Ashford Castle reopening after $50m makeover by new owner

The 350-acre Mayo property was once Guinness family home

 

It has cost $75 million and taken almost two years to complete but Ashford Castle in Cong, Co Mayo, has been restored to its former glory.

The final touches are being applied to the 350-acre resort ahead of its official reopening this Friday by Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

It was bought in June 2013 by Red Carnation Hotels, a South African company headed by husband and wife Stanley and Beatrice Tollman, who will arrive in Cong tomorrow for the relaunch.

In addition to the purchase price the couple have spent about $50 million (€47m) restoring the property, which hosted US president Ronald Reagan during his State visit to Ireland in 1984.

It also provided a backdrop to actors John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara in 1951 when film director John Ford came to Co Mayo to shoot The Quiet Man.

Speaking to The Irish Times yesterday, Ashford Castle’s general manager, Niall Rochford, said the restoration work had given it “probably the best hotel bedrooms in the country”.

All 820 windows have been replaced, a new lead roof installed, and its stonework repointed.

Red Carnation has also added some modern comforts to the five-star property, once home to the Guinness family. These include a spa and swimming pool, a 32-seat cinema, a billiards room and cigar terrace. The grounds have also received a makeover.

To reflect the investment, room rates at Ashford Castle have increased by 20 per cent this year.

Peak season rates range from €495 for bed and breakfast in a Corrib room up to €2,500 for the split-level Reagan presidential suite.

If that’s too rich for your blood, off season rates will range from €250 up to €1,500. “Anybody coming to experience the castle will see that the rates reflect the investment that has gone into the property,” Mr Rochford said.