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The Irish Times - Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Ashford Castle goes on the market once again

JACK FAGAN

THE HOTEL made famous 60 years ago by the Hollywood blockbuster The Quiet Man goes on sale today on the international market after being placed into receivership.

Estate agents Savills are seeking offers around €25 million for Ashford Castle, the five-star resort in Cong, Co Mayo, which is currently trading successfully.

It was bought five years ago by Galway property developer Gerry Barrett for twice the present valuation - €50 million. Luke Charleton and David Hughes of Ernst Young were appointed as joint receivers in November 2011 by Bank of Scotland (Ireland). It is currently run by Tifco Hotel Group, a specialist Irish-owned asset manager.

Tom Barrett of Savills said last night that the hotel and its 365-acre grounds are likely to be bought by a group of international investors rather than one of the big hotel chains which prefer to manage rather than own hotels.

Ashford relies heavily on the top end of the US tourist market and frequently attracts some of the highest room rates in the hotel sector - between €400 and €950 per night.

Last month it was voted the best resort in Ireland and the third best in Europe in the Condé Nast Traveller. It regularly figures in the top 100 hotels and resorts in the world.

The castle has 83 bedrooms including six suites, all with their individual styles and fit-outs. Barrett had planned to provide another 13 penthouse bedrooms in the castle as well as 30 residential lodges on the grounds.

Ashford has attracted many celebrities, including US president Ronald Reagan, Princess Grace, Oscar Wilde, Brad Pitt and Pierce Brosnan.

The castle was founded almost 800 years ago and was extended over the years by a range of owners including the Guinness family. It has been trading as a hotel since 1939. Barrett bought the hotel in 2007 from a group of Irish-American investors including Tony O'Reilly and Chuck Feeney.

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