A St. Patrick’s Day Trip to Ireland!

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day I asked my good friend and photographer Sarah Winchester to write about her recent trip to Ireland.  She and her family had the exquisite honor of staying at one of the most incredible properties in Ireland and her pictures are too good not to share with you all! – Erin (Go Braugh!)

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Last summer my family and I had a true fairy tale vacation…we went to Ireland and stayed in a castle! A real life castle- Ashford Castle. This place is all your Downton Abby fantasies come to life…on steroids. The medieval castle dates back to 1228, but there is nothing archaic about this place. The Wikipedia page on the history of the castle is here  but let me tell you about our trip in my own words.

Two years ago the entire castle underwent a major renovation. Every inch of the place was meticulous restored, renovated and furnished; marble bathrooms, historic oil paintings, gorgeous antique furniture and decor, and silk wall coverings in every guest room (my two-year old may or may not have put a milk stain on one…) The property covers 350 acres with multiple gardens, woods, a clay pigeon shooting course, stables and a falconry school. Yes, a falconry school!

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Front entrance complete with refurbished Land Rover fit for the queen and the friendly doorman Patrick, who also recommend a great restaurant in Dublin owned by is cousin of course.

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Irish wolf hound statues guard the front. While real wolfhounds, Cronan and Garvan lounge in the great hall each morning after their walk, because what is an Irish castle without an Irish Wolfhound or two.

THE INTERIORS

As I said, the entire castle underwent a major renovation and restoration 2 years ago and no detailed was spared. They even have a line of wellies in every size at the front door…because this is Ireland after all.

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The great hall and corridors are complete with a chess set fit for a Lord (my little Lord) and formal oil paintings of your dogs…as one does. Not to mention a gorgeous billiards room, bar, wine cellar, spa and movie theater. The place literally had EVERYTHING!

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My parents room was located in the original Gothic wing of the castle and had the most amazing decorative pieces. Malachite obelisks and fish eye eagle mirror for the win!

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Our room, was in the newest wing because we needed an adjoining door to the kids room, but it was no less spectacular. Silk wall coverings with matching canopy bed, antique caned bench and a painting of Lord Fancypants to watch over it all.

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THE GARDENS AND WOODS

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We spent our days wandering the grounds, exploring the gardens, playing in the old ruins and “hunting for dragons” in the woods. The kids just ran wild. It was wonderful. (Warning, upon arrival, awaiting each child on their bed was a robe, slippers, cookies and plastic sword. Giving a 2 and 4 year old a sword in a castle filled with antiques and Waterford Crystal gave me a slight hear attack so we tried to regulate sword usage to outside only. Let just say we helped chop many a boxwood.)

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ACTIVITIES

We were there for 5 days which gave us plenty of time to soak in all that beauty and try a few activities as well.

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The stables were just a short walk away and filled with sweet ponies. Ridding on an Irish estate really completes the castle dream, no? I fear I have ruined my daughter for life. This place is like Disneyland but for real. “Not every trip is going to be like this honey.”

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Not to miss out on other Downton Abby type activities, we tried out hand at clay pigeon shooting. My sister and I did our best to play the part…lets just say, she is the Mary and I am the Sybil :) And our instructor, Tim, was wonderful and looked everybit the part in his wool and tweed.

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Also on the property is Ireland’s School of Falconry! Yes, basically real life Hogwarts. We didn’t do the private hawk walk but we did pop in and visit the birds. Hawks, falcons, owls, you name it. I kinds of wish we had done it, but as spoiled as we are we literally couldn’t do everything.

VILLAGE OF CONG

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Not to be forgotten is the darling Village of Cong. A short walk from the castle there are some pubs, a few book stores, shops and some old Abby ruins. The1952 movie The Quiet Man staring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, was filmed there. With the addition of a gas station or two, not much has changed. There isn’t even an ATM. My sister and I loved getting up early to take a walk through the woods to town and then back to the castle for breakfast. Again… living out our Downton Abby fantasies.

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Hope y’all enjoyed my trip to Ireland. I know we sure did. Slainte and Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you all.

-Sarah Winchester
All photos ©Sarah M Winchester

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21 comments

  1. My husband and I have been lucky enough to stay here twice in the last few years. Sarah’s post captures the magic of the castle. We did the falconry walk both visits and I would highly recommend.

  2. I love the assortment of posts you have been doing Erin. Thank you! Can you do a spring shoe round-up? I always buy the shoes you recommend and get TONS of compliments on them–particularly a pair of Splendid booties you recommended a few years ago. There are so many fun mules out there this spring…and I have no clue what will actually look good and be practical with an actual wardrobe.

  3. This is amazing. I’ll definitely add this place to my bucket list. Thank you for showcasing older homes/castles. I really love seeing such amazing architecture/decor. And since your style is traditional with a twist, I feel like this fits in perfectly.

  4. So special to see that spectacular setting through the eyes of a professional photographer! Each photograph is a work of art!!

  5. Happy St. Patrick’s Day Erin! Love the post today, such beautiful photos! On a side note, I’ve been stalking your new spring line and it’s available on Wayfair today! Purchased three of the beautiful zebra pillows in gray! Score!!!

  6. I WANT THIS. What an amazing vacation. This makes me want to run home and start watching season one of Downton again :)

  7. LOVE THIS!!!!! We spent some time in England this past summer; next big trip is Ireland where I want to see ALL the castles! Now we can go and stay in one! Thank you!

  8. I have never stayed in a castle. Clearly my life is hollow without this experience. Must book trip soon. Must convince husband we need to go. Even though I suck at archery.

  9. Hi Erin…I have a quick unrelated question. How do you hang artwork in a paneled library? I tried the 3M Command strips and the pictures keep falling off the wall. We actually had one fall in the middle of the night the other night and set off the alarm (police and all)!!! None of the pieces are very large.

  10. Oh my my …. this sounds like the IDEAL holiday.
    That red velvet movie theater grandeur + the fish eye eagle mirror – my heart just skipped a beat!

  11. Is it bad that I immediately recognized this place from a recent episode of Ladies of London?!? Such a beautiful place!

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