County Mayo, the plain of the yews, is on the Republic of Ireland's west coast, bordered by Galway, Roscommon and Sligo. The River Moy in its north-east is renowned for its salmon fishing. The highest point is Mweelrea at 814 metres.
The village of Cong has underground streams which connect Lough Corrib with Lough Mask to the north. It is also the home of the stately Ashford Castle. The original Anglo-Norman castle dates to the 13th century. It was built by the de Burgos family after their defeat of the native O'Connors of Connaught. Successive lords expanded and fortified it.
The central building, a French-style chateau, was built in the mid 1700s by Lord Ardilaun. In 1852, the castle became the country home of the Guinness family, who lived there for almost 100 years. It has since been restored and transformed into Ireland's finest five-star resort hotel.
The castle was the location for John Ford's 1952 Oscar-winning The Quiet Man with John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara. The town and castle have changed little since then and the connection with the film has made Cong a major Mayo tourist attraction.
The castle is on 141 hectares of wooded estate on the shores of Lough Corrib and has a spectacular backdrop of forests, lakes and mountains. Guests cruise on Ireland's second largest lake, Lough Corrib, aboard MV Lady Ardilaun. The launch has a licensed bar, central heating and outdoor sundeck. It visits an island where the oldest Christian inscriptions (with the exception of those in the Roman catacombs) are carved into stone.
The great castle's great hall is decorated with rich panelling, fine period pieces, masterpiece paintings and objets d'art. The castle also has a dungeon.
Ashford has 80 spacious bedrooms and luxurious furnishings provide great character. Castle-shaped windows are surrounded outside with ivy and inside there are heavy sash curtains. Soft furnishings are traditional in style and autumnal shades set the relaxing theme.
All rooms are different and feature individual antique writing desks, dressers and tables. Lamps, vases and other ornaments have been carefully chosen for each room.
The large bathrooms have old-world charm, with free-standing baths, gold mirrors and marble shelving. There are double sinks and walk-in showers with multi jets. Fluffy towels, robes and Molton Brown toiletries are provided, as are fruit baskets.
At Ashford Castle, you have the opportunity to try the ancient sport of falconry. Once trained as hunters, today the falcons are free to fly off, but tend to return as they know dinner is guaranteed in the castle grounds. The large enclosure is home to Harris hawks, eagles, falcons and tiger-plumed owls. Visitors can also enjoy a spot of clay pigeon shooting.
Ashford Castle golf course is a nine-hole 2996 yards par 35 parkland course designed by Irish golf architect Eddie Hackett.
The castle also has an equestrian centre, lake and river fishing, tennis courts and cycleways.
Ashford's main dining room, George V, offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. Décor is pristine period and there are views across the river as you enjoy modern Irish and international cuisine.
The Connought Room is an intimate venue with delicate wood carvings and a charming hand-carved inglenook fireplace.