In 1906, the Prince of Wales paid a visit to the Guinness family who did nothing short of build a room around the royal visit in their castle home. Today this is the George V Dining Room, where Chef Stefan Matz reigns. I, along with my husband, stayed in the beautiful and whimsical Ashford Castle at the end of January. We celebrated our wedding anniversary in the George V Dining Room and, as you can image, the evening was magical. How could it not be in a fairy tale castle?
Ashford Castle was built in 1228 as a stronghold of the de Burgos family. In 1589, the castle fell to Sir Richard Bingham who “acquired” the castle after fierce battle. The castle was passed from owner to owner, including the famous Guinness family, until it was purchased by Noel Huggard in 1939 to become a hotel. You may have seen the John Wayne movie, “The Quiet Man,” filmed partially on the castle grounds in 1951. The castle and its restaurant become all the more intriguing when you picture yourself witnessing its dramatic history.
The dining room is stately, to say the least. Waterford (of course) chandeliers light the room and large picture windows let guests view the wild winter countryside while they stay warm by the fire. On the night we enjoyed our anniversary dinner, the wind was howling in sharp contrast to the peace inside. Other guests laughed nearby and the impeccably mannered Irish waiters quietly pushed carts full of covered entrees to each table. Presentation is king and sets the mood here. I dressed up for the occasion (they are so rare!) which added to the fun.
The food is locally sourced at Ashford. I ordered oysters from Galway Bay and was not disappointed. The starters and entrees all sounded delicious – Connemara lobster, smoked salmon, spring lamb, Chateaubriand, etc. I had a delicately prepared sea bass in a red wine butter sauce and loved every bit of it. We spent at least two hours taking our time and taking in the atmosphere with no thought of getting home or doing anything but enjoying each other and our dinner.
Should you be in western Ireland, I recommend staying in Ashford Castle and especially celebrating something special with a dinner in the George V Dining Room. Everyone should spend at least one night and have at least one meal in a beautiful castle.