From zip-lining to horse riding, the scene is set for family fun, Esther N McCarthy lived it up like a movie star at Ashford Castle.
We are strolling past The Quiet Man cafe in Cong, on the Mayo-Galway border, on a stretch the legs mission before arriving to The Lodge at Ashford Castle.
Everywhere in the village, where the John Ford movie was shot in 1951, are mementos to the time Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne brought Hollywood glamour to this idyllic spot in the west.
In between the original film locations, by the gentle river at Circular road, you’ll find the Quiet Man Cottage Museum.
The ground floor of the cottage has been redesigned as a replica of the typical 1920s ‘White-o-Mornin’ cottage, complete with artifacts from the film, costumes and furnishings.
The whole village pays homage to the time movie stars hung out in Cong.
When we arrive at The Lodge, nestled at the back of the 350-acre estate of Ashford Castle, the kids ask are we on another movie set.
Overlooking the glittering Lough Corrib, with fairy lights on all the trees on the way to reception, it’s a fair question.
Standing since 1865, the country house is a wonderful mix of old fashioned luxury and modern convenience.
We are staying in a Quay Suite, the first thing that elicits an “ooh” is the shiny bright red leather couch, it’s worthy of a starring role, the boys think it’s the coolest piece of furniture, ever.
We have a huge four poster bed, with extra pull outs set up for the three boys, there’s plenty of room, and our very own outdoor terrace is like another room, from here we can see polytunnels where the kitchen grows as much as they can to include on the menu.
All the little things that make a visit so special are there - Handmade Soap toiletries, a huge tv and DVDs, as well as homemade chocolate chip cookies and milk.
These suites are great for families, you’re a walk away from the main hotel, not worried about bothering the neighbours when the 1-year-old is roaring his head off at 4am, and you have ample space to walk the floors with him to get him back to the land of nod.
For the older two, the activities at the Lodge were the highlight of the trip.
The 8-year-old got a unique view of the woods by zipping through the branches. Dad went with him and thought he was Tarzan.
The full course covers a combined total of 300 metres, expertly guided and it took a good hour and a half.
There are two scheduled session every day, from 9-11am and 4pm-6pm. Adults are €25 and kids are €18. Highly recommended.
The four-year-old was just a little bit too young for this particular aerial adventure, so he went horse riding instead.
He got a gorgeous dappled grey beauty called Biscuit and I like to think he channelled a bit of John Wayne, moseying around the arena. He loved it.
The equestrian centre caters for everyone from complete beginners to experienced riders and a 1-hour trail ride costs €60 per adult and €50 per child.
We ate outside in the garden terrace area on the first evening, choosing from the Quay Brasserie menu.
It was perfect as the kids could ramble around without disturbing anyone, we watched as the friendly staff came out, picking lavender and herbs out of the garden, that landed on our plates a few minutes later.
The junior menu had really impressive choices, our boys had homemade soup, fish goujons with tartare sauce, and pasta barrels with tomato sauce and parmesan.
I chose the Sean Thorton cheese burger, with onion rings and fries. At €15 it was the best value and best-tasting burger I’ve had in a long time.
Husband was hungry after his high flying forest antics, he went for Andarl farm pork belly, mustard mash and chasseur sauce, really good value again at €19.
Dessert was créme brulée and sticky toffee icecream for the boys.
It was a picture perfect weekend.
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