Visiting Ashford Castle & sampling Dough Bros Pizza

So I had a bit of a freak out in the middle of last week. I’d just gotten over flu, which had really knocked the new year positivity out of sync within me for a bit. And then I started back in college after the Christmas break, and I just got this overwhelming sense of panic, because it already felt like I was so behind on stuff despite only just getting back and I was struggling to think when I’d get it all done. Not just get it done, but done well to a reasonable standard.

I’m never usually like that. Most of the time when stuff starts to pile up or go wrong, I’m good at not letting it affect me, letting it all fly over my head and just telling myself that I’ll get through it. I think it’s because I’ve gotten older and have more of a clearer idea of where I want to be in life that I had a bit of a wobble in thinking about things getting in the way of getting there. But nothing in this life worth having ever comes easy.

While I am loving doing Journalism, and see it as an area that I could carve a career in with hard work, it can be daunting. Putting together radio shows, writing numerous articles and creating documentaries can be tough because you have to source people, travel, find a time that suits them and work your schedule around that. All while trying to attend lectures, hold down a part-time job, and find time to fit in some interesting stuff for the blog which I love creating and hope to see grow.

I’m by no means complaining, because I’m very fortunate to have the opportunities available to me that I have, and I know there are people in this world that are not as fortunate. But for sure, this week was a bit of a downer one for me, so I did what I think everyone should do once in a while when they feel a bit overwhelmed: just step away from it, do something to take your mind off it, and return with some clarity and go at it again.

So with that in mind, I took a weekend off work and spent a few days catching up with some friends who I met during my undergrad years of college, who were down in Galway for the weekend. Of course the weekend involved heading out for a few sociable drinks; we are Irish after all! But, we also got to visit two places that had been on my list for a while.


On Saturday we went on a road trip to the Ashford Castle Estate in Cong, County Mayo. I’d always heard people raving about the place so I was eager to see it for myself. It did not disappoint, and there is a reason it was voted best hotel in the world in 2015 by luxury travel network Virtuoso. The place is amazing and so tranquil, with some of the friendliest staff I’ve ever encountered.


The famous estate was first established by the Oranmore and Browne family in 1715. In 1852, the estate was extended to 26,000 acres through new roads, thousands of trees and two large extensions by Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness. Upon his death he bequeathed it to his son, Lord Ardilaun an avid gardener, who over saw the development of large, sprawling woodlands.

Ashford was bought by Noel Huggard in 1939, who established it as a first class hotel. It famously hosted stars such as Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne when they filmed The Quiet Man in the west of Ireland in 1951. In 1985 it was purchased by a group of Irish American investors, who continued to grow its reputation as a top resort property in Europe. In recent years, it was acquired by Red Carnation Hotels, and underwent a restoration that led to it being crowned best hotel in the world in 2015.


Of course, staying there would be a dream. But with rooms starting at around €300 a night, which is reasonable enough for luxury accommodation, for now it will have to stay a dream. We did have lunch and a couple of drinks there, which was delicious. I had sesame fried chicken with polenta and basil chips, with apricot and parmesan salad and a mimosa dressing. Polenta fries are my new obsession after it.


There is also the opportunity to explore the grounds and take in some of the stunning views of the Irish countryside. The weather didn’t hold up too well unfortunately, so we didn’t get to do this as much as we would have liked, but there is always the opportunity to take another trip there.

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The visit really gave me a taste for what things could be like on a regular basis if you work hard enough, and given me the drive to reach my goals and beyond. So, who knows, perhaps I’ll be booking in to stay and soak up the atmosphere of the castle a bit more soon. If nothing else, I can always dream.

While not quite as luxurious as a day spent at one of the worlds most exclusive hotels, I also took a trip to The Dough Bros pizzeria on Abbeygate Street in Galway. Much like Ashford Castle, I have always heard people talking about how great this place is, but had just never got around to experiencing it myself. It didn’t disappoint, and the owners are just as inspiring, showing that achieving your dreams is done with hard graft and a never say die attitude.

Ronan and Eugene Greeney were unemployed when they decided to convert their passion for wood fired pizza into a new business venture with help from the banks. They ordered an authentic wood fired oven from Italy and built a truck around it and started travelling around Ireland to any events they could find.


There were setbacks, such as when they suffered a bad crash that wrecked their van. But rather than give up, they managed to get things up and running again. They eventually settled in four locations in Galway and the word of mouth helped their reputation to grow. Eventually they opened up a pop up shop in 2014 in a vacant restaurant in the city, to see how things went for the summer.


Business was booming with queues out the door and down the street a regular occurrence, which ultimately led to them setting up in the bigger residence they now enjoy on Abbeyegate street. The Pizzeria itself has a quirky, fun, contemporary design and the pizza speaks for itself. I had the Hail Caesar, which consisted of lemon chicken, smoked pancetta, fresh rocket, croutons, homemade caeser dressing and parmesan. It hit the spot nicely. I’ll definitely be back.


Taking the time to just step back and relax was the best thing to do, and the two places that I visited this past weekend showed me in different ways that if you work hard and stay positive, that everything will eventually come together and work out. Now it’s time to make plans and knuckle down and get to work again.

 

 

 

 

 

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