Ashford Castle, often compared to the magical setting of Harry Potter, stands as a remarkable testament to centuries of architectural evolution. Nestled in the heartland of Mayo, Ireland, this majestic castle is surrounded by breathtaking forests, lakes, and mountains, creating an ambiance where time seems to stand still. Despite its serene appearance, Ashford Castle has been a witness to significant historical transformations over nearly eight centuries.

The Foundation of Ashford Castle: 1228

The story of Ashford Castle begins in 1228 when the Anglo-Norman de Burgo family established it following their victory over the native O'Connors of Connaught. The de Burgo family constructed numerous castles throughout the province, but Ashford Castle emerged as their primary stronghold. Nearby, the O'Connors left their mark with the 12th-century Augustinian abbey of Cong, built on the remnants of a 6th-century monastery.

A Change of Ownership: 1589

After more than 350 years under the de Burgo family's ownership, Ashford Castle transitioned to new hands in 1589. This shift occurred after a fierce battle between the de Burgo forces and those of the English Lord Bingham, the governor of Connaught. A truce led to the castle's handover to Bingham, who fortified the enclave within its precincts.

The Ashford Estate: 1715

In 1715, the Oranmore and Browne family established the Ashford estate, enhancing the castle's architectural splendor with the addition of a magnificent French-style chateau. This period marked the beginning of a series of transformations that would shape the estate's future.

Expansion Under Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness: 1852

In 1852, Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness acquired Ashford Castle and expanded the estate to an impressive 26,000 acres. His contributions included constructing new roads, planting thousands of trees, and adding two large Victorian-style extensions to the castle.

Lord Ardilaun's Enhancements: 1868

Upon Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness's death, Ashford Castle was bequeathed to his son, Lord Ardilaun. An avid gardener, Lord Ardilaun developed extensive woodlands and reconstructed the entire west wing of the castle, further enhancing its grandeur.

The Guinness Legacy and Hotel Transformation: 1915 - 1939

The Guinness family retained ownership of Ashford Castle through the Iveagh Trust until 1939, when Noel Huggard purchased it. Huggard transformed the castle into a "First Class Hotel," marking the beginning of its new identity as a luxury accommodation.

Hollywood Glamour: 1951

In 1951, the renowned director John Ford chose the west of Ireland to film the classic movie "The Quiet Man." Many of the film's stars stayed at Ashford Castle, adding a touch of Hollywood glamour to its storied history.

Restoration and Modernization: 1970 - 1985

In 1970, John A. Mulcahy acquired Ashford Castle and undertook a comprehensive restoration and expansion project. This effort doubled the castle's size, introduced a golf course, and further developed the grounds and gardens. In 1985, a group of Irish American investors purchased Ashford Castle, elevating it to new heights of luxury.

A Legacy of Luxury: Present Day

Today, Ashford Castle is celebrated as one of the most luxurious resort hotels in the world. It has been consistently recognized as one of the best hotels in Ireland and one of the top 50 resort properties in Europe. Over the years, the castle has hosted numerous celebrities, members of European royal families, political figures, industrialists, and film stars, all of whom have enjoyed its exceptional hospitality.

Ashford Castle stands as a living monument to history, blending timeless elegance with modern luxury, and continues to enchant visitors from around the world with its rich heritage and stunning beauty.