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So after an extensive tour of Connemara our last leg of our trip brings us to Westport, Co. Mayo. Our visit here hit a highlight by visiting Ashford Castle and the school of Falconry.

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Ashford Castle a former private residence is now a veery exclusive Luxury Hotel. The setting in a very large private park with its golf course, tennis courts, lake Lough Corrib, and Ireland’s School of Falconry, shooting range, etc. Guests are chauffeured around in luxurious Range Rover similar to those made for HM the Queen with liveried drivers.

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view from the Golf course. 

A castle was built on the perimeter of a Monastic site in 1228 by the Anglo-Norman House of Burke.

After more than three-and-a-half centuries under the de Burgos, whose surname became Burke or Bourke, Ashford passed into the hands of a new master, following a fierce battle between the forces of the de Burgos and those of the English official Sir Richard Bingham, Lord President of Connaught, when a truce was agreed. In 1589, the castle fell to Bingham, who added a fortified enclave within its precincts.

Dominick Browne, of the Browne Family (Baron Oranmore) received the estate in a Royal Grant in either 1670 or 1678. In 1715, the estate of Ashford was established by the Browne family and a hunting lodge in the style of a 17th-century French chateau was constructed. The double-headed eagles still visible on the roof represent the coat of arms of the Brownes.

In the late 18th-century a branch of the family inhabited the castle. In the early 19th-century, one Thomas Elwood was agent for the Brownes at Ashford and was recorded as living there in 1814.

The estate was purchased in 1852 by Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness from the Encumbered Estates’ Court. He added two large Victorian style extensions. He also extended the estate to 26,000 acres (110 km2), built new roads and planted thousands of trees. On Benjamin’s death in 1868, the estate passed to his son Lord Ardilaun, who expanded the building further in the neogothic style.

Lord Ardilaun was an avid gardener who oversaw the development of massive woodlands and rebuilt the entire west wing of the castle, designed by architects James Franklin Fuller and George Ashlin. The new construction connected the early 18th-century part in the east with two de-Burgo-time towers in the west. Battlements were added to the whole castle.

The Castle passed to Ardilaun’s nephew Ernest Guinness. It was gifted to the Irish government in 1939.

Today Ashford Castle is a luxury hotel, a major refurbishment was done in 2015.

We had lunch at the Castle in a beautiful dining room, service was in the grand style, very attentive, rarely seen today in any hotel.

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Hotel grounds and garden

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