Photograph by Tom Parker


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Ashford Castle’s manager, James Knight, stands with his Irish wolfhounds.

Photograph by Tom Parker


Stay in an Irish Castle Like Royalty

Here's where to find Ireland's most enchanting castle.

The best historical hotels offer the chance to revel in a bygone era—but with plentiful modern amenities. Ashford Castle, in Ireland’s western County Mayo, accomplishes both superbly.

The original castle dates back to 1228, but much of what we see today was created by unofficial Irish royalty: the famed Guinness brewing family, who bought it in the mid-1800s. After a $75-million renovation by new owners, Ashford, a member of the National Geographic Unique Lodge collection, retains stonework that’s nearly 800 years old but now features restored interiors and a state-of-the-art spa.

“It’s not just a hotel stay,” says general manager Niall Rochford. “It is an experience, living the dream of staying in a genuine castle with top technology and creature comforts.”

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Dawn breaks over Ashford Castle.

Adventurous on-site activities include the ancient arts of falconry, archery, and clay shooting. The lakeside grounds were featured in the 1952 drama The Quiet Man (John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara stayed at Ashford while filming). You can watch the film, and other hits, in the sumptuous new cinema with red velvet chairs. Schedule a private screening for you and your entourage.

Try these sources to rent castles, villas, and luxe apartments:

  • Villas of Distinction: Find dreamy rentals from pieds-à-terre to 42-bedroom estates, and plan with top-notch villa specialists.
  • Airbnb: The company recently acquired Luxury Retreats to expand its swanky offerings.
  • Onefinestay: The agency provides the best home rentals in New York, Paris, Rome, Los Angeles, London, and Miami.

Annie Fitzsimmons frequently covers luxury travel for National Geographic Traveler. Follow her journey on Twitter.