County Mayo

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Ireland is always one of my travel highlights for the year. If you missed my 2016 travel recap, you can read it here.

When we visit Ireland, it’s always to see family and friends and favorite places in Galway; it’s a city you just can’t miss, and surround Connemara and the Wild Atlantic Way are dear to our hearts for many reasons. We also usually try to take a side trip, either in Ireland or somewhere else in Europe. In the past, we’ve done Prague, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Brussels, and others, in addition to stays in Connemara and Sligo in Ireland. On our November trip to Galway, we headed north to Achill Island in County Mayo, and it was just the little getaway we needed.

Our home on Achill was the absolutely lovely Achill Island Hotel (Óstán Oileán Acla in Irish), situated in a place with 360 degree mountain and sea views. It was a simply stunning, quiet, peaceful location.

Achill Island Rooms were cozy and comfortable, country-style decoration with all of the modern conveniences you could want, including WiFi and a great big soaking tub, which I took advantage of after our drive from Galway through Connemara. 

Achill Island Hotel We visited Achill in November, which is sort of off-season, so one of the attractive features of the Achill Island Hotel was a restaurant on-property. It meant we didn’t have to search for what might be open when we arrived hungry in the evening!

seafood casserole

Not only was it convenient, but it turned out to be incredible. Compliments to the chef for some really delicious meals that utilized Irish ingredients like famed local seafood in my seafood medley dish. It was chock full of flavorful seafood atop mashed potatoes, maybe the best I have had.

Even in my stuffed state, I had to have an Irish coffee to finish the meal. It’s kind of an unwritten rule when we visit Ireland.

Irish Coffee

With full bellies, we decided to head out into the cool night for a walk along the main drag in Achill, which was quiet, with only a few people out and about. The most noise we heard was from sea birds in the sea next to the hotel, feeding at low tide. A few locals were putting Christmas lights on the stores, and it was just a very peaceful and good feeling all around. It also helped immensely to get some fresh air.

Before we retired to our rooms for a couple hours of chatting, we headed back to the hotel pub to try their local beer.

Achill Island Hotel

Brewed with seaweed, this Achill beer had a nice richness to it, and of course that hint of sea salt on the finish. It was really good, and it’s always fun to see what local products are being made around Ireland. Craft beer has really picked up, as has craft gin. 

Achill Irish Beer

After our cozy night in, we woke up to a stunning, calm day on Achill, with the below views out our bedroom window and the windows of the hotel’s breakfast room.

 Achill Island IMG_0276

Clew Bay

We stopped and admired the views for some time before checking out and taking off to explore Achill and more of the breathtaking Wild Atlantic Way for the day.

Achill Island is less than two hours from Galway and very near to Westport, another favorite town in the West of Ireland.  It will make you feel like you are a million miles from everything.

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Tags: Achill Island, coastal living, County Mayo, food blogger, Ireland, Mayo, Travel, travel blog, wild atlantic way

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.

Ashford Castle

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.

Ashford Castle gate

Ashford Castle golf course

On the inside, Ashford Castle exudes regal beauty, with plush carpets, ornate chandeliers, and comfy chairs.

Ashford Castle

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!

Manhattan

And the view from of Lough Corrib from the lounge just couldn’t be beat.

image

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.

smoked salmon

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!

Ashford Castle tableside service

Ashford Castle tableside service

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.

fillet of hake

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.

sticky toffee pudding

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.

Ashford Castle

Lough Corrib 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.

Lough Corrib

Ashford Castle

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.

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Tags: castle hotel, castles, cocktails, Cong, County Mayo, Food, Ireland, Irish countryside, Irish hotel, Travel, travel blog, wine

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