Mayo: Make your visit stylish at a stately home

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Newport House, near Westport, West Mayo was for two centuries the seat of the O’Donel family, the former Earls of Tír Connell who were forcibly transplanted from Ulster to Mayo by Oliver Cromwell in 17th-century.

For a time it was the sanctuary for the 6th-century Cathach manuscript, believed to have been written by the great missionary saint, Colmcille, Columba of Iona who was said to be a member of the O’Donel clan.

This fine Georgian house has a sweeping staircase rising from an elegant central hall and tall-ceilinged drawing room. It’s decorated with an idiosyncratic medley of antiques, taxidermy, old books and fishing memorabilia.

Newport House actually owns all the fishing rights for Newport River and for Lough Beltra West, so it’s common to see salmon and sea trout being weighed and displayed in the hall, with some of the catch being smoked in-house and served at dinner. 

Enniscoe House, near Crossmolina, North Mayo, is a captivating, pink, Georgian mansion on an estate that has been handed down through twelve generations to the present owner, Susan Kellett. Her ancestor, Francis Jackson, came from Leicestershire in the 1660s and never left.

The house is set amidst a woodland of specimen trees, the remains of formerly manicured pleasure grounds, a 19th-century castellated mausoleum and spectacular views over Lough Conn.

Staying in the one of the six bedrooms can feel more like being a house guest than a customer. The food is excellent, much of it from the extensive organic gardens in the walled-garden and there is always the possibility of brown trout if one heads out with a ghillie and boat onto Lough Conn.

The estate also has two charming self-catering apartments in the stables and a cottage converted from an old potting shed overlooking the walled garden. This is a well-loved family home, with a reassuringly shabby, lived-in feel. 

Ashford Castle, Cong, South Mayo, is as plush and ostentatious as you’d expect the former country home of the Guinness family to be: suits of armour, oak-panelling, Hogwart’s-style oil paintings and magnificent fireplaces.

The castle is a mixture of 13th-century fortified dwelling, 18th-century French chateau and 19th-century Victorian extensions. Its 350-acres of ancient woodland, parkland and romantic lake give it a dream-like quality.

It has emerged from a major renovation, restoring the former allure that once attracted Princess Grace, Fred Astaire, King George V of England and John Wayne, whose film the Quiet Man was partially filmed on the estate. The castle has its own School of Falconry and has won accolades from Condé Nast Traveller. The food has almost a Bacchanalian indulgence to it: dishes such as poached foie gras with melted figs and sauterne jellies; or seared monkfish with Connemara lobster claw.  

The Lodge at Ashford Castle overlooking Lough Corrib is set on the Ashford Estate. The 150-year-old lodge has been luxuriously refurbished into a range of rooms and suites.

The Lodge is a graceful place to stay with specially commissioned works of art and fine furniture. The views over Lough Corrib are enchanting, as is the view of Ashford Castle from the path which links both.

Wilde’s Restaurant, which occupies the entire first floor, receives regular plaudits for its hip, contemporary take on traditional cuisine, such as Foie Gras Sundae, featuring foie gras mousse, candied pecans, peppered pineapple and cherries in port.

Mount Falcon, near Ballina, North Mayo, is a palatial 19th century home designed by the architect who created

  • Ashford Castle, Co Mayo
  • Farmleigh, Dublin and
  • Kylemore Abbey, Co Galway.

This 100-acre estate on the River Moy is supremely well maintained, with lakeside, river and forest walks, and private salmon fishery on both banks. The finest bedrooms are within the original house, with high ceilings and marble fireplaces. There are also self-catering suites nestled in the woods, by the lake and in the old courtyard.

The restaurant, in the former kitchen/pantry, specialises in Mayo ingredients given a French gourmet touch by Chef Phillippe Farineau. Its elegance has attracted generations of celebrities from Vivien Leigh and Peter Sellers to Tiger Woods and Nick Faldo.

Belleek Castle, Ballina, North Mayo lies at the end of a dramatic winding driveway through a cathedral of ancient specimen trees. The neo-gothic 1831 castellated house features an impressive grand hall and varied rooms.

Belleek has a thousand acres of forested grounds planted by the Earl of Arran along the Moy River while the restaurant excels at producing rich and nourishing game dishes in season. You can enjoy woodcock, pheasant and venison, with beef dry-aged on site.

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