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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Our Perfect Country Weekend

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Last weekend Andrew and I took a whole weekend away. Alone. We have not been away for more than one night from Henry since he was born and it was about time.  We needed to relax and be alone and focus on us as a couple for a little bit. But I didn’t want to be TOO far from Henry quite yet, so we chose to go to a part of Connecticut I had not been to but had read and heard a lot about- Litchfield County near New York.  And we got to stay at The Mayflower Grace, which I had blogged about wanting to go to FOREVER ago (in 2009 to be exact) and is 2.5 hours from Boston and just over an hour from NYC.   The images that caught my eye and heart specifically were of the spa (above, which met every expectation).  I adore how this property mixes old New England charm and modern sensibilities.

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Jackson Hole: Our Trip & Project

One of our all time favorite clients (whose Boston home is in EOS the book) surprised us a year or so ago when she told us she was building an awesome vacation home in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and asked us if we could remotely decorate the space.  We immediately said “hell  yes” and got to helping her!  Last week I took my family out to stay there for a few days and not only see the project in person, but explore a part of the country I had never seen.  Traveling that far with Henry was a bit stressful, but he was a champ and we did lots of things to try to make it as enjoyable for him (and therefore us) as possible.  More on that after we take a peek at the house!

Moccasin Chute Lodge is within a new development called Shooting Star at the base of Jackson Hole Mountain and Teton Village (and is available for rent all year-see more info HERE).  It’s a large, modern log cabin-y style home with stunning views of the Jackson Hole slopes with enough room for a large family trip.  We wanted to embrace the style found commonly in this area, but make sure it was still modern and anything but kitschy and certainly family friendly.
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Wedding Weekend in Palmetto Bluff

This past weekend my family went down to Palmetto Bluff in South Carolina for my brother’s wedding and it was such a wonderful experience I had to share with you.  Palmetto Bluff is HEAVEN. Absolute HEAVEN. I can’t wait to go back with Andrew and Henry for a longer stay.  The homes in this enclave are bananas- almost Truman Show perfect.  A mix of cottage styles with lowcountry charm, I could have moved into almost any of them!

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Every inch of the streets was even perfect- prom the street signage to the gas lanterns all over the property.

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