Irish Charm

Ashford Castle in the heart of County Mayo in Ireland.

Ashford Castle in the heart of County Mayo in Ireland.

If the walls of Ashford Castle could talk, they’d tell of the day Duke dropped by while filming The Quiet Man.

Written by Jenn Thornton

If a man’s home is his castle, then John Wayne was reigning quite supreme during the filming of The Quiet Man. The grounds of Ashford Castle, a Middle Ages holdover located deep in the heartland of picturesque County Mayo in Ireland, was a prominent backdrop in the John Ford classic, which famously paired Wayne (playing Sean Thornton) with leading lady and lifelong friend Maureen O’Hara (the fiery Mary Kate Danaher), in one of the most cherished love stories of all time. During the filming of the movie, Wayne and other cast members stayed at the Castle. Where else for Hollywood royalty?

Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne in The Quiet Man.

Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne in The Quiet Man.

Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne in The Quiet Man.

Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne in The Quiet Man.

Built in 1228, in the days of Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition, Ashford Castle is the marquee attraction these days. Set amid 350 acres of woodland, on the shores of Lough Corrib, it looks like a set piece. Its imposing gray edifice is a dramatic counterpoint to lush, well-trimmed surrounds and sheaths a stately interior that puts the merely elegant to shame. This isn’t the Wild West, folks—but it is the west of Ireland and this place is classy with a capital C. Just as the release of The Quiet Man in 1952 sent legions of tourists to this scenic country, Ashford Castle—now a mannered, high-class hotel of the first order—attracts travelers worldwide. So, by all means Westerners, kick off your boots, but give them a good dusting off before you do.

For those not accustomed to the niceties of castle life, you’ll get used to it—quickly. One of the most luxurious resort hotels in the entire world, Ashford Castle, with its upmarket art, snazzy chandeliers, paneled oak walls, hand-carved fireplaces and regally named rooms, is as famous as the celebrities who flock here. As the center of an elaborate estate, there is leisure time only if you want it, and good luck with that. The grounds hosts one of the largest equestrian centers in the country, fishing on Lough Corrib, the second largest lake in Ireland, and—because honestly, why not—Ireland’s first School of Falconry. Country sports are a big draw, with the ancient pastimes of clay shooting and archery offered side by side with more modern thrills like zip lining and the leisurely pursuits of river cruising and hitting the links—the Eddie Hackett-designed golf course is par excellence.

Oak Room at Ashford Castle

Oak Room at Ashford Castle

Prince of Whales Bar at Ashford Castle

Prince of Whales Bar at Ashford Castle

This is also a Castle for connoisseurs. John Wayne certainly liked a whiskey (and no doubt enjoyed one or two here) and there are several places to get a good meal and a strong drink (or, pinkies up, a traditional Afternoon Tea). The Castle has its very own cask, courtesy of a partnership with Midleton Very Rare. There are 60 Irish whiskies alone in The Prince of Wales Bar and wine cellars beneath the Castle. Irish fare is fresh and seasonal and served in the curiously named Dungeon and the more formal sounding George V Dining Room. Cullen’s at the Cottage, while famous for its Chicken Peri Peri, was, in its former life, Cong Cinema—the very first venue to play The Quiet Man, even before it was shown in Hollywood. Now the Castle’s own 32-seater cinema does the honors and the film, as well as other Wayne favorites, are on popular rotation. Theater full? Check out the Billiards Room and Cigar Terrace. Duke would have loved both.

Billiards Room at Ashford Castle

Billiards Room at Ashford Castle

Ashford Cinema

Ashford Cinema

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For the full Quiet Man experience, consider the Castle’s secluded Hideaway Cottage for your stay. Small, charming and on the shores of Lough Corrib, it is a step up in accommodations from the famed White O’Morn cottage of the film, that’s for sure, but will, with the luck of the Irish, be yours.

Photographs courtesy of Ashford Castle and John Wayne Enterprises (black and white).