I spent a wonderful afternoon, last Sunday in the beautiful and serene surroundings of Ashford Castle, Cong, Co Mayo.
I have been lucky enough to have visited here many times over my life, as my mother was born and bred in the area. It’s also the place my parents met, as they both worked at Ashford in the 1960s.
My aunt has just turned 60 years young, so following a tradition that had started with another aunt a couple of years prior, off to Ashford Castle we went to enjoy Afternoon tea. The gathering was an all-woman affair (up girl-power!) comprising of aunts, nieces and cousins, a family occasion.
We entered at the front gate through the majestic archway and drove up the drive to park. Just as we parked the car, the hotel car arrived to pick us up and bring us to the door of the Castle. There was only a small drizzle, but they did not want us getting wet. Already we liked the service we were getting!
The Connaught Room
The very elegant Connaught Room is where people take their tea. It has floor to ceiling windows, beautiful Crystal chandeliers, panelled oak walls and a hand carved fireplace. I am besotted with chandeliers and the ones here in Ashford are simply stunning.
We were seated just outside this room where the silver was displayed. There were twelve of us and we sat around a large table which had been set in a bay window. From here, we could see the most gorgeous views of the gardens and Lough Corrib.
Our table was laid out with silver cutlery in neatly folded napkins and a mis-match of colourful china cups and saucers, it was charming.
Lord & Lady Ardilaun Traditional Afternoon Tea
The name of the tea, is rather grand and is in memory of Sir Arthur Guinness and his wife, Olivia, better known as Lord & Lady Ardilaun. Lord Ardilaun was a great philanthropist and is best known for giving St Stephen’s Green to the people of Dublin. Ashford Castle was their country residence and they were in the habit of taking time over tea to discuss the events of the day.
Rhubarb Foam drink
First, we were given teacups with a Rhubarb drink with foam as an apperitif, it was delicious. Then, there is a choice of black teas, green teas, white teas, smoked teas, herbal teas or coffees. I went with an Earl Grey, described in the menu as a richly aromatic autumn Darjeeling blended with the refreshing citrus aroma of bergamot. This is served in beautiful silver teapots and poured into delightful china cups.
We were served sweet treats of Vanilla Scented Éclair with Granny Smith apple and caramelia cremeux, Champagne Rhubarb Cream, a Peanut Chocolate Torte with Dark Chocolate Mousse, an Opalys Bavarois – Blood Orange and a Lemon Tart Meringue. All so deliciously bad!
Junior afternoon tea
The hotel also caters for junior afternoon tea (picture above) at a price of €18.50. We had a teenager with us and this suited her best.
Sandwiches were a mix of free range chicken & avocado with almond on white sour dough, Irish wagu beef with mustard and cucumber on malt sourdough, free range egg and chive on white sour dough and Irish lobster and Galway Bay prawn on brioche. They were fresh, tasty and delicate. Some of our group don’t like fish, so they got extra of the other sandwiches.
The Scones were served in a breadbasked and were wrapped in napkins to keep them lovely and warm. There was a mixture of Fruit, Plain & Cheese.
…served with Lemon Curd, Clotted Cream and Rhubarb & Strawberry Jam. They too were delicious.
Fabulous and luxurious
The whole experience was fabulous. What more could you want than to be sitting in luxury, eating delicious foods, and being looked after so wonderfully, as we were by our server? He really looked after us with his excellent service, nothing was too much trouble. Tea was topped up whenever we wanted and the savoury and sweets went down a treat with everybody. Our afternoon tea was a huge success and for €45 per head it was value for money (just to be aware of the 15% service charge on top).
As you can see from the picture above, our table, after we had finished, was completely devoid of food! Needless to say, we did not leave anything behind.
All in all, this is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon in one of the most elegant and beautiful places in this country.
I will never tire of visiting this beautiful castle and plan to go back in December for dinner and also stay the night. I can’t wait!