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.

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