Though we have lived in England for about five years off and on we have never spent much time in Ireland. Because we are speaking in England next week we thought it would be a perfect time to visit the Emerald Isle first! Too bad we just missed St. Patrick’s Day which apparently is pretty jolly around here, Richard happened onto an amazing property while surfing for places to stay on the Internet.
It is called Ashford Castle and has a history that begins in 1208! It passed through many hands, starting with the Anglo-Norman de Burgo family following their defeat of the native O’Conners of Connaught. In 1589 after a fierce battle, it fell to an English Lord Bingham, the governor of Connaught. Since Richard’s grandmother was a Bingham we are thinking it would be fun to be related to these Binghams (only, of course, if they were on the “right” side of the conflict!)
In 1852 the the property was purchased by Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness (of beer fame) who extended the property to 26,000 acres and who bequeathed the property to his son who fortunately was an avid gardener. In 1915 it was turned into a first class hotel and has passed through several more hands until it has recently been voted one of Europe’s top two properties!
We arrived yesterday and we must say that we are in splendor! The staff is impeccable and making us feel “at home”. The attention to detail and the beautiful antiques and pieces of art are quite incredible! See for yourself:
We are told that at one point an owner who was a particular lover of trees planted a million trees…including a palm tree (which we haven’t found yet) and dozens of Redwoods which are thriving. The grounds are as spectacular as the castle itself!
We spent two nights. Because it was off season and because pretty much all of Ireland is on sale due to their faltering economy, we spent one night in this gorgeous Stateroom with 20 foot ceilings and a chandelier.
And the other in the beautiful Presidential Suite which has been previously occupied among other celebrities by President Ronald Reagan, Princess Grace, Bob Hope (whose daughter apparently married one of the previous owners), and Pierce Brosnan who was married in a nearby 11th century abby and spent his honeymoon here. The view of the grounds and Ireland’s second largest lake was inspiring!
Who would have thought in 1208 A.D. as this place was first being constructed that thousands of people would first fight over but eventually, replenish, expand, modernize and in the next 800 years, fashion an extraordinary place of rest and inspiration from their humble beginnings. The trees that were originally mere twigs a hundred years ago and are now manifestations of incredible feats of nature. An Irish world of good!