Sabi Phagura crosses the Irish Sea to experience the luxurious Lough Eske Castle
There really isn’t anything like a stay at a castle to make you feel truly special. In fact, I would go as far as saying that staying at the 5* Lough Eske Castle in Ireland made me feel more like a princess, not least because it is surrounded by 40 acres of mature woodland and gardens with gleaming waters of the lake and dramatic scenery of Donegal on all sides.
But the castle which stands today was built in the 1860s (the site dates back as far as the 1400s), but was completely destroyed by fire in 1939. It was renovated and enhanced in 2007 to create the beautiful building it is today and tastefully combines the old with the new. The castle’s history is reflected in baronial furnishings, polished wood and a grand sandstone staircase which I literally found myself floating down on several occasions.
One of the best ways of absorbing all that Lough Eske Castle has to offer is by sinking into a deep armchair dotted around the various lounges and room. The Oak Bar is a particularly cosy hangout with stone floors, heavy leather couches and historical black and white photographs adorning the walls. The Irish informality, the in-depth local knowledge and genuinely warm service makes you quickly realise why people are drawn to the castle in the first place.
The Gallery Bar is another great place where you can have a pint of Guinness (you have to have a Guinness when in Ireland), a glass of wine or one of the 60 fine whiskies on offer. You can line your stomach with an informal bite to eat from the Bistro menu too. I found both bars to be great places to meet fellow guests who were eager to share their day’s experience with you and knowledge of the area. Before long, we found ourselves being part of an impromptu party with a number of guests on both nights such is the charm of the Irish.
For a chance to dress up for some fine dining, the Cedars Grill is the place to head to. Unlike the rest of the hotel, it has more of a contemporary feel to it. The dining room itself is stunning with its floor-to-ceiling windows, button back upholstery and modern crystal fixtures. The menu created by executive chef Philipp Henkes features fresh local ingredients as expected from such an establishment. I felt utterly spoilt with choices ranging from local beef and Irish stews to fresh catches from nearby Killybegs – Ireland’s premier fishing port.
The scallops and oysters were particularly good – so much so I went back to dine in the restaurant the next day solely to have them again!
Outside, the hotel can arrange a number of activities you can get stuck into from surfing on the nearby coast to horse riding, and from hill-walking to golf. Fishing is really popular here with the lake on your doorstep. You can even try your hand at fish-smoking and tweed weaving. Sadly the weather is not often on your side but still that doesn’t stop you from venturing outdoors to enjoy the beauty of the area. The thriving Donegal town is a mere five minutes’ drive away, where you can mingle with the locals as well as enjoy a plethora of tourist attractions surrounding it.
But if you want to truly indulge yourself, try the excellent Spa Solis on site. Looking out onto the hotel gardens it’s modern and sleek with indoor and outdoor relaxation areas, an infinity pool, a 12-metre indoor swimming pool, a sauna, in addition to eight treatment rooms. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to experience the relax and renew massage. It was a real treat after my gruelling weight session in the fitness centre. I must have worked exceptionally hard as I fell asleep the moment my massage started.
R&R was extended in the form of my suite for the weekend. It was impressively big – bigger than most of the ground floor of a terraced house. Complete with a four poster bed (again I got that princess feeling), the room was adorned with period furniture, solid oak wardrobe, an antique fireplace, an inviting couch and a grand window overlooking the Lough Eske Castle grounds. The separately approached bathroom came with a stand-alone bath, two basins and a double shower.
The hotel has 96 luxuriously appointed guestrooms including a two-bedroom presidential suite, seven garden suites, 14 courtyard guestrooms, eight Solis junior suites and 65 deluxe guestrooms. I had a chance to nosey around some of them and they were all as elegant in their own right. But whichever room you stay in, and wherever you choose to roam in the castle, be sure to feel really special. A stay at a castle in such a great setting doesn’t get much better than this.
Lough Eske Castle – Where and How?
Lough Eske Castle is located at Lough Eske, Donegal Town, Co. Donegal, Ireland. For more information, visit www.solishotels.com/lougheskecastle. A deluxe room starts from €245.00 per night.
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