A stay at Ashford Castle is wonderful at any time of year, however, my particular favourite time is the summer.
Located in Mayo, Ireland's third largest county, not only is the climate mild, but the area is extensive in its range of scenery, and breathtaking landscapes, as well as immense in its warm, welcoming hospitality to all visitors. This remote corner of Ireland with its Atlantic coastline, majestic mountains and meandering rivers has an unparalleled splendour and natural beauty all its own...especially in the summertime.
A choice of outdoor activities and recreation abounds in the locality, ranging from a plethora of water sports as well as walking, cycling, horse riding, golf, fishing and sea angling.
Ballina boasts the famed River Moy, with its popular Ridge Pool awash with salmon. There are many popular fishing lakes dotted across the county, notably Loughs Mask, Corrib, Conn, Cullen, Carrowmore Lake and Callow Lakes.
Mayo has two major pilgrimage sites: Croagh Patrick (Ireland's 'holy mountain'), and the Marian Shrine of Our Lady at Knock.
The area is steeped in history and every small village has its own tale to tell. Two of the more notable historic centres of interest are the Céide Fields Visitors' Centre at Ballycastle in north Mayo and the National Museum of Country Life near Castlebar. A number of castle ruins dot the Mayo landscape adding to the significant historic annals of this proud county.
Combined with all of this Mayo has award-winning Blue Flag beaches, festivals, family fun activities, a number of unique old-fashioned pubs, fabulous restaurants, friendly local people and all the components for an unforgettable holiday in the west of Ireland.
If you prefer to stay nestled in the grounds of Ashford Castle, the expansive 350 acre estate lends itself perfectly to a range of activities, from country classic pastimes such as horse riding, fishing, falconry and shooting, to more modern activities such as golf, cycling and kayaking. Thomas, the castle's dedicated Activities Coordinator is on hand to advise, and even has two Go Pro cameras to capture all the action!
If relaxation is more your thing, the brand new Spa and Fitness Centre is an extraordinary addition to Ashford Castle. In the shape of a striking bronze conservatory, the Spa provides a sanctuary of calm and serenity inspired by the peaceful location and history of this iconic building with uninterrupted views stretching across Lough Corrib.
With a range of eating options within the castle itself and on the estate, you'll be spoilt for choice!
Here are a few pictures of my family's last summer visit to the castle, which was to celebrate my daughter's 10th birthday; she truly felt like a princess!