Over the coming weeks, we will be sharing some unique staycation ideas to add to your bucket list. First up, guest writer Ciaran O’Conluain reviews some activities and afternoon tea in Mayo!
Everyone has a few places in Ireland that are on our “must go” list, and now is the perfect time to make it happen. When I go on holidays, in Ireland or abroad, I love to do new activities. But, with Covid-19 restrictions in place, the only activities we can really participate in are outdoors, so I managed to kill two birds with one stone (that’s a metaphor, not an activity!) down in Cong, Co Mayo.
While staying in The Lodge at Ashford Castle, we were able to book in with Ashford Outdoors www.ashfordoutdoors.com, an activities company on the Castle’s estate. This was one of the reasons I was looking forward to my stay at The Lodge, as I knew we would be able to book with the company and enjoy all the activities on offer! Owned by former Olympic cyclist David O’Loughlin and his wife, they offer so many brilliant activities for you to enjoy. We chose clay pigeon shooting and archery. Now, I have almost zero experience with guns, but under the expert advice of David, he had us hitting flying clay targets like a pro. At one point, I hit four in a row, but (sadly for me!) my wife Maria beat me in our competition finale! She absolutely loved it, which shows that new activities can really open your eyes and help find new experiences.
Our archery practice was actually harder than the shooting as it’s a little more physical, but equally as rewarding. We got more expert tuition and did some target games before finishing with a competition. I believe I came out on top here, so let’s just call it a draw overall!
After one hour of shooting practice and archery, I was in serious need of a lie-down, but I also felt so invigorated after trying these new experiences. I would absolutely bring my children back here and try the zip line or horseback riding with them. I think it is a special place to make memories and we got some fabulous pictures.
After our adventures, we took some time to relax in one of the best 5-Star hotels in the country. We visited the iconic Ashford Castle for afternoon tea (www.ashfordcastle.com/food-and-drink/afternoon-tea) and it was an incredibly memorable experience. Tea has been served in the castle for over 150 years and when you sit down in the Connaught Room, you really do feel like you are a part of history. For €55 per person, you get a wide selection of teas (unlimited top-ups for the tea addicts out there), and they are accompanied by delicately made sandwiches, consisting of local ingredients. My favourite was the Smoked Salmon with Galway Bay Prawns served in a mini brioche bun. We of course asked for seconds!
You can also order your scones when you’re ready, so they are served straight from the oven. Yum! To finish, we had beautiful desserts and the vanilla eclair was our favourite of the four we received. We toasted this memorable experience with two glasses of Lanson White label champagne at €26 per glass. The service, from the second you enter the castle, was absolutely 5 Stars. Afternoon tea is not just for guests staying on the estate, but is open to all, and is an amazing way to experience the splendour of the castle and its grounds.
We returned to our lovely surroundings in The Lodge to relax for the night and the following morning we played nine holes of golf on their golf course. It truly is a magical place with so many outdoor activities to do and some very luxurious indoor ones too.
Why not use this period to find your dream trip and make it a reality?
For more information, visit www.ashfordcastle.com
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