The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - Travel



- Nick Hammond

The first thing to know about Ashford Castle is

that most of the staff have been here for many, many years. There have only been three general managers since 1939. President Reagan once

stayed, as did John Lennon and Brad Pitt. The castle was built more than 800 years ago, and when Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness bought the estate at the start of the

great famine in the mid-19th century, locals

were starving. An enlightene­d man for his time, Guinness improved

their lot, rather than ignoring or worsening it. There is plenty to do, from trout fishing with the resident ghillie and

hawk-flying in the falconry school to riding and a sumptuous spa. John Ford’s Academy Award-winning epic The Quiet Man was filmed in Cong – and indeed first shown in the old Cong Cinema, now the hotel’s Cullen’s at the Cottage restaurant. John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara plus many of the crew stayed during filming and you can watch the film in the hotel’s cinema room. Squire Danagher’s cottage is in the movie and is now used for events. It even has a Guinness pump installed in one of the old walls. It pays to explore every inch of Ashford Castle; from Hideaway Cottage, on the Lough, to the 16th-century wine cellars. Whether you are in the snooker room,

living it up in the George V Dining Room, or strolling the grounds, you are never far from

being treated like royalty. By the time you wave goodbye and head back over the Cong River

to reality, you will understand that they are

on to a good thing at Ashford. And that’s why everyone comes back. Doubles from £646 (00 353 94 954 6003; ashfordcas­

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