Excitement is building in the Mayo village of Cong as it braces for the wedding of the year when Rory McIlroy and Erica Stoll tie the knot at Ashford Castle next weekend.
The south Mayo village is accustomed to being in the public eye, going back to 1952 when The Quiet Man, starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, was filmed there.
Pierce Brosnan married Keely Shaye Smith there in 2001. Two years later the spotlight was again on Ashford Castle when Westlife’s Shane Filan married childhood sweetheart Gillian Walsh.
The 13th century hotel, which next weekend will host some of the world’s top golfers, has had a string of famous guests down through the decades, including US president Ronald Reagan in 1984, while Prince Edward, Prince Rainier of Monaco, and Princess Grace have also stayed there.
The hotel has declined to confirm that McIlroy’s wedding will be taking place there but the award-winning facility is fully booked for next weekend.
People arriving at the 350-acre estate are vetted at the entrance, with two security staff at the arched gate yesterday politely saying the property is confined to clients and this arrangement is in place through the year.
McIlroy and his fiancée have visited the area several times, twice spending New Year’s Eve at Ashford Castle.
Thomas Ryan, a butcher in the village, said the golfer has become a familiar and welcome visitor.
“Rory McIlroy comes to the village, and he would be down in O’Connor’s pub there. Some of the young people might be following him for autographs, but nobody is plaguing him. They know he is here for a break and we are well used to that.
“I have gone fishing with The Edge from U2 and strangers that come into the butcher shop would be baffled that someone like that would be just walking around the streets. A couple of years ago when U2 were around, they would just walk into the pub and no one would play a blind bit of heed to them.
“They used to love Gibbons’ pub in The Neale, they used to love the lady there, Bertha; she passed away since.
“While she was in her nursing home she had to have her leg amputated and I rang The Edge. They filled her bedroom with flowers.”
Gerry Collins, 63, owner of The Quiet Man Museum and Michaeleen’s Manor in the town, said the wedding guests will find plenty of attractions in the area.
“Every minute of every day, someone somewhere in the world, is watching Cong and The Quiet Man movie,” said Mr Collins.
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