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Lough Eske Castle: Five-star luxury meets laid-back leisure at this Donegal retreat

Lough Eske Castle: Five-star luxury meets laid-back leisure at this Donegal retreat


by Sarah Gill
15th Mar 2024

A five-star castle hotel with a 150-year history, an incredible spa, and a two AA Rosette restaurant — I had a lot of expectations going into this weekend at Lough Eske, but the resounding feeling I was left with was one of complete and utter contentment.

I know what you’re thinking: ‘exceptionally fancy castle hotel’ and ‘super chill vibes’ are not two things one usually hears in the same sentence. Five-star elevated elegance does not usually breed nonchalance, but sitting with your feet up by the fire in the truly decadent lounge, glass of wine in hand, is comfort like you’ve never known.

Just a hop, skip and three-hour bus journey from Galway City to Donegal Town, myself and my other half arrived at Lough Eske dodging raindrops, and the doormen were quick to pull out umbrellas and get us set up at reception.

Checking into our Deluxe Suite, the massive four-poster bed simply demands that you drop everything and leap upon it. The space was flooded with natural light, and the classic oak furniture seems to envelope you in cosiness. The bathroom boasted a large bath and a rainfall shower to wash off the journey with fragrant VOYA Skincare products. A plush robe and slippers were ready and waiting, and there seemed no other option than to sink into the bed until it was time for dinner.

That dinner, I shed a tear at the mere memory of it. Sitting down to a three-course meal at the two AA Rosette Cedars Restaurant was an experience in and of itself. The floor-to-ceiling windows framed sweeping views of the castle gardens and surrounding woodland, and the service was impeccable. A menu that had the capacity to be intimidating — what is ‘pithivier’ I hastily Googled — but the wait staff talked us through and made some very good suggestions.

To start, I opted for the picture-perfect pan-seared scallops, while my hot date braved the slow-cooked pigeon. For mains, I got the parma ham-wrapped supreme of chicken and instantly envied his slow-braised feather blade of beef, but I won best dessert with the chocolate, hazelnut and passionfruit creameux. Suffice to say, wine was flowing.

The castle has two other dining options; The Father Browne Bar for pizza, and The Gallery Bar for more gastro pub style fare, which we enjoyed on night two of our stay. It goes without saying, the breakfast was perfect. There’s a menu with some incredible options that are served right to the table, and a full buffet that I am not ashamed to say I returned to multiple times. A girl’s gotta eat.

Our experience was the ‘Thermal Escape’ package, which consists of a two-night stay with breakfast, a three-course meal in Cedars, and a 50-minute stint in the hot tubs with two glasses of chilled Prosecco, followed by an hour’s access to our thermal suite at the CARA Organic Beauty Spa.

We padded down to the spa in our robes and stretched out for a little while as we waited for our hot tub to be ready. Look, I know the lovely people at Lough Eske can’t control the weather, but I will say this: the romance of the hot tub was somewhat derailed by the rapidly-falling rain. Any last ditch attempts at looking elegant and put together were lost here, and for that I can only apologise to my boyfriend. We dipped in and out of the steam room and sauna, sweating out the aforementioned wine, and rounded things off with a dip in the pool.

Operating since 1861, Lough Eske Castle is the stuff of fairytales, and I don’t say that lightly. The grounds alone are amazing, and there are complimentary bikes that you can rent out to cycle around the area. They also do a daily historical tour of the grounds, and it was clear that our tour guide Tom knew the place like the back of his hand.

During our stay, there was a wedding taking place, and the overall atmosphere was one of pure fun. It seemed like every guest felt right at home – I’ve never known guests to check out by warmly embracing the doormen like old friends, with a hope to see them soon. A special shout-out here goes to Johnny and Gerard, who made us feel completely at ease while being neatly wrapped up in the lap of luxury.

If you’re celebrating an anniversary, want to mark a special occasion, or want to treat a loved one to some well-earned R&R, I can’t recommend Lough Eske Castle enough. The award-winning destination resort, spa and wedding venue has spoiled me for all other hotels. It has simply set my standards too high.

The Thermal Escape package at Lough Eske Castle €375 for one night and €585 for two nights. Visit their website for more information or to book your stay today. Sarah Gill was a guest of Lough Eske Castle. This article was originally published in 2023.

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