On our way into The Lodge at Ashford Castle we noticed some ruins just off the road. We asked the staff about it and was told that it was Ennis Friary. On our way out we visited the friary. It's address is "Abbey St, Ennis, Co. Clare, Ireland." You and I wouldn't call that a street.
Their web site is here and the TripAdvisor reviews are here.
The friary was build in the mid-1200s and went back and forth between the monks and the conquering British for centuries.
A short walk (or drive) from Ashford Castle is the quaint little village of Cong, home of Cong Abbey and "The Quiet Man" museum. There has been a church on the site of Cong Abbey since the 7th century.
Their web site is here and the TripAdvisor reviews are here. Their wikipedia site is here
The Lodge at Ashford Castle is just over the hill from Ashford Castle. It was originally the house of the groundkeeper of the estate. While the rates are a fraction of those at Ashford Castle you certainly don't give up luxury or service. Their web site is here and the TripAdvisor reviews are here.
I had worked with the staff prior to our arrival to arrange several activities on the grounds of the estate. They had been wonderful and even arranged for a birthday cake and ice cream in the drawing room of the Castle for our granddaughter's sixth birthday. After we arrived, I went back down to registration to ask for an additional key. I gave the receptionist my surname and she looked up at me and called me by my first name! She had been the person who had made all the arrangements for me. That's the kind of service we got everywhere on the estate. When we arrived at any activity on the grounds the staff knew who we were and why we were there. We had a birthday lunch in the Castle and they brought the cake in with lit candles singing "Happy Birthday!"
We also took advantage of several of other activities. We took a carriage ride through the forest and had a "pony" trail ride for my granddaughter. The two drivers were full of information about the estate and the area's history.
We arranged the falconry activity with 2 birds. They actually use Harris Hawks but there are falcons and owls there to see. The walk was about 45 minutes long through nearby open areas and dense woods. The hawks would fly into the trees and watch for the handler to put meat in our gloves. Then the hawks would SWOOP down from the trees and land on our gloves to get the meat. On a couple of occasions the hawks spotted some wildlife and the handler would have to coax them back with chick heads (tasty). Our entire party participated in the walk and the (newly) six year old got to hold one of the hawks on a glove. She is still walking around launching hawks from her hand.
We stayed in rooms 120 and 121. 120 has a queen bed. 121 is a 2-story suite with a queen bed upstairs and a pullout couch downstairs. Both are beautifully decorated. An example of the attention to detail is that the bathroom mirrors are non-fogging. Nice.
The Lodge has an exercise room, sauna and spa services. They have free Wi-Fi but it is relatively slow uploading.
Staying in the Lodge gave us the same privileges as guests in the castle. Just ignore the sign about admission fees as you cross the bridge at the Castle. The concierge Padraig was always at the ready to chauffeur us to whatever activity we needed or to offer advice on shopping or dining.
Breakfast is included with each room and it is served in Wilde's restaurant upstairs. Breakfast included both a continental buffet and a cooked to order menu. We ate in a backroom that you got to through the kitchen! It is Europe after all. That backroom has an outstanding view of the lake below. We had excellent pub food in the Quay Bar.
We were able to have the charges for the activities at the Equestrian Centre and Falconry Centre billed back to our account at the Lodge. We had to settle the lunch in the Castle directly with the Castle. Payment to the Lodge was via credit card at checkout. There were some improper charges on our folio when we checked out and they were removed without discussion.
The distance between the Castle and the Lodge is a 5 minute walk, uphill from the Castle to the Lodge but very pleasant. We also walked from the Castle to the Equestrian Centre and from the Falconry Centre to the Castle. This walk took us through amazing gardens.
You can also walk to Cong village from the Castle as it is a very short walk but we returned to the Lodge and drove to Cong. We explored Cong Abbey and dined in one of the local pubs. We chose The Crowe's Nest because of the empty kegs out front. There is a Tourist Information office there if you need one.
Overall the Lodge at Ashford Castle had the most attention to detail that I have ever seen.
After an overnight flight to Dublin and driving on the wrong side of the road for a couple of hours we were ready to STOP. Just off the M6 in Athlone was Wineport Lodge. Their web site is here and the TripAdvisor reviews are here.