Ashford Castle—one of Ireland’s most iconic properties, with a history dating to 1228—opens its doors today following a massive two-year renovation to all 82 rooms and public spaces. Ireland’s Prime Minister, Enda Kenny, will be there for the occasion.
Ashford has a unique history: Set on the shores of Lough Corrib, the 350-acre estate was founded in the 13th century by an Anglo-Norman family, and went on to be purchased by Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness (yes, that Guinness) in the 19th century. In 1951, John Ford’s Oscar-winning film, The Quiet Man, starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, was filmed on the grounds (you can still walk past many of the sites), and the cast stayed at the castle—which had by then been turned into a hotel.
Today, the castle is owned by Red Carnation Hotels, and the group, led by the Tollman family, oversaw the entire top-to-toe renovation. Part of the charm of Ashford is that no two rooms are alike. All, however, are supremely comfortable, and now done up with sumptuous fabrics, carpets, and antiques, in rich red, blue, or green color schemes. But new amenities are taking the hotel into the 21th century: You’ll find a billiards room, children’s game room, cigar terrace, 32-seat movie theater, and a revamped spa, complete with an indoor pool (the latter opens in July). Those who have stayed in the past will find that activities like falconry, fly-fishing, archery, and horseback riding—along with sipping pints at the Prince of Wales bar, with its glamorous new seats—remain happily unchanged.
Jacqueline Gifford is a senior editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter @jacquigiff.