On a dry but overcast day, we arrived bright and early in the village of Cong, co.Mayo. After parking the car closely to Cong Abbey, we decided to walk the grounds of Ashford castle first. The first stop was the old Monk's Fishing house which was built between 1400 and 1550 on a platform on the river Cong.
There is an opening underneath the house allowing the river to flow freely underneath it. A trapdoor was then used by the monks to drop a net into the river in order to catch fish. The rivers and lakes around Cong are known for the abundant fish swimming around in them and are popular with anglers all year round. After having crossed the footbridge, we made our way over to Ashford castle. During the summer season, you have to pay an entrance fee of €10 (adults) to wander through the gardens, but as it was only April, we got in for free. Ashford Castle is a magnificent 5 star hotel which is set in 350 acres of manicured gardens along the shores of Lough Corrib. The hotel opened it's doors again in 2015 after a $75 million restoration which made this hotel into one of Europe's most prestigious ones. As activities, they offer fishing, falconry, equestrian, archery and clay shooting,...and much more. All of these activities can be enjoyed in the magnificent gardens of the castle
The gardens vary from formal to informal gardens. The main central terraced and broad walk gives you amazing views across all the different gardens, from the walled garden which is reached by tunnel to the Tolmann garden which has a huge fountain in the middle of the sunken garden.
We walked back to Cong village passing through the ruins of the Augustinian Abbey which dates back to the 13th century. The remains of Cong Abbey have been praised as featuring some of the best examples of early gothic architecture and masonry in Ireland.
Cong is also famous for the Hollywood blockbuster "The Quiet Man" featuring John Wayne and Maureen o'hara. the film was shot mainly around Cong in 1952. Cong has the Quiet Man museum which is housed in a replica tatched cottage which is located in the heart of Cong . The ground floor of the cottage has been designed as an exact replica of the "White O-Mornin" cottage as featured in the movie. The furnishings, artifacts and costumes are authentic reproductions of the items seen in the movie. Early April is a great time to visit Cong, mainly because the hordes of tourists haven't arrived yet in the picturesque village.
It was Lunchtime and we had worked up a great appetite. So we went into the hungry Monk Cafe, a lovely cafe which was for a day in April very busy. And afterwards, we knew why it was that busy. The food is tasty, colourful and decently priced and the service was quick and correct. It was a nice way of finishing our couple of hours in Cong, a place we will surely visit again, probably spending a couple of days discovering the surrounding area and venturing into Connemara which we love for it's scenery and beauty.