Click here for details of Irish expert Susan Byron's Guided Tours of Ireland's Hidden Gems in 2018

The Lodge at Ashford Castle

It’s take a lot to lure me away from my comfortable abode in the middle of winter in Ireland, but the the Lodge at Ashford Castle is definitely worth ditching the duvet for....As Oscar Wilde once said “I can resist anything but temptation” you will be hearing a lot about that same fellow who spent his summers in Moytura House nearby, as the restaurant is named after him and the whole place reverberates with his sybaritic attitude. Another of his famous quotes was “I have the simplest of tastes, I am always satisfied with the best” which also rings true of the Lodge at Ashford Castle where every detail is perfect from the fresh flowers, white orchids, red roses and amaryllis throughout the hotel and not a wayward leaf or a weed to be seen outside....

The Lodge at Ashford Castle, Susan Byron author of Irelands Hidden Gems.com

The Lodge at Ashford Castle was the estate manager’s residence originally. A beautiful period house in a raised elevation overlooking Lough Corrib, it is now part of Red Carnation Hotel group which bought Ashford Castle in 2014. Two years later the castle has been completely renovated and the owner Beatrice Tollman is now turning her attention to the Lodge. Which will offer all the advantages of the estate which has been redeveloped and upgraded sensitively in keeping with its glorious West of Ireland location. Visiting in January,  I was more interested in rest and relaxation in warm and cosy surroundings with excellent food, than touring the many scenic delights of Connemara, Clifden, Kylemore Abbey, Leenane and Westport, to be honest and I was blown away quite literally! 

Susan Byron in Room 151, The Lodge at Ashford Castle

While the wind howled around the eaves and the rain pelted down, we couldn’t have been more warm and cosy in our delightful room (151) which has been newly redecorated, with a free standing copper bath (eat your heart out Aphrodite), cheery gas fire and comfy seating and flat screen TV. In fact, I have never done less on a trip away and thoroughly enjoyed, lounging about in fluffy white robes, listening to music, reading, catching up on the chat and taking naps. We roused ourselves occasionally, I had a facial with Debbie in the Beauty Rooms at the Lodge, who was very warm and friendly (as are all the staff) but super experienced and professional, my post Christmas (over indulged) skin was glowing afterwards, followed by afternoon tea overlooking Lough Corrib. Intriguingly entitled “Tumbling Through the Chocolates” it consisted of a leisurely savoury course, followed by a refreshing wood sorrel slooshie, with a chocolate balloon full of surprises (don’t worry they give you a doggy bag to save what you can’t manage until later)

Irish Wolfhounds Ashford Castle - photo credit Mary Elizabeth McHale

Speaking of doggies (Irish readers please note) I don’t think there is another hotel in Ireland that will cater for your four legged friend just as well or as thoughtfully as at the Lodge at Ashford Castle, judging by the Scooby Doo menu... Roast Marrow Bone stuffed with Peanut Butter or Garfield’s favourite Lasagne Bolo? I would nearly order that myself! And if you haven’t got a dog, you can always go and meet and greet with Ashford Castle’s two resident Irish wolfhounds, Cronan and Garvan at 10am each morning, but be prepared to join the queue if you fancy a slobbery selfie!

Or take yourself off for a walk around the beautiful grounds which are all interconnected with smooth tarmaced roads or more rustic woodlands trails if you fancy going off the beaten track? Keep an eye out and an ear open for the tinkling of bells when you will most likely happen on a handler from the Irish School of Falconry and a bird of prey, out and about on a hawk walk or you can book one for yourself at reception. Worth a browse too and an excellent cake and coffee stop on your walk (about 5 minutes from the Lodge) is Mrs Tea’s Bakery and Boutique, where there are some very nice bits and pieces if you fancy a little retail therapy! 

I had heard great things too about the food in Lodge and was looking forward to trying out Jonathan Keane’s Tasting Menu in the Oscar Wilde Restaurant although we ate in the bar on friday night when we arrived. Again it is the simple things done really well which so often surprise and delight me, the crab claws in a creamy garlic sauce were so divine, fat, juicy and plentiful, I was sorry I had ordered a main course. My companion had a perfect homemade burger supplied by Ryan’s Craft Butchers in Cong which was a towering mountain of deliciousness. On saturday night we had cocktails by the fire before going upstairs to the restaurant which was packed to capacity, in January! The Grazing Menu is very reasonably priced at just €10 each per course, my favourite was the Fois Gras Trifle which consisted of a layer of foie gras, topped with cranberry jelly, chocolate soil and cassis sorbet....

Dinner at Oscar Wilde's Restaurant at the Lodge at Ashford Castle

I don’t mean to brag, but I have eaten more foie gras than is probably good for me, and have never yet tasted anything as heavenly as this combination of flavours. I am not going to spoil the surprise by going into the details of each and every course, but the Wild Red Deer with celeriac, poached pear, fried brussel sprouts and chocolate sauce (chocolate features often on this menu, my kind of place) was equally sublime. You have to choose five courses out of twelve, but the portions are so perfectly balanced you won’t feel in the least bit overfed or uncomfortable. In fact with a nice bottle white Rioja, (apologies I can’t remember the name) and copious fresh sparkling water from their own well which is bottled on site and provided free of charge, I slept like the proverbial log at the Lodge at Ashford Castle.....

View of Lough Corrib from the Lodge at Ashford Castle

The Lodge at Ashford Castle is currently offering a range of packages with a 3 course meal in the bar, complimentary cocktail, afternoon tea, mini facial and deluxe manicure from €300 per room.  

For more information or to make a booking online at The Lodge at Ashford Castle please click here

For more information on Ashford Castle please click here

For more information or to book a Hawk Walk online please click here

Irelands Hidden Gems