Having acquired the castle in June 2013, Red Carnation Hotels, a family-owned collection of 16 luxury award-winning hotels, is meticulously working to preserve Ashford's history and charm while enhancing its guest facilities and levels of luxury and comfort.
The program takes a three-phased approach and the first magnificent, all-new eight guestrooms have been completed and can now be revealed.
These eight rooms, in the Victorian and East Wings, include the grandest suites in the castle. The rooms have been lovingly furnished by a dynamic design team headed by Mrs. Beatrice Tollman, Founder and President of The Red Carnation Hotel Collection, and her daughter Toni Tollman. Each room is individually decorated and designed, featuring a luxurious mix of furnishings and original artwork, fit for any King or Queen. With carefully sourced antique furniture, exquisite fabrics, bespoke carpets and marble bathrooms, the luxurious rooms have been sensitively conceived to complement the ambiance and tradition of this iconic property.
The second stage of the refurbishment is now underway and the castle is closed until mid-March 2014, to allow for the significant phase two plans to be implemented. This stage will focus on the hotel's existing public areas and 30 further guestrooms. In true Red Carnation style, no detail will be missed and meticulous attention is being brought to this important project.
Parts of Ashford Castle date back as early as 1228, so the current restoration work includes an intricate overhaul of the building's infrastructure, including stonework, windows and roofs, to ensure the castle's long-term future. The finest and latest modern amenities will complement the restoration, with the castle to now be fully air conditioned, WiFi enabled throughout and with flat screen television sets and a variety of connection points installed in each guestroom for the best connectivity. All enhancements will be sympathetically designed to blend seamlessly with the castle's original features.
Also, a stunning dual-aspect new library will be created in the vaulted area near the entrance hall. With walls of books and cozy window seats, The Library will be a peaceful space in which guests can relax or enjoy afternoon tea.
By the end of the second phase of the refurbishment, the existing public areas and more than 30 guestrooms will be complete. Many of the rooms and suites will be named to honor the famous guests that have stayed at Ashford over its illustrious history.
Behind the scenes, the castle's kitchens will be moved and completely rebuilt on a different level closer to the dining room, facilitating a more efficient and timely service for future diners.
The already stunning 350-acre sprawling estate will also receive tender love and care as required, from the walled and herb gardens, to the tennis courts, falconry center and stunning nine-hole golf course, the drainage of which will be completely overhauled to ensure that guests can enjoy it all year round.
The "Cullen's at the Cottage" pub and nearby buildings will be renovated and the surrounding area re-landscaped. There are even plans to restore the old boathouse on the shores of Lake Corrib. The building has already been fortified and re-tiled to prepare it for future guest use, as a secluded and private honeymoon suite.
The third and final phase of the renovation will take place from October 2014 – March 2015, during which the remaining guestrooms will be completed. Subject to planning permission approvals which are still pending, the subsequent renovation plans for phase three also include the installation of a 32-seat indoor cinema, a billiard room and a cigar terrace, as well as a children's game room, further increasing the hotel's appeal for all ages and seasons. These new facilities will help to ensure that the castle, with its array of enhanced outdoor activities including falconry, horse-riding, water sports, clay pigeon shooting, catch-and-release fishing, hiking, golf and tennis, is also a haven of indoor enjoyment and decadence for all ages.
The hope is, also subject to appropriate planning permission, that a magnificent, full service spa and large indoor heated pool will be part of the ambitious enhancement of the castle and will reinforce Ashford Castle as the most luxurious destination hotel in all of Ireland.
To support the enhanced offerings at the hotel, the staff levels will be significantly increased, boosting employment within the local area. All new and existing staff will undertake Red Carnation's award-winning training and development programs to ensure that the service delivery across the hotel is second to none. In addition, local artisans and suppliers have been identified, to help ensure we support them and to give back to our local communities, as The Red Carnation Hotel Collection is always committed to doing. For example, the in-room amenities will be by organic skincare range VOYA from nearby County Sligo, to reflect the hotel's unique environment.
Remaining a constant throughout the entire refurbishment program will be Ashford's award-winning General Manager Niall Rochford and his fantastic team. Mr. Rochford has presided at Ashford Castle for nearly 12 years and was recently awarded the prestigious “Hotel Manager of the Year 2013” by the Irish Hospitality Institute Founders.
Ashford Castle celebrates its 75th anniversary as a hotel in 2014, so it is timely that a significant part of the comprehensive restoration program will be complete for this auspicious landmark. The renovation will protect and enhance this iconic property for the next 75 years, and beyond.
View photos of new suites