Belfast Telegraph

Rory McIlroy and Erica Stoll to marry at fairytale Ashford Castle in Ireland

By Ivan Little

Rory McIlroy's secret is out of the golf bag. The Belfast Telegraph can today exclusively reveal the date and the place of his big day. Holywood's sporting superstar is to tie the knot with his beautiful bride in less than a fortnight in a fairytale Irish castle made famous by Hollywood.

Multi-millionaire Rory and his American fiancee Erica Stoll will wed on Saturday, April 22 in Ashford Castle in Cong, Co Mayo.

And 27-year-old Rory has revealed that he'd have worn the prestigious green jacket from the Masters on his wedding day if he'd won the title he so covets in Augusta at the weekend.

Golf's biggest names are expected to fly in for what insiders have already dubbed the "wedding of the decade".

Rory - who is already one of sport's biggest earners - is sparing no expense on his dream nuptials which will almost certainly see pop star pals such as Niall Horan from One Direction mingling with the golfer's circle of close friends from Northern Ireland.

His family, including proud parents Gerry and Rosie who sacrificed so much to finance his golfing ambitions, are also travelling south for their son's wedding.

A phone call to the exclusive luxury hotel yesterday about the possibility of booking a room for the weekend after next was greeted with a polite reply: "Sorry but we are fully booked."

There was no confirmation from the reservations clerk, however, that the Castle had been rented out by Rory and Erica, who are regular visitors to Ashford.

They've spent two New Year's Eves in the five star hotel, where they enjoyed candlelit dinners and champagne as the clock counted down.

After Rory failed in his quest to win the Masters in Augusta this week, he dropped a massive hint that the big day was imminent. He told an interviewer: "I am excited.

"It's a great time in my life and it would have been nice to walk down the aisle in the green jacket!

"It's a great time in our lives and it's all about that over the next couple of weeks and I'll come back at the Players refreshed and a married man and start a new chapter in my life."

Rory was, of course, engaged to tennis star Caroline Wozniacki but famously called off the wedding in May 2014 after the invitations were sent out.

He revealed that the invites made him "realise that I wasn't ready for all that marriage entails".

Rory and Erica had been friends long before love blossomed.

They met when she was working for the PGA of America.

She saved him from golfing disaster when she got him to the first tee for a vital singles match in the 2012 Ryder Cup in America after he got his timings mixed up. After his break up with Wozniacki, Rory and Erica started dating.

And he said they fell in love with each other and that their relationship was "refreshing".

A friend said: "They really are the perfect couple - and they are so easy in each other's company.

"They don't want to be seen as a celebrity couple."

The wedding venue Ashford Castle became a "star" in its own right in the 1952 Hollywood blockbuster The Quiet Man starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara.

The ever enduring popularity of the Oscar winning film has made it a popular haunt for international stars like Brad Pitt, Rod Stewart, Jack Nicholson and Art Garfunkel.

Former US President Ronald Reagan also stayed in the hotel which is set in 350 acres on the shore of picturesque Lough Corrib.

Other stars who have celebrated their weddings at the castle include actor Pierce Brosnan and Westlife singer Shane Filan.

The hotel's website boasts that a wedding at Ashford "is one of the most idyllic and romantic experiences imaginable providing the perfect day you'll remember for a lifetime".

It adds: "Rising effortlessly to the grand occasion, Ashford Castle retains a homely and welcoming feel, even if you are planning an impressive event for up to 164 guests."

The website reveals that for bespoke weddings couples can have exclusive use of all of the Castle's 83 "beautifully decorated" rooms and suites.

Prices quoted range from £54,000 in low season to £79,100 in high season.

But indications are that Rory has booked the Castle for two days, not one.

In 2015, Ashford Castle was voted the world's number one hotel by travel experts in a poll by an American magazine.

Security is expected to be tight for the wedding, one of the biggest in Ireland since Paul McCartney married Heather Mills at Castle Leslie in Co Monaghan in 2002.

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