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Fresh Eire Blog

Ashford Castle Estate; accepting visitors since 1228!

Ashford Castle
Hotel & Country Estate.


Founded in 1228 by the Anglo-Norman de Burgo family to be their principal stronghold, the original Castle of Cong remained ruled for some 350 years before Queen Elizabeth I recertified the Castle as a British fortress in 1589.  Ownership then turned to the Oranmore and Browne family in 1715, who first named it Ashford Castle.  They were responsible for the building of a French château at the centre part of the Castle.  

Later, in 1852, Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness purchased Ashford and extended the estate to 26,000 acres, building new roads and planting thousands of trees and adding two large Victorian style extensions.  The estate and Castle then passed to his son Lord Ardilaun in 1868; who welcomed the Prince of Wales in 1905, for which the George V Dining Room and Prince of Wales Bar were built to celebrate.  In 1915 Ashford was retained by the Iveagh Trust on behalf of the Guinness family until it was leased by Noel Huggard in 1939.  Huggard established the Castle as a first class hotel renowned for the provision of its country pursuits.  As a hotel it changed hands many times, notably in 1970 by renowned hotelier John Mulcahy who developed the golf course, and in 1985 by a group of Irish American investors.  In 2008 the hotel was bought by local entrepreneur Gerry Barrett. 

Since 2013, Ashford Castle is part of Red Carnation Hotel Collection and has been lovingly restored to fully reflect the Castle’s extensive history and Irish heritage. Ashford Castle was voted in 2015 the Best Hotel in the World, by Virtuoso


The Quiet Man

The Quiet Man, starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara and directed by the legendary John Ford, is a 1951 romantic love story.  The Quiet Man was filmed in and around the village of Cong, Co Mayo including much of the grounds of Ashford Castle.  The film received a total of seven Academy Award nominations and won two Oscars.  Guests can visit many of the film locations including The Quiet Man Cottage Museum and Pat Cohen’s Bar, complete with replica of the interiors featured in the film.  Alternatively, guests can sit back and rekindle The Quiet Man experience in the Castle’s luxurious cinema.


Ireland’s School of Falconryfalconry2

Ireland’s School of Falconry was founded in 1999 and is the oldest established Falconry School in Ireland.  Home to the largest and most diverse collection of Harris hawks, it offers guests the chance to fly hawks around the spectacular Ashford Castle grounds and woodlands.  Six instructors are on hand all year round to introduce guests to the 20 Harris hawks a species renowned for its’ easy-going temperament and unusually sociable nature, one Eurasian eagle owl and four falcons who all call the Falconry School their home.  A hawk walk is highly recommended.


We recommend Ashford Castle on our Deluxe Bespoke tours, while our Deluxe and Classic Connemara Bike tours end with a stay in The Lodge At Ashford Castle.

Grace O'Malley - The Pirate Queen

Grace O’Malley (Granuaile) 
An icon of 16th Century Ireland

The Pale had been established in Ireland in 1488.  English rule was mostly confined to that area.  Elsewhere the country was ruled by Anglo Irish Lords and Gaelic Chieftains who lived in castles.  Some of them got embroiled in English conflicts beyond these shores which had repercussions here; others were busy enough feuding and fighting among themselves.

The ordinary people, as always, struggled on in the hope of better days and survived on oatmeal, milk, butter, watercress and wild herbs.  They valued animals for their skin, wool and milk rather than for their meat.  The only language they knew was Irish (Gaelic), their only law was administrated by the local Chieftain through his breitheamh and their souls were in the hands of friars.  Some Chieftains and their families also spoke Latin which was essential for trading with foreigners.  One of these Chieftains was Owen O’Malley whose comparatively small territory on the shores of Clew Bay, Co Mayo was surrounded to the north and east by MacWilliam Burke of Mayo and to the south by O’Flaherty.

The year was 1530.  Ferdinand Magellan’s Portuguese ship had made history and circumnavigated the world.  Construction of the Basilica of St. Peters had recently begun, Martin Luther was preparing to break with Rome.  In England, Henry VIII was about to be bewitched by the charms of Anne Boleyn.  And on the west coast of Ireland, pounded by the Atlantic gales, was born Grace O’Malley, also known as Granuaile*, destined to become an outstanding woman of courage and adventure.

The environment she grew up in was dominated by fishing and trading.  Survival meant sailing to distant shores to trade for silks, wines and spices in return for wool, linen and hides.  Grace loved the sea and soon learned to navigate . When she married an O’Flaherty, she became a tough fighter and leader and often led raids on other ships.  After the death of her husband she proved to be a stout defender in fights both against other clans and against the English who were now determined to extend their rule across the country.

She returned to her native Clare Island castle and made a name for herself as a seafarer, trader and pirate.  Piracy was rife in those days and foreign ships were considered fair game.  She married Richard Burke and lived with him at his castle at Rockfleet until his death.  She was friendly with the two great Ulster chieftains O’Neill and O’Donnell.  This was viewed with suspicion by the English who greatly feared their growing power and influence.

English rule in the area was in the control of Sir Richard Bingham, governor of Connaught.  He was ruthless and unfair and Grace fell foul of him. Her livestock was confiscated, her son murdered, another thrown in prison.  So she bravely set sail for London to seek an audience with Queen Elizabeth I to plead for her son’s release and the return of her property.  Her boldness was rewarded and her request granted.  She returned to Rockfleet in triumph.

During her final years she heard of the defeat of her old allies in the Battle of Kinsale. It must have saddened her to realise that she was among the last of the Chieftains and that her death marked the end of a significant era in Ireland’s history.

*Grace O’Malley is popularly called Granuaile.  The story goes that she tried to sneak aboard her father’s ship which was about to set off on a voyage, and cut off her hair so as to look like a boy.  This caused great amusement when she was discovered and her father is supposed to have laughingly called her Granuaile (the Irish word maol means 'bald').

Reproduced by kind permission of Greenleaf Publications Ltd.

To learn more about the Irish Pirate Queen, and to see some of her ruined castles from your saddle, take one of our Connemara Castle & Manor,  or  Burren, Aran Islands and Connemara bike tour.  #pedalon

Bordeaux: Bike tour - Top Châteaux visits for wine

5 Blockbuster Châteaux

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Here is a non exhaustive list of the top châteaux in the surroundings of Bordeaux. We have chosen not to rank them because each of them produce premium-quality wine and its taste would be more or less appreciated in conjunction with your preferences.

Château Latour

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Château Latour is one of the most famous and prestigious vineyards in France and, indeed, the world. It was ranked First Growth under the 1855 Bordeaux Classification, which by the time (and still today) aimed to rank the production of the several thousand different Châteaux in Bordeaux’s region and hence awarding a unique prestige mark. The wines of Château Latour are the result of centuries of work and improvement with a constant quest of excellence.

Château Margaux

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Château Margaux is one of the rare Châteaux which received the honorary distinction of First Growth. Despite its recent unstable history, rocked to the rhythm of the ownership changes, the fact remains that it is a wine of rare exception. Indeed, right from the beginning, their wines were considered as some of the very best in the world. Over the centuries, the Château did not change its recipe for success, it still relies on two major features, that is to say a unique terroir and a continued and unwavering dedication to the work at every stage.

Château Mouton-Rothschild

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This Château, with the arrival of Philippe de Rothschild, earned its prestigious reputation. Philippe de Rothschild was a true precursor, he indeed spearheaded the construction of a museum open to the public on the Château’ site.  Moreover, every year, since 1945, the design of the label for the Château Mouton-Rothschild has been entrusted to some of the most famous artists in the world such as Jean Cocteau, Salvador Dali or Andy Warhol just to name a few. In 1973, the Château finally achieved the prestigious reward of being ranked First Growth in the 1855 Bordeaux Classification. The Château was almost entirely renovated and its facilities were upgraded in order to remain at the cutting edge of exquisite wine production. Even if the Château has, in its rank, Specialists with a high calibre they still rely on an ancestral know-how which has been magnified over the generations.

Château Haut-Brion

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The Château Haut-Brion is a leading institution in the wine industry. It is located only a few miles away from the city centre of Bordeaux and is an unmissable stage of your trip!
As for the other Château mentioned, Haut-Brion is part of the restricted circle of the First Growth in the 1855 Bordeaux Classification. Over the generations, the wine production was in the hands of irrepressible enthusiasts who had no other purpose than endlessly seek the creation of the ultimate taste. Tasting the wine from the Château Haut-Brion will guide you through different levels each with their own idiosyncrasies regarding taste; a subtle yet sophisticated bouquet of savours.

Château Lynch-Bages

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Once again the name Lynch refers to a family who was at the source of a classified Growth wine. What is more surprising are the Irish roots of this family who ran away from the anti-catholic repression and found a welcoming land in Bordeaux. Even if the Château Lynch-Bages does not benefit from the highest ranking in the 1855 Bordeaux Classification (Fifth Growth), it is still a prestigious institution which will not disappoint the most demanding of palates. Thanks to its special character combining power and finesse as well as its consistent quality, Lynch-Bages manages to find a place among the greatest in the famous wine-making town of Pauillac.

Seville - Bike tour: Attractions, Hotels & Restaurants




As we have just launched our new bike tour in Andalousia, here is a second blog article complementing the first in order to provider a wider range of choices while staying in this wonderful city.



Hotel Alfonso XIII Sevilla

- Hotel Alfonso XIII: 

Originally built in 1920’s on the order of the sovereign Alfonso XIII, this 5 star hotel was, since its construction, meant to be the most luxurious hotel in Europe to offer the very best to its customers. This hotel is the reference point of the city for a luxury accommodation and was not only renovated in 2012 in order to sustain the original spirit of this institution, but also to adapt its offerings to the demand of the new generation of travellers. The Hotel Alfonso XIII is located in the historic quarter of Santa Cruz which is a great starting point to begin your exploration of the city!

- Coral del Rey: 

Coral del Rey is a luxurious hotel located at the heart of Seville, a short walk away from the cathedral. Its seventeenth century exterior façade contrasts with its freshly renovated interior, where you will find 5 categories of rooms presented in incredible settings. Indeed the designer Kuky Mora-Figoera has individually decorated each room by preserving the historical identity of the place without neglecting the modern dynamism. Each room is equipped with cutting-edge sound and vision systems and has a creative design. You will surely also appreciate the rooftop terrace with pool and their great bar serving delicious tapas all day long.



- Abades Triana: 

The perfectly situated restaurant Abades Triana will, besides its exquisite cuisine, provide you one of the best settings in Sevilla where you will notably have the occasion to contemplate the Golden Tower or Guadalquivir river. The restaurant offers different dining rooms with different degrees of exclusivity which will be perfect for a romantic dinner, an outing with friends or with colleagues. The chef Elías del Toro delivers a contemporary refined cuisine which will guide you through the Andalousian savours and undoubtedly satisfy the most demanding palates.

Restaurante Abades Triana

- Restaurante Oriza: 

Restaurante Oriza offers a sumptuous mix of Basque-Andalousian cookery based on fresh high end products. The staff thrive for excellence and will provide you with the best services and with the utmost professionalism in order to make your stay as enjoyable as possible. Moreover, the cellar contains an impressive selection of 300 outstanding local as well as foreign wines. The restaurant will indeed provide you a memorable moment!




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 - Cathedral de Sevilla: 

Seville Cathedral is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After the first step inside the cathedral, you will have the occasion to contemplate the majestic design and proportions and you will understand why this monument has no equivalent in the world. Indeed its magnificent interior as well as its numerous treasures will directly charm you.



- Barrio Santa Cruz:

The barrio Santa Cruz was basically the Jewish quarter under the reign of the Moors and is full of charm. It is the perfect place to wander around and appreciate the beauty of those buildings loaded with history. While being here you can visit the Centro de Interpretación Judería de Sevilla retracing the history and role of the Jewish people in the city or also go to the Hospital de los Venerables Sacerdotes where major Spanish masterpieces are exhibited. After visiting those interesting museums, you could head to the Jardines de Murillo to relax and enjoy its beautiful and quiet gardens or go in one of the several cafés!

- Real Alcázar:

Real Alcázar is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a true historical wonder. It was first a major stronghold of the Moors then the Christians took it over. This is a splendid style confrontation between the Oriental and Western culture which is translated by the architecture which survived throughout the centuries. This a really inspiring place which is totally worth visiting during your stay in Sevilla.

Real Alcázar

Waterford - Bike tour: Attractions, Hotels & Restaurants


Waterford city is located in the south east coast of Ireland and is known to be the most ancient town of the country. Throughout its history, Waterford was coveted by the Vikings and English who successively failed to conquer the city until 1650, earning it the name of «Urbs Intacta Magnet Waterfordia» (Waterford remains the untaken city) and thus acknowledging its fierce resistance. Besides its ancient historical legacy which remains an important part of the city’s architecture and identity, Waterford is recently famous for its crystal and glass production showcasing its unique local know-how and expertise. 

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Fitzwhilton hotel

- Fitzwilton Hotel:

Fitzwilton Hotel is a beautiful 4 star boutique luxury hotel located in the centre of Waterford. It is a true institution in terms of luxury, quality and leisure and has a strong modern character in its design. The Fitzwilton Hotel provides large rooms which will perfectly welcome your whole family and its advantageous location will allow you to serenely discover the city. Moreover, you will find on the ground floor of the hotel an excellent restaurant, Chez K’s Bistro, offering a diverse selection of products in order to satisfy everyone’s taste.


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- Waterford Castle Hotel & Golf Resort:

The Waterford Castle Hotel & Golf Resort is an emblematic historical landmark which hosted the famous Fitzgerald family for centuries before being turned into a prestigious hotel. The hotel is located in a private island on the eastern part of Waterford and offers a splendid setting surrounded by nature. It is the perfect place to enjoy intimate holidays and even more if you are a golf fan. Indeed, here you will find Ireland’s only true island golf resort with top facilities.




- Bodega:
Bodega is one of the most praised restaurants in Waterford because of the quality and freshness of its products. The collaboration with the local food providers allows the restaurant to both put forward the local food scene and offer worldwide famous dishes. This original approach between localism and globalism has been granted several awards reflecting the ever growing demand. Nonetheless, a lunch or dinner at Bodega will guarantee a good experience in a friendly environment with an excellent range of choices for wines or cocktails.



- Geoff’s:

Geoff’s is a traditional Irish pub offering great food and drinks. Its central location makes it an excellent place to stop by, either if you want to grab a beer or just taste some local dishes. Either way, you will enjoy an authentic and pleasant ambiance. Despite its popularity with locals which can lead to large crowds, Geoff’s is a place totally worth seeing and experiencing if you come to Waterford!




- Waterford Museums of Treasures:

The Waterford Museums of Treasures are three different museums located each in the historical city centre just a few blocks away from each other. The Medieval Museum, Reginald’s Tower and Bishop’s palace will give you a broader insight regarding the history of the most ancient Irish city and allow you to contemplate sumptuous vestiges of the past. Indeed each museum presents a different aspect and time of Waterford and hence allows everyone to choose what you want to see depending your area of interest. The Reginald's tower is an impressive stone monument which survived throughout the ages, where Vikings used to gather their winnings whereas the Medieval Museum presents treasures from the Middle Ages. The Bishop's Palace is the place where you will find the creations from the last three centuries.

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Waterford Crystal engraved glass


- Waterford Crystal Museum:

The Waterford Crystal Museum offers a unique opportunity to its visitors to discover the crystal production from the mould making to the engraving. During the previous centuries, this special know-how has put Waterford on the map makes it the pride of the city. The originality of this museum is the first hand experience provided to visitors, as indeed you can admire the whole production process of true crystal masterpieces.



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- Golf:
As we previously mentioned, Waterford is a great place to golf in Ireland! In complement to our previous recommendation for Waterford Castle Hotel & Golf resort, we would like to add the Faithlegg Golf Club. It was designed by a famous Irish golf course architect, Mr. Paddy Merrigan, and is known to be a challenging step for golfers of every level. The Faithlegg Golf Club has also great facilities going from a spa to its Red Cedar Lounge which will allow you to profit from the greens as well as the leisure installations in order to fully appreciate your stay in Waterford.


- Edmund Rice Museum:

The Edmund Rice Museum is a tribute to a man who dedicated its whole life to the poors and disadvantaged of Waterford. This eponym museum presents the legacy of a man who inspired not only its generation but a whole people. Edmund Rice was a successfull businessman who tragically lost his family and a Roman Catholic philanthropist who dedicated its fortune and time to give a chance to the poor children to receive an education. Its behaviour in troubled times has been a great source of inspiration and a life lessons which still keep on motivating people.