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Obsessed With Hotel Brekkie? This May Be The Best Breakfast View In Ireland

By Megan Cassidy

July 15, 2019 at 5:10pm

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Breakfast is the last meal you have before leaving a hotel.

Unless of course you're the type who would rather sleep in than avail of the buffet (monster!).

It's what sets you up for your journey home and can leave a seriously sour taste in your mouth if it's not done right.

Saying that, the breakfast is one of the reasons that the Lodge at Ashford is my favourite place to stay in the West of Ireland.

The incredibly friendly staff are just slightly outshone by the breathtaking views of Lough Corrib as you nibble on a breakfast that features plenty of local food-makers, all proudly showcased on the menu.

Seeing local producers on a menu is a real clincher for me, and this one features farms, fisheries and cheesemakers from Mayo, Galway, Roscommon, Cork, Tipp and Limerick.

Provenance is key at Ashford, with the kitchen overseen by head chef Jonathan Keane whose mission statement is "local food with imagination."

Perched on 350 acres of lush green, a stone's throw from Ashford Castle itself, the Lodge is the perfect halfway house if you're looking for really good food and luxury that's a little more laid-back than the opulence of the Castle.

Connemara is absolutely breathtaking year-round, but particularly in the summer.

We were trying out the Lodge's summer package on this occasion, so after breakfast we headed out to Joyce Country Sheepdogs - a farm famed for its starring role in the movie Marley and Me. As well as gorgeous blooms and new lambs, summer is the season for new litters of puppies at the farm which is just a 45-minute drive from The Lodge on the banks of Lough Nafooey.

It's easy to see why Owen Wilson was close to bringing home a puppy from the farm after his visit here - the sheepdogs' individual personalities will have you fall madly in love with them, and watching them at work is absolutely incredible.

There's nothing like fresh country air to make you crave a hearty feed...

... so we decided to check out Cullens at the Cottage, just across the bridge from the castle itself, as its only open in Summer so we had missed it on our last trip.

The Chicken Peri Peri is a must-try here, and the extensive wine list kept us sitting on the terrace well into the afternoon before a wander down to the village of Cong - making note to return to Cullens tomorrow to collect a dessert courtesy of highly-acclaimed Paula Stakelum, Head Pastry Chef for the entire estate, overseeing all the deliciousness from the Castle, to the Lodge and Cullens.

Cong is a tiny village, just a fifteen-minute walk from the Lodge, and full of character. Wishing wells, families of swans, and giant busts from The Quiet Man (filmed in the village) make it a magical place. We did a proper tour of the village on our trip last year, so this year it was just a quick visit to walk off our lunch at Cullens (which finished with a GIANT Frozen Irish Coffee) and make room for dinner at The Quay Bar and Brasserie later.

The Lodge is perfect for my favourite weekend activity - lolling.

We lolled around on Cullen's terrace, then lolled around in loungers thumbing through books from the shelves and sipping on gin in the gallery back at the Lodge.

That's the thing about the Lodge - the warm country house vibe makes you feel right at home instantly.

I padded into the gorgeously plush bathrooms more times than I needed to, just to avail of The Handmade Soap Company hand cream and try to memorise the decor for my own "when-I'm-a-grown-up" bathroom.

Those golden in-betweeny hours are what I always remember when I think back on my stays at the Lodge. But on to dinner.

The Quay Bar and Brasserie

The summer package includes a meal at The Quay Bar and Brasserie so that's where we nestled into a corner with our napkins over our knees for the evening, admiring the eclectic art collection.

Again, this menu is packed with fresh, local cuisine in a more relaxed setting than the fine dining in Wilde's.

Bea Tollman (owner of Red Carnation - the group who acquired the Castle and the Lodge a number of years ago) is an avid cook herself, and her recipes are marked in the menu with a little gold carnation.

They include Dooncastle Oysters Mignonette, Tamarind Spiced Chicken Wings, and Wild Mushroom Risotto.

An Irish Farmhouse Cheese Board was a must to finish off and send us off to bed dreaming of our next visit.

The summer package costs €450 per room based on two-people sharing, and includes a two-night stay in a Deluxe Room, full Irish breakfast each morning, dinner in the Quay Bar and Brasserie on one evening and a packed lunch to enjoy on your excursion to the Sheep Dog demonstration at Joyce Country Sheepdogs in Connemara.

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