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Nine years ago, when I first visited Ireland we stopped in a bucolic little town called Cong, made famous by the 1950s John Wayne movie The Quiet Man. Because it was my father’s favorite, he watched it a lot. And when I was a kid we didn’t have iPads so I did too. I was instantly taken with this place and I vowed that one day I would return and stay here. And almost a decade later, I finally get to fulfill this dream.

 

Cong, Ireland - House used in the filming of The Quiet Man

One of Cong’s adorable houses, used in the filming of The Quiet Man.

Cong was the filming location for much of the movie, and when the Hollywood crew descended upon this little town they lit it up. Literally. Electricity came to the village in 1951, just the week prior to the production. Locals love talking about it and you pretty much can get any conversation started here simply by asking about the movie.

 

The town of Cong is immediately enchanting, but what really captured my imagination was the gorgeous medieval castle turned luxury hotel called Ashford Castle that sat just to the side of town. Originally built in 1228, the imposing grey stone fortress barely gives a hint of how gorgeous and luxurious it is on the inside. Looking at it from the outside, I expected I would be padding around on murky floors of exposed rock while carrying a candle to light my way. Or maybe I sort of hoped to. I have an active imagination. Whatever. Truth is, the hotel has recently undergone a remodel that puts you in the lap of luxury, heated bathroom floors, remote control window shades and all.

Ashford Castle - Cong, Ireland

Much to my dismay, no dragons appeared during my stay at Ashford Castle.

 

The 26,000 acres of surrounding grounds are breathtaking and beckon you to stay. There is a dense, old growth forest that is so beautiful and serene, so…medieval that you would swear that Robin Hood and Little John were running through this forest. It also has a river that flows peacefully through it and out into Lough Corrib behind the castle with a tiny stone fishing hut over the estuary and pathways into the thicket that beg you to follow. Do it, there’re several caves to encounter and it’s all ethereal.

 

If you are looking for a splurge in Ireland, something truly different and magical, then this is your place. Though I’ve stayed in some amazing hotels, this one transports you to a different time period and you feel like royalty or at the very least a member of the Downton Abbey family (or house staff, depending on your self-esteem levels).

This property has so much to do that you needn’t leave for days. And when the weather gets moody, you may not want to. There are three restaurants inside the castle and a lodge across the way and they all serve wonderful, if pricey meals. We opted for an evening in the dungeon, feeling like miscreants while eating, and grateful no peasants were harmed in the making of our delicious meal.

Ashford Castle lobby

Upon arrival you will meet Sir Greetsalot in the lobby of the hotel.

 

In the evening there are several areas to sink into and enjoy the night. We started in the cozy drawing room where we had the excellent fortune of being entertained by two delightful Irish women. They sang perennials, played piano and kept us all updated on Mary-Margaret’s mother’s hip surgery down in Kilarney. The adjoining bar is another sumptuous place to tuck in for a nightcap-soaked conversation amongst the tapestries and suits of armor.

 

The other fabulous thing about Ashford Castle is the amount of activities available to enjoy right there on the grounds. As long as the weather is decent you can have your choice of archery, falconry, horseback riding, skeet shooting, boating on the loch, or hiking in Sherwood Forest.

 

Seamus and I opted for a ferry ride to the Isle of Inchagoill to see one of Europe’s oldest carved stones, the grave marker of St. Patricks’ nephew, which was placed there somewhere around 500 A.D. It’s curiously completely unshielded from the elements, vandals or the average tourist smacking it with a Pringles can.

Grave of St. Patrick's nephew, Ireland

One of the oldest carved relics in Europe does NOT need no stinkin’ museum to protect it.

I had also convinced Seamus to sign up for the falconry because I pretty much thought that this was the best idea I had ever had. That is, until Seamus reminded me that they eat rodents and rabbits and that they might kill one and bring it home to roost on my hawk-catching glove. This sent me into a panic. Dead bunnies were not part of my plan. I breathed a massive sigh of relief once our instructor and guide explained, that no, this is not how the school runs it’s hawk walks. That no, I would not have to stand there sobbing as my hawk bloodily feasts on a field mouse, dining at my outstretched hand like its the king’s table at Medieval Times.

Ireland's school of falconry

Don’t they say that hawks begin to look like their owners?

Ireland's school of falconry - Ashford Castle

I’m clearly an expert at this point.

Falconry was one of the highlights of my entire trip to Ireland, balancing these beautiful, intimidating birds on my fist and then launching them up into the sky. The instructor would whistle for them, and I’d assume my stance, left arm aloft and watch while my little raptor buddy Aztec would return to rest on my outstretched arm. I am one with nature! I am one of those literary characters with a bird sidekick like Perseus or Harry Potter or, yes obviously…Ladyhawke!

 

The tiny town of Cong is definitely worth a spin. It has a church in ruins, The Quiet Man filming locations a-plenty and a one-way street that makes a loop through the entire village with a few nice restaurants and cafes in which to dine. My favorite part is that every senior citizen there (and there are more than a few) was an extra in the movie and are happy to tell you the story of how they shook John Wayne’s hand or danced with Maureen O’Hara. It’s a fair bit more than adorable, and definitely worth a stop, even if you don’t spend the night.

Peaceful Ashford Castle - Cong, Ireland

Ashford Castle is like a peaceful stay at Downton Abbey. As long as Edith doesn’t show up.

Though I recommend that you do. Cong is one of my favorite little spots in the world. And Ashford Castle, with its ability to conjure up knights and maidens, Victorian aristocracy and homespun Irish hospitality, lived up my decade of romantic expectations. And then some.

Disclosure: As a Booking.com Associate, I earn a small amount from qualifying purchases. However, I don’t recommend anything that I don’t personally love.

 

 

 

How to Spend a Royal Weekend in Ireland

Eat

Dine in a dramatic atmosphere at Cullen’s at the Dungeon

 

Sleep

Spend the night like a royal at Ashford Castle

 

Do

Learn how to balance beautiful yet intimidating falcons on your fist at Ireland’s School of Falconry

Change your perspective and see Ashford Castle from a new viewpoint while Lake cruising

Explore The Quiet Man Filming locations, the movie that made Cong famous

 

 

 

Travel Pinterest - Clever Dever Wherever

How to spend a royal weekend in cong, ireland #irelandtravel #irelandvacation #irelandtraveltips #castlesinireland #castlesaroundtheworld #congireland

Travel Pinterest - Clever Dever Wherever

Staying in Castles in Ireland #castlesinireland #irelandtravel #irelandvacation #irelandtraveltips #castlesaroundtheworld

Read More About Ireland

Cong, Ireland is one of my favorite places in the world. It’s a dreamy fairy-tale setting with an ethereal vibe that stays with you long after you’ve departed. And though Ireland has no shortage of quaint villages, Cong is at the top of that list PLUS it has the distinction of...

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Ireland provides a great many things for the visitor: Extreme hospitality, a convivial pub scene, verdant scenery – and the chance to relive one’s childhood fixation with disaster. The Titanic was my obsession. By the time I reached fifth grade I had done more research on the ship of dreams than James Cameron. I...

About the Author

Hi. I’m Juliana Dever and according to science I have some sort of "exploration" gene. Embracing this compulsion, I spend a lot of time hurtling around the planet in metal tubes experiencing other cultures and writing humorous essays about it. Enjoy.

36 Comments

  1. Maribel / May 13, 2015 at 1:37 pm /Reply

    Such a beatiful place!! Looks like you had lots of fun there! Thinking about going myself to Cong soon

    • Juliana Dever / May 15, 2015 at 11:56 pm /Reply

      Cong is one of my happy places. I could wander in that forest for hours, it’s so tranquil and really transports you to a different time.

  2. Stacie Callahan / May 13, 2015 at 2:53 pm /Reply

    Juliana, I absolutely love this site! I feel like I have been to Ireland now! Your writing style is just so much fun, real and relatable. Love the hawk story! For those of us not able to travel, this is a great site to live vicariously! Thanks!

    • Juliana Dever / May 15, 2015 at 11:41 pm /Reply

      Thank you Stacie! I’m so happy to hear you’ve enjoyed it so far. Much more coming your way!

  3. Georgette / May 13, 2015 at 3:14 pm /Reply

    Your vivid description of the town of Cong, and Ashford Castle has peaked my interest in visiting Ireland!

    • Juliana Dever / May 15, 2015 at 11:39 pm /Reply

      That’s fantastic, Georgette! It’s a truly enchanting place.

  4. Nicole / May 13, 2015 at 3:14 pm /Reply

    Love the website! Your photos are gorgeous!! Heading to Ireland next year and it looks amazing. Sometimes traveling you play it safe and stick to the tourist sites, so appreciate learning about some hidden gems too! Looking forward to more of your travels.

    • Juliana Dever / May 15, 2015 at 11:38 pm /Reply

      Thanks Nicole! I totally agree. And sometimes it’s hard to know when or even where to look for hidden gems. Sometimes I do a mix. Some things are tourist attractions for a reason and you should stop and check them out. I’ll keep doing the research and putting it up here in the hopes that others want to try some new places, too!

  5. Marissa / May 13, 2015 at 3:15 pm /Reply

    Love the new site! I’m a big fan of Ireland myself. Staying in a castle sounds amazing!

    • Juliana Dever / May 15, 2015 at 11:35 pm /Reply

      Isn’t great? There are so many places I love visiting there. I also like stopping at Powerscourt in Enniskerry and camping in a caravan up in Portnoo. If you get back there you’ll have to check out the castle.

  6. Kate Estes / May 13, 2015 at 3:43 pm /Reply

    Ireland is after my heart..It is on my bucket list..Great pictures..

    • Juliana Dever / May 15, 2015 at 11:33 pm /Reply

      Thanks Kate. It’s a beautiful country, you will love it!

  7. deb / May 13, 2015 at 5:10 pm /Reply

    Juliana, What a great visit you had taking full advantage of all things and sights available. I’ll never get to Cong, but now I know it is there. I can visualize and send others. Didn’t you love talking to the “locals” in the Pubs? Travel on – deb

    • Juliana Dever / May 15, 2015 at 11:29 pm /Reply

      I really love it Deb. Another favorite town of mine in Ireland is Westport, on the west coast just north of Connemara. There are some wonderful pubs there and sitting and having a pint and making friends is what it’s all about!

  8. Donnette / May 13, 2015 at 5:27 pm /Reply

    Your site is truly fantastic. I too have that itch to travel and wish I could do it more often. Ireland is on the agenda for next year and most definitely Ashford Castle will be a stop.
    Your photos are breathtaking. Thank you for sharing your passion and your stories. I look forward to hearing about your adventures in Poland.

    • Juliana Dever / May 15, 2015 at 11:18 pm /Reply

      Thank you so much, Donnette! Ireland is definitely not to be missed. Everyone is quite friendly and helpful and kind. Sometimes we would be just standing on a corner taking in the sights and someone would come up to us and ask us if we needed directions. It’s really quite a lovely place. And yes! Stay at Ashford, or at the very least visit the grounds and take a ferry ride!

  9. Sue Tanner / May 13, 2015 at 5:49 pm /Reply

    What fun! Thank you for sharing your adventures! You are inspiring me to have adventures of my own!

    • Juliana Dever / May 15, 2015 at 11:13 pm /Reply

      That’s the best I could hope for Sue! I just love exploring the world and meeting people, it’s so beautiful and it means so much to learn and understand how others live and the cultures that shape them. Here’s to your adventures!

  10. Linda / May 13, 2015 at 8:52 pm /Reply

    Dear Juliana,
    What an amazing website. Love your pictures and your story.
    Travel is the best there is. Keep us posted. See you soon.

    • Juliana Dever / May 15, 2015 at 11:09 pm /Reply

      Awwww, thanks for checking out my blog Linda. Travel really makes the world a more interesting place, doesn’t it? I don’t know what kind of person I’d be without it, but I surely wouldn’t have as many interesting friends. xo

  11. Jeff / May 14, 2015 at 9:18 am /Reply

    Juliana,

    My dad loves that movie too! I wish I could take him there but would not be able to make the trip. I will have to do it for him. As has already been said, love your writing style. I feel like I have been there already.

    • Juliana Dever / May 15, 2015 at 11:05 pm /Reply

      Jeff, thanks so much for reading my blog! If you can, you really must get to Cong. I know I said it before, but it’s just magical. I’ve shared so many experiences with my grandfather who could no longer travel, he loved seeing the photos and hearing the stories. It meant as much to him as if he had been there himself.

  12. s.henne / May 14, 2015 at 10:39 am /Reply

    My favorite movie #The Quiet Man. Love the article. Do u and Stana and Seamus falcon together? P.s. tell Seamus the Tigers are winning on 5/14.

    • Juliana Dever / May 15, 2015 at 11:03 pm /Reply

      Thanks for checking out my blog – I hope you continue to enjoy it! So far Seamus and I have only falconed in Cong.

  13. Katie @ Domestiphobia / May 15, 2015 at 3:16 am /Reply

    I hope you post more about Ireland — We’re thinking of going next year, and now I’ve added falconry to my wish list. 🙂

    • Juliana Dever / May 15, 2015 at 10:58 pm /Reply

      Katie – it was my favorite, you have to stop by this town if you can. I’m not sure if I will add anymore Ireland posts in the next year unless I go back, but I’ve been several times and I have family there, so I’m always happy to throw out more suggestions.

  14. Sydney / May 16, 2015 at 10:21 am /Reply

    Love this blog so much. Travel is incredible. I’ve been to Luxembourg, Germany, and this summer I’m traveling to Peru!

    • Juliana Dever / May 21, 2015 at 9:35 am /Reply

      That sounds great, Sydney! I haven’t been to Peru yet, but hopefully soon.

  15. frederique / May 17, 2015 at 12:20 pm /Reply

    it’s beautiful, i hope to go in Ireland,. Have you adress for me when i visit Ireland( i’m live in France).thank you for the blog

    • Juliana Dever / May 21, 2015 at 9:37 am /Reply

      I’ve been all over Ireland, but these are the only posts up right now. I do recommend visiting Dublin, Kilkenny, driving the ring of Kerry, stopping by Westport and having a pint at Molloy’s pub, seeing Giant’s causeway in the north. So many great places to go in Ireland, you can’t go wrong.

  16. Lucia / May 22, 2015 at 12:47 am /Reply

    Juliana, thank you so much for sharing your amazing travel experiences.
    I have a serious soft spot for Ireland, I’ve been to Dublin, Galway, Kilkenny and Cork but I’ve never visited Cong; I’ll be sure to include it on my next itinerary.

    • Juliana Dever / May 26, 2015 at 10:11 am /Reply

      You’re welcome Lucia! Definitely check out Cong, if for nothing more than to walk in that woods and have a bit of lunch.

  17. Celina / May 27, 2015 at 3:53 am /Reply

    Dear Mrs Dever,
    You show us how beautiful and interesting the world is.
    Thank you for that.
    You give me great ideas for my next holidays, and Ireland stand now on my list!
    Greetings from Germany.

    • Juliana Dever / June 11, 2015 at 9:27 pm /Reply

      That’s great to hear, Celina. It’s a wonderful country, you won’t be disappointed!

  18. Edel / July 5, 2015 at 4:04 pm /Reply

    Juliana,
    Recently I returned from Hawaii which was my last state to visit in USA (all done now!) and as I flew back into beautiful Ireland I realised that on my own doorstep I had the most amazing places that i have yet to visit and stumbling across your blog tonight or this morning (I still have jetlag!!) I have put Cong top of my list!
    Thanks for sharing your adventures now my adventure of exploring my own homeland begins 🙂
    Edel x

  19. Katriana M / September 16, 2015 at 7:10 pm /Reply

    Bucket List Now! Wow, your captions and pics are great and funny!

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