This impressive pile might well be the jewel in the crown when it comes to Irish castles. Set in a sprawling 140 hectares of parkland the castle was renovated last year by its new owners, the privately run Red Carnation Hotels, and does indeed look like a living jewel box decorated in gold, ruby and sapphire colours. It is magnificent; lovingly restored with silk wallpaper and antiques. Despite its opulent refurbishment Ashford still welcomes your sticky-fingered kids with open arms. Something I wouldn’t do if my house looked this luxurious.
Kids really get red carpet treatment here with their own LEGO Butler (build a LEGO castle) and some fantastic fairytale adventures, such as finding the secret folly tower, Rapunzel’s Castle, or completing all the fun activities to earn a Wolfhounds Badge and following a secret map to the fairy paths. Kids will also like meeting the estate’s actual Irish Wolfhounds when they come to visit the castle each morning.
The grounds date back to 1228, so it’s not surprising that there are all the required VOLUME 8 2017 country activities on offer, from archery to horse riding. You can also take a cruise on Lough Corrib from the old steamer pier below the castle and explore some of the lake’s 365 islands. A more modern innovation is a zipline and tree-climbing course which adventurous kids will love.
An aerial view of Ashford Castle. Previous page: Children play at the K Club.