The very first things that come to mind when I think of Ireland are green, castles, and beer. Since beer doesn’t exactly go with the theme I have going on Visions of Vogue, I’ll stick to the first two today. I saw so many photos of castles before visiting Ireland and was so excited to see them in real life. It is unreal how green everything is but the castles are something out of a fairytale! Bunratty, Dromoland, and Ashford Castle were the highlights for me so I wanted to share those with you!
Before we got to Ireland, I was concerned that I wouldn’t see enough castles. Note that I had starred about 17 of them on Google Maps. Talk about FOMO! The truth is, I’m a serial planner. We travel with itineraries crafted by yours truly that include location and approximate travel time. I’m not sure whether it’s the love of planning or how excited I get about traveling that drives me to do this! All I know is that my husband appreciates it and my notes have come in handy for our friends too!
Enough of that. Back to the castles because they were STUNNING.
Our first stop of the day was Bunratty Castle. Of the 3 castles in today’s post, this was definitely the most touristy location. Not in a bad way though. Complete with a gift shop and tour guides, you could tell it is a popular stop. We didn’t get too many photos inside because it started raining. It closely resembled the castle from my post on the Ring of Kerry but much bigger and busier. Thankfully, I had these Hunter rain boots which forever make me want to jump in puddles – a habit that Matt rolls his eyes at!
Next, we stopped at Dromoland Castle. I had done extensive research (are you surprised?) on the best castles to stay at and this one made the list! Given our schedule, we had to choose between this one and Ashford Castle! If you’re following me on Instagram, you already know the verdict! As a compromise, we stopped at Dromoland because it was in between Bunratty and Ashford Castle. We got a chance to walk through the gardens and watch the golfers for a bit. Side note, Ireland has some of the most beautiful golf courses I’ve ever seen! That’s probably expected though.
We toured the walled garden (tunnel of green ivy above) and wandered through the beautiful grounds. One thing I noticed in Ireland was the plethora of hydrangeas. It seemed like they were everywhere! They came in the most stunning colors too! Pinks, deep blues, purples. Way more variety than you see in the flower section at your local Trader Joe’s (which I still love). Dromoland has a restaurant on site but we weren’t hungry yet so we went on our way!
This bring us to Ashford Castle. This was probably one of the highlights of the trip for us both! Above, you can see the view of a lake from the back of the Castle (our room also looked out on this view). We decided to splurge a little and stay here because I had totally fallen in love with photos of the property. The reviews on Tripadvisor didn’t hurt either! It lived up to it’s reputation and exceeded them! From the cocktails upon arrival to the incredible service, we were impressed with everything. Literally, everything!
One thing I’d recommend is to make a reservation early. It books very fast but if there isn’t any availability, stay at their other property called The Lodge. It’s on the grounds so you still get access but note that they won’t let you into the actual castle unless you have a reservation at one of their restaurants! I’d recommend having breakfast or tea if I had to pick one! Both are tons of food so come hungry if not starved!
We loved walking through the gardens at Ashford Castle! There were so many of them! They also have a school of Falconry which sounds like something straight out of Harry Potter. Matt had to ask me what exactly falconry was haha! I wore this white shirtdress (on sale) with tons of layers because the weather was being so finicky. It was raining one moment and then sunny the next! I loved how well it paired with these green Hunter Boots though! If rain wasn’t an issue, you would easily pair with wedges or flats to add a pop of color!
The castle itself was incredible! The gym looked out onto the lake and was pristine. If you caught my snapchats @jennacolgrove, you know that I tried to wake Matt up to go with me but he wasn’t having it. By far, my favorite workout this year though. We also had a chance to learn the game of Snooker. It’s like pool/billiards but the table is much bigger and there are way more rules. The bartender taught us as much as he could and we thought it was just so neat to be so entrenched in Ireland’s culture! After the game ended, we headed off to dinner in the dungeon.
Breakfast the next morning was incredible! It was buffet style but classy. You also had the option to order a la carte and no dish was short of perfect! If you ever get the chance to try a scone in Ireland, I highly recommend it. Every one I tasted while there was delicious. Exceptionally delicious. They have truly perfected the recipe over there! We packed up to head to Londonderry and our only regret was not planning to stay at Ashford Castle longer! We will definitely go back!