Founded in 1228 by the Anglo-Norman de Burgo family and later home to Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness (1798-1868), brewer and first Lord Mayor of Dublin, Ashford Castle in Mayo County today is a five star hotel situated on 350 acres.
We didn’t stay there.
We did, however, enjoy lunch on the premises, admiring the fine furnishings on the way to the Prince of Wales Bar. After a bowl of tomato and gin soup, a gourmet BLT, and a little champagne, we moved outdoors. There we encountered a trail of toddlers on ponies returning to the Castle’s stables.
One reason we were interested in seeing Ashford–other than its history– was we knew it had hosted Pierce Brosnan and Keely Shaye Smith’s wedding reception in August of 2001. First married in nearby Ballintubber* Abbey, afterwards they danced to Bruce Springsteen’s “If I Should Fall Behind” before breaking into a jig played by the Irish group, The Chieftains.
When it was time to exchange wedding gifts, Mrs. Brosnan surprised her husband with a three-quarter ton ice sculpture of Rodin’s “The Kiss,” a reproduction of which is depicted here.
A second reason we were intrigued by the castle was it was where much of the cast stayed during the filming of John Ford’s The Quiet Man (1951), starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. A number of principal filming locations were in Cong, just a few minutes’ walk from Ashford.
That was our next stop.
*You have to love some of these Irish names. We passed through “Letterfrak” every day later in our trip. But Ballintubber may have that beat.