Living it up in isolation in an Irish castle

#StayHome is having a fairy-tale feel for a couple who have been the sole occupants of Ireland’s magnificent Ashford Castle in County Mayo for over two months.

Imagine if staying home meant living in a lavishly appointed Irish castle for an extended period on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way.

That’s been the reality for Laura Jamieson from Surrey in England and Michael Smith from Perthshire in Scotland, who are enjoying the adventure of a lifetime.

The couple work in Ashford Castle, a multi-award-winning, five-star castle hotel that has been voted the best in the world. With towers and turrets that date to the thirteenth century the hotel is set on 350 acres, with a spectacular backdrop of woodlands, lake, river and mountains.

Since March, Laura and Michael have been the custodians of the 83-bedroom castle, tasked with ensuring that everything continues to function as it should so that when the hotel reopens in mid-July it will be ready to welcome guests.

Normally Laura’s role at the hotel is organising special events for guests like private cruises and high- end picnics, while Michael manages the grounds of the estate. But for now their daily duties include flushing 160 toilets, dusting and cleaning the sumptuously decorated rooms and handling phone calls and emails.

They also look in on the owls and hawks in the falconry, one of the country sports offered by the hotel along with horse-riding, golf and fishing.

And in the evenings Laura and Michael can enjoy all that luxury Ashford Castle has to offer from its billiards room to its extensive wine cellar, private 32-seater cinema, gym and luxury spa, before retiring to their gorgeously decorated bedroom.  

“We’re so lucky,” Laura told national Irish broadcaster RTÉ. “It’s such an amazing place. We work hard but get to enjoy the run of the castle and the grounds.”

“It’s like being in your own reality TV show, but nobody’s watching,” Michael added.

Over the years Ashford Castle has welcomed many famous names including the Kennedys, the Reagans, Brad Pitt, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Barbara Streisand, Johnny Cash, Rory McIlroy and John Ford, whose Oscar-winning movie The Quiet Man was filmed in the grounds of the estate and in the nearby village of Cong.

But none of them ever had the place to themselves.