“St. Patrick is considered Ireland’s patron saint,” Paula Carroll, Ashford Castle’s Director of Sales and Marketing, explains. “He was a 5th century Apostle, credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland.” In his honour, every year on March 17th, the Emerald Isle is aglow with celebratory festivals and captivating ceremonies—now more than ever with the announcement of Galway as one of 2020’s European Capitals of Culture. Nowhere are the festivities more pronounced than at the 13th century Ashford Castle. Here, Paula lets us in on what the storied estate has planned.
The St. Patrick’s Day mood can be felt from the first pastel lights of low morning. As the Irish sky brightens softly above the conifers, the first of Ashford Castle’s traditions ushers in the sanctified occasion. On the dew-laden lawns, an Irish bagpiper plays our traditional wake-up call, his auspicious bardic notes dancing merrily through the estate gardens.
Gently awoken by the gleeful calls, guests may then indulge in our sumptuous St. Patrick’s Day breakfast, replete with Irish delicacies and served in the opulent interiors of the George V Dining Room. A standout of the lavish feast is the whiskey-infused porridge, which pairs the steely oats of western Ireland with the caramel smoothness of its signature single malts. Or there’s the traditionally cold-smoked Irish salmon and whole-cooked ham.
After breakfast, the day may be spent immersed in local Irish culture. Each estate activity has been specially curated to introduce guests to Connemara’s enchanting local heritage, ranging from the centuries-old sport of falconry to the poetic, rhythmical casts of fly fishing afloat the glass waters of Lough Corrib. Our many guides are masters of their respective crafts, with decades of experience; they will enamour you with tales of the local surrounds while showcasing the wild majesty of the Connemara landscape.
Meanwhile, Ashford Castle itself bestows a scintillating Irish spirit. The Cinema, the castle’s charming picture house, will be screening much-loved Irish classics throughout the day, in homage both to Irish culture and to Ashford Castle’s role in showcasing that heritage to the world. The castle grounds were used to film 1952’s critically acclaimed The Quiet Man, directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. Ever since, Ashford Castle has welcomed stars of the silver screen; today, cinema is an irrefutable element of the castle’s history.
For the special day, we’ve devised two special indulgences, which our guests may enjoy between activities or screenings or as they choose. “Our annual St. Patrick’s Day cocktail ‘Inchagoill’,” Paula tells us, “has been created specifically for the day.” The creative concoction is named for the mystical island which hides, forested, in the middle of Lough Corrib. For guests indulging in a late coffee or a light lunch in The Drawing Room, there is yet another surprise: “We will have, as a special feature, our éclairs trolley, which will have Irish whiskey and apple éclairs,” Paula shares, “for guests to enjoy as a little treat with their tea or coffee.” Paired with the views of Ashford Castle’s manicured lawns and the blues of Lough Corrib beyond, it’s a wonderful way to while away an elegant, Irish afternoon.
The celebrations crescendo as the evening approaches. As the sky darkens and the striking profile of the ancient stone castle melts into the crepuscular scenery, the castle exterior will be suddenly and emphatically lit in Shamrock green. Nicknamed the “Global Greening” display, the glorious castle shines resplendently, its jade hues echoing across the Lough Corrib waters and thick forests. Take a walk around the estate lawns to appreciate the silent beauty and muse over Ireland’s magical heritage, before returning for the joyous feast in the George V Dining Room.