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Ashford Castle worth a visit en route to Galway?

I'll be picking up a rental car from Dublin airport in the morning around 10:00am then driving to Galway, where I'll be staying for 2 nights. Is Ashford Castle worth a visit along the way, or should I skip it and just drive straight to Galway?

Are there other sites you would recommend along that drive?

Posted by
2933 posts

It all depends on your interests. My sister’s highlight of our entire trip was taking a Hawk Walk at the Ireland School of Falconry there. You may also find that exciting or not really your thing. Very subjective question.

Posted by
2357 posts

I agree with Carol's sister about the Hawk Walk but in my possibly erroneous memory, I remember Ashford being considerably north of the highway from Dublin to Galway.

Posted by
1085 posts

You are aware Ashford Castle is a hotel, right? We stopped there for the falconry walk on the R. S. Ireland tour. I wasn't feeling up to a walk that day and the hotel let me have a coffee in their very nice breakfast area. The hotel is gorgeous. My favorite part of the stop though was the village of Cong. It is lovely and has a great statue of John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara from their movie, The Quiet Man which was filmed there.

Posted by
2017 posts

Ashford Castle is gorgeous and we regretted not doing the hawk walk. Cong is very nice and you can tour the Quiet Man Cottage. We had lunch at the Hungry Monk which was good but probably should have eaten at Ashford.

Posted by
20 posts

Thank you all for the great feedback! This will be my father's first trip abroad, and I think he would really enjoy the Hawk Walk! I've reached out to the company to make a reservation. I know Ashford Castle is a hotel; however I heard the grounds are beautiful to take a look at. It's about 45 minutes North of where we're staying in Galway, but it sounds like a memorable experience. I will try to check out the nearby city of Cong and the Quiet Man Cottage.

Has anyone eaten at Ashford Castle? Are there good lunch spots in Cong?

Thank you all again for your insights!

Posted by
2933 posts

We had a snack at Hungry Monk in Cong. Delicious home baked goods.

Posted by
479 posts

Glad you're doing the Hawk Walk; it was a highlight of our 2018 trip. (If it's in the budget, you should each get a bird.) I've not seen anyone else comment on the following, but we struggled a bit finding the School of Falconry once on the vast grounds of Ashford -- no doubt we were gawking at the Castle and not paying sufficient attention to the uniformed gentleman out front who gave us directions to the School. (We also left our B&B in Westport later than we should have.) It all worked out OK, and we were only a few minutes late for our reserved time -- but we were more than a bit frazzled on arrival. So, allow plenty of time to enjoy the scenery and find the hawks. It doesn't take long to see all of Cong, but it's worth the effort.

Posted by
20 posts

@Carol- Thank you for the tip on Hungry Monk in Cong! My dad and I both have a sweet tooth, so we'll have to take a look and taste!

@Howard- The afternoon tea sounds nice, but based on the limited timeslots available from the Falconry, I'll probably look to do an impromptu lunch somewhere to give us a bit more flexibility in our schedule. I've never been to Ireland, and based on what I've read I will try to allow extra driving time.

@rca- Thanks for the tips. I get anxiety when insects or animals land on me! I was a complete mess in Bali visiting a monkey preserve seeing them climb onto people! I know this is different, but I'll be much more content with my father flying the hawks and I quietly taking pictures!

Posted by
11703 posts

We visited Cong Abbey and did the Hawk Walk at Ashford Castle. The Hawk Walk is expensive but it was a worthwhile one time thing. We had access to the gardens because of the Hawk Walk. Without that, would I make a special trip to the area? Depends. Some people visit Cong because of the John Wayne movie, some really like gardens and these were decent (but not close to the best gardens in Europe).

Posted by
1839 posts

A Hawk Walk is also offered at Dromoland Castle (at least it was about 6 years ago). Dromoland and Ashford used to be tied together somehow, but then Ashford was sold (and significantly upgraded since then, and it was fabulous, truly fabulous when we stayed there before the last upgrade). But, prices have also increased since then.
As Brad stated, the gardens are not the best I have ever seen (and I am huge into gardens). They are nice, but I would not go to Ashford JUST for the gardens. Dromoland, on the other hand, has a fabulous walled garden and there is a more casual restaurant garden-side where you can grab a nice lunch.
If you budget/time allows, I would highly recommend a two-night stay at Ashford. They offer specials...call to inquire if you do not see one for your dates. Dromoland offers specials, too.
For a Hawk Walk, while we saw the hawks when we stayed at Dromoland, I am so glad we booked Ashford, as their grands are vast and just seem to have a better set up, with the School of Falconry right there and then a large open walkway with forest on each side, where it is easy to learn the launch/land before heading into the more forested area.
It really is a blast experiencing the Hawk Walk, but do book ahead at either castle.
While Dromoland is a castle (hotel), Ashford is just a much more grand castle (now a hotel). It was originally the home of the Guinness Family (as in the beer). Both were once-in-a-lifetime experiences for us, celebrating something very, very special to us.
P.S. Dromoland is close (sort of) to the Shannon Airport.....so south of Galway, but not too far.

Posted by
20 posts

@Brad - Thank you for your feedback. I reserved the Hawk Walk at Ashford Castle. Were you able to walk around the grounds at Ashford before your scheduled time for the private walk, or are you only allowed to walk through the grounds after the private walk?

@Maggie- Thank you for your feedback too! :)

Posted by
3180 posts

We did a Hawk Walk at Ashford last September, and also had a bit of a challenge getting to the Falconry School, after we’d parked in the designated parking space, stopped at the WC’s at the cafe, then were pointed in the direction of the School. A storm a couple of days earlier had blown away or otherwise disturbed some signage, and we missed a turn, walking down another tree-lined lane, but eventually got there. Hopefully the signs are all back up, but there’s not (thankfully) anything like a big neon arrow passageway punting the way, at that stately, majestic site. Had we arrived even earlier, we would’ve been free to stroll the grounds longer, and we did have some time to explore a bit, returning to our car from the Falconry School, taking a slightly different route, where we discovered where we should’ve turned the first time, had the sign still been in place.

Do spring for the Extended Walk, and you’ll get to have time with their Eagle Owl, too, the largest owl species.

Posted by
3 posts

My friend and I had a lovely time at Ashfort Castle. We did not stay there, but took advantage of the activities they offered. Y friend did the kayak tour on the lake and had a good time.
I opted for the 2 hours horse back trekking. Wow what a fabulous ride! We went through the forest and learned that my favorite trees live there! Redwoods in Ireland! We had several good gallops and the views were to die for! I grew up riding and this was a very good time!!
I am planning on visiting again this September!

Posted by
479 posts

Cyn: Thanks for the post on navigation on the Ashford grounds. You helped me recover a bit of self-respect.

rca

Posted by
81 posts

We did the Hawk Walk in July and it was one of the highlights of our trip! Since we had only booked the Hawk Walk, we were not allowed to go in the castle nor on the grounds directly behind the castle (there were lots of security guards to make sure non guests did not go where they weren't supposed to.) With that said, to get to the Falconry School, you do have to walk through some of their amazing gardens. And, the walk itself is through the woods and the gardens on the property. As for food, we were only able to eat at the Cafe by the car park as we weren't allowed in the other restaurants. I'm not usually picky about food but I can safely say it was the worst sandwich I've ever had. My guess is that you'd have better food luck in the town of Cong. :-)

Posted by
2017 posts

The Quiet Man cottage in Cong is well worth a visit --fully furnished on a quiet street. It is a short walk from the Hungry Monk.

Posted by
20 posts

@keickerman Thank you for your feedback. This is really helpful information. I was hoping to explore the grounds and have the option to eat at the restaurant if time permitted. Good to know that's not an option. We'll plan to eat in Cong and enjoy the bit of grounds we're allowed to/from the Hawk Walk.

Posted by
20 posts

@Susan Thank you for your feedback. I wasn't sure how close the cottage is from the Hungry Monk. Good to know it's close. Was there a charge to visit the cottage? How long do you think most people spend visiting the cottage?

Thank you!

Posted by
2017 posts

There may have been a small fee to visit the cottage. An hour is all the time you need--we were the only people touring it at the time. It is fully furnished right down to the Blue Willow china. The grounds of Ashford are lovely and nice to walk around. We have avoided Galway so I can't advise without checking some old notes. A really gorgeous drive is the Beara Peninsula but that does not answer your question. Adare is a nice town but not sure it will be on your way. We had lunch there in a restaurant with a thatched roof.