Hotel News Now spoke with the GM at the Ashford Castle in Ireland, which was built in 1228, on the process of restoring the structure in recent years while preserving its rich history.
MAYO, Ireland—The 800-year-old Ashford Castle, built by the Anglo-Norman de Burgo family, has moved into the hands of many throughout its history, but has been maintained as a luxury hotel for 80 years.
The Red Carnation Hotel Collection is the most recent owner of the castle, and the company completed an extensive restoration process to maintain the hotel while preserving its rich history.
Niall Rochford, GM at Ashford Castle, said the $75-million renovation of the entire hotel took two years to complete. It started in 2013 with eight state rooms, reopened, and then the hotel closed again in 2014 for three months for “a massive restoration of the infrastructure,” he said via email. The hotel closed again in early 2015 to “complete the remaining rooms, and add in the cinema, billiards room, cigar terrace and more,” he said. The hotel reopened officially on 17 April 2015.
Preserving the castle
During the restoration process, Ashford Castle underwent a complete infrastructure overhaul, which included the stonework, windows and roofs, Rochford said, as well as modern updates such as Wi-Fi connection throughout the hotel, flat-screen TVs and air conditioning.
While the hotel made a few modern updates, every original feature of the historic property was kept, which was achieved by working with “the very best craftsmen and women,” Rochford said.
Since it is such an old structure, there were areas such as woodwork in the gallery that needed to be updated to meet modern-day regulations, he said.
“All the ceilings and windows in the oldest part of the castle were fully restored as well,” he said. “We needed permission to add in new electrical elements to 29 rooms. Even more, all of the stonework was restored.”
Rochford added that the hardest part of the process was the lack of time the property had to complete the restorations.
“We had just 11 weeks in 2014 and 12 weeks in 2015,” he said. “For 24 hours a day, all new electrical and plumbing needed to be installed. Finally, we added the spa to the castle, built from an entirely new structure; it was really important for us to blend and marry the new stone structure with the rest of the property.”
Eighty years of luxury
Ashford Castle became a luxury hotel when it was purchased by Noel Huggard in 1939. It changed hands to John Mulcahy in 1970, and was purchased by Red Carnation in 2013. The Lodge at Ashford Castle was acquired by Red Carnation Hotel Collection the following year.
To honor 80 years as a luxury hotel, Ashford Castle is offering special packages to guests, Rochford said, which include a two-night stay in the castle, a one-hour “Hawk Walk” at Ireland’s First School of Falconry, dinner in the George V dining room and more.
The hotel also has a local historian, Fintan Gorman, who leads history tours of the castle, he said. Gorman was born in the area, and his mother worked in the castle when “The Quiet Man” was filmed at the hotel in 1951.