort of beautiful old detail, and stretching the legs after a leisurely lunch feels wonderful.
Lough Corrib is a stunner on its own. With 365 islands, there is something magical about this lake, and the light after lunch was perfect. We could see across to County Galway and to many of the little islands that dot the lake’s calm surface. It’s the perfect spot for boating when the weather is nice, and our Ashford visit has me counting down until we are in Ireland again in August.
If you get the chance to visit Ireland, I always recommend spending a lot of time in the Western part of the country. Ashford Castle is a beautiful place to splurge on a meal or a night’s stay if you are lucky.