The 13-century Ashford Castle in the Killarney region of Ireland has finished the first stage of a “most extraordinary restoration, not renovation,” according to Paula Carroll, director of sales/marketing at Ashford.
Over the last year, the meticulous and intensive restoration work took the interior rooms down to their bones. Just how intensive? Ashford is now the only castle dating back to the Renaissance or earlier in Ireland to have air-conditioning.
For groups of couples seeking romantic Ireland incentives especially, new business is already hitting the books. When Red Carnation Hotels purchased the property last year, it put a priority on attracting the U.S. incentive market.
“Every single room his being completely stripped and every single room is uniquely designed,” says Carroll. “Ashford Castle is the most romantic place in the entire world as far as I’m concerned.”
She also mentioned that she can neither confirm or deny that actress Courtney Cox is getting married at Ashford this year.
So far, 30 of the castle’s 82 rooms are complete. The property will be closing in January for three months to wrap up the other 52 rooms by April 2015. In addition, a new billiards room, cigar room and 32-seat cinema will be available for private rental.
The crowning piece to the Ashford castle will be a new spa scheduled to open in the fall of 2015.
Planners can also incorporate the “shabby-chic,” 50-rooms Lodge at Ashford Castle into their programs. Guests at the Lodge have access to all of the activities and venues at the castle, but Carroll says the price point is about 50% less.
Speaking of activities, the castle anchors a 350-acre estate that provides myriad teambuilding activities for all ages.
“We have the only Orvis-endorsed fly-fishing school in the country, and we opened Ireland’s first school of falconry about 18 years ago,” says Carroll.
She adds that attendees of all ages are also drawn to Ashford because there’s so much to do on-property and off. The estate is located 45 minutes from Galway and 45 minute to Westport, two of the most popular seaside attractions in Killarney.
Popular group tours in the region include visits to the sheep farms and Irish salmon smokehouses in the picturesque Connemara region.