Solis Lough Eske Castle Hotel and Donegal

On the way to Donegal

 

Rosses Point

Knockanera Mountain

Breakfast at the Westport Plaza was nothing beyond the expectations of any 4 star hotel, but the tepid temperature of the food in the supposedly hot buffet was a little blah. At least they had baby pastries to assuage us!
 

Rocky beaches

New boat, old boat

Pretty water views

We had a wet, yet scenic drive to Sligo – a large port town in County Connacht. To soak up yet more of the dynamically varied scenery, we drove via Strandhill, where we saw a peacock sunning himself atop a high stone wall by the road. This little town sat delightfully snug between the water and a big mountain called Knocknarea Mountain. It seems that every house luxuriated in stunning views of Sligo Bay. A perfect little locale. Rosses point was similar in beauty, but larger in size – a seaside village very similar in feel to one of the small holiday towns on the south coast of New South Wales.

Nic in a nook at Hargadon’s

More glorious scenery

The church where W.B. Yeats is buried, St Colmcille in Drumcliffe

W.B.Yeats grave

In Sligo, we popped into Hargardon’s Pub for lunch. It’s one of the oldest pubs in Ireland and has recently benefitted from an extensive refurbishment – not to glam it up and make it all slick and blingy and modern, but to fix it up to look as it once did – all full of snugs and little booths, providing charm and atmosphere. When you combine that with a fun bartender who makes excellent suggestions when making choices for lunch, the place is pretty much perfect, really. The friendly barman suggested we sit in a snug at the very front of the pub with a window onto the street, so completely self contained that we had to exit the pub to enter the snug from a tiny door next to the establishment’s entrance. Being completely enclosed meant that our barman did his serving through a little window, like he was serving us from a mobile diner! More than a tad cool and fun! We enjoyed some hearty and huge servings of soup and quiche – both excellent, and warm and filling!

Cow and tower

So gorgeous – brace yourself, there are more of these!

Pretty rock formations

Sand and rocks

After lunch we explored Sligo a little more and did a bit of shopping. Found some funky felt drinks coasters, and in the same shop (‘The Cat and the Moon’) we found a bangle for me! Nice and chunky, made of Irish silver – will take a bit more of a battering by its clumsy owner than the 18ct gold bracelet which has to be taken to the jewellers for repair when I get home (for the second time!).

It is not possible to tire of this coastline!

Mulloughmore Marina – Lord Louis Mountbattan was assassinated off the coast here

Armed with new bling, we set off for the next truly fabulous hotel on our itinerary (the other being Adare Manor, of course!). We made our selection in the GPS – not our own dodgy attempt at an address, the one listed for the hotel in the actual software of the system, and ended up in an industrial area of Donegal Town where the machine tried to tell us that the panel beating shop was in fact the Solis Lough Eske Castle Hotel. I DON’T think so! Went to the good old tourist office (NOT listed in the GPS under tourist office ‘near you’), and waited patiently for a woman to finish up a personal call so she could serve me. She had to be reprimanded by the other server (already dealing with someone else) to get off the phone. What was so odd about this, is that the woman on the phone was pretty much making eye contact with me the whole time. Very weird. At least she knew where the hotel was – she just had to draw it onto the free map by hand, because the map didn’t extend beyond the immediate town, and Lough Eske Hotel was . . . well . . . out of town, near Lough Eske! Not a huge amount of annoyance at this whole debacle, but enough – mainlly when I kept thinking about the whole HOUR earlier we could’ve been at this dream location, indulging in our second high end luxury hotel experience of the trip! Those readers who know me, will know that one of my favourite things to do on holiday is hang out in swish hotels! (We did tell the staff of the GPS listing, in case someone has the power and sense to amend it.)

The gorgeous Solis Lough Eske Castle Hotel

Our suite at Solis Lough Eske Castle Hotel – too easy to love!

Ah, yes, Solis Lough Eske Castle Hotel – absolutely beautiful! Stayed in one of the Garden Suites, which was spacious and quiet – free of the noise of the weddings (taking place both nights we were there). Gas fireplace in the room, evening turn down with chocolates, complementary nutty nibbles with the wine in the bar – really 5 star is the way to go, every time!! We relaxed in the bar with bubbles and said nibbles until Robert and Richard arrived. It was so good to see them again, and it certainly didn’t feel like 15 months ago since we had seen them in Peru! Had a tour of their suite – also stunning and gigantic, but I preferred the layout of ours (the second biggest of the garden suites). We also had the pleasure of meeting two friends of the boys – Bob and Brian – delightful men whose company was a lovely addition to the party!

The lounge

Richard drove us all into Donegal Town to the popular family restaurant The Harbour for dinner. Bit of a squeeze with 4 of us in the back seat – alternating one butt forward, one butt back! We sat upstairs in ‘The Harbour’ where there were three birthday celebrations going on! Really enjoyed the fried goat’s cheese salad (becoming a popular choice, I know!), we split this and Mexican vegetable fajitas – nice and spicy – just wish they had given us more guacamole and spicy tomato sauce on the side (but we didn’t ask for it either!). The renditions of ‘Happy Birthday’ got louder as the evening progressed, but once one group moved on to the endless speeches, we also moved on (although we valiantly persevered for a while, but as my voice was disintegrating – croaky throat – we tossed it in and changed venue).

Nice bronze bottom!

Our next port of call was The Central Hotel for drinks . . . and some live kitsch music thrown in! Robert ordered me a hot whiskey for my throat – double shot with hot water and lemon, artfully embedded with cloves. Not sure that it helped the throat, but it tasted mighty fine! So fine that I didn’t notice 2 more of these concoctions being ordered for me back at the hotel, where we were ensconced in one of the cosy lounges with the fire going, lovely music in the background and endless stories to share.

Statuary at Lough Eske

There was no early start the next morning! We dragged our tired and overindulged bodies to breakfast at 9:30 for the beginnings of what was to be a day of EXTREME relaxation and decadence. Dawdling for an hour over breakfast with friends (making numerous returns to the buffet tables, and requesting freshly made omelette from the ‘freshly cooked eggs station’) made for a salubrious start to the day.

Cool little dragon, and ruin

As the first commitment after breakfast was an 11am full body massage for both of us (in the double massage room, no less!), there was no need to even rise much before our morning repast for that tedious grooming regime that included showering – what was the point when we were going to be covered in oils and prodded and stroked and pinched and pummelled in bliss? The masseuse was fantastic – her technique was spot on. She was also quite firm, as requested, so am now beginning to feel a little tender in those ‘cement spots’ – but in a good way! After this hour of bliss, the instructions were quite clear – for maximum benefit of the treatment, the oil was supposed to remain on the body for at least 2 hours after the massage while drinking lots of water to aid the expunging of the toxins. Ok, no problem. That just meant swanning about in robes in the relaxation room, and then our suite (just a few metres across the garden) while a light room service lunch of soup was ordered and delivered and eaten before going for a swim and using the thermal pool in the spa. Too easy!

Beautiful owl

Really quite a perfect way to spend the day. We have been cramming so much into our trip (how unusual!) and this is the first real down time (bumming around) that we have done. I am also feeling a bit ‘chesty’ and have my drag queen voice going on (actually feel fine, just sound quite awful . . . or sexy, whichever way you choose to look at it – or hear it!)

Perfectly captures how we all sit in the garden, reading!

After finally getting around to a shower in the afternoon, we moved up to the main castle where we shared more stories with Robert in the lounge. An afternoon tipple was had while John and Robert talked cameras and I blogged and read and we all discovered how to use ‘Facetime’ – works better than Skype.
We all dressed for dinner and met in the boys’ suite for champagne and a photo op to commemorate the occasion before heading to the dining room. And what unfolded was a very similar evening to the one before – only with much better food and wine, and we didn’t have to drive anywhere! There was so much laughter, stories and general bonhomie that none of us wanted to turn in for the night. But being the frail human beings that we are, it had to happen, and once again we let 1am push us toward our rooms and a blissful night’s sleep. Go to Solis Lough Eske Castle Hotel

The Fab Four – Robert, Richard, Nic & John

About bontaks

Nic is the the ‘Bon’ part of ‘Bontaks.’ Together we are Nic and John – two travel-addicted teachers who enjoy every opportunity to go places, meet people and experience life.

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