Arriving at the Lough Eske Hotel is like being propelled into your very own fairytale where everything is designed for your ease and comfort. Someone will park your car while you check in with a glass of mulled cider before being dropped off to your suite in a golden carriage (ok a golf buggy – but still).
From the very first greeting at the entrance of the hotel through to the restaurant wait staff and the chamber maids, one thing that really stood out was the service at this hotel. Five-star treatment of the guests was consistent in every exchange and every experience here. The staff were helpful, polite and charming, every single step of the way. And never did this falter. What was particularly delightful was that this felt so natural and genuine and it wasn’t at all over-formal.
Arriving at the hotel on a brisk winter afternoon we were whisked to our suite and immediately fell in love with the beautiful room, which housed a huge four-poster bed, a sofa, armchair, dresser, desk and a fireplace which was most welcome in the below-freezing temperatures it dropped to while we were there. The bathroom, which was decked out with fluffy white towels and robes had a spacious rain shower room and a bathtub.
The castle itself was a magnificent building, with an air of grandeur about it. Traditional paintings hung on the walls, displaying figures from centuries past and scenes from another era. There were lounges and libraries around every corner with burning log fires roaring away in the centre of them. Rows of bookshelves held classic novels, ancient encyclopedias and volumes from the greats whilst battered leather sofas invited you in to enjoy a few chapters. It was a building that particularly in winter, you would never want to leave.
They had two restaurants within the castle and we were lucky enough to enjoy dining in both during our stay. The Cedar restaurant was their higher-end dining option and is well worth a visit; the food was stunning. The attention to detail in each of their dishes, made dining there memorable and the top-quality ingredients which are mostly locally sourced, meant each dish was knockout. I started with the scallops and parsnip dish which was delicious; fresh, plump scallops sat upon parsnip puree and were topped with parsnip crisps. I went for the fillet steak for my main which arrived cooked to perfection. The meat was extremely tender which indicated a top cut of beef. Dessert was an indulgent chocolate and chilli fondant, with a gooey middle and raspberry ice-cream to accompany. This was hotel dining at its best. Their more casual offering still served exceptional food and we dined there for lunch and dinner. On the weekends you can also enjoy live music in their bar from top quality musicians. On the Saturday evening, a handsome, Irish man with a soulful voice sung and played piano, entertaining us while we enjoyed another glass of red from their extensive wine list.
Lucky for us, our garden suite was opposite the spa and thermal suite which meant it was a very short stroll to enjoy the saunas, steam rooms and spa pools before indulging in a treatment in their award-winning spa. Waiting in the relaxation room to be called by my therapist, I reclined on one of the large lounge beds with blankets, magazines and a herbal tea before being led into one of their tranquil treatment rooms, where I was to enjoy my massage. The treatment itself was exceptional – the therapist was extremely experienced and I felt very relaxed afterwards.
A stay at the Lough Eske should be a relaxed affair – lots of lazy lie-ins, lounging around by fires, eating great food in their restaurants and chilling out in the spa, but between this I would recommend taking a long walk in the area surrounding the estate. The lake is stunning and on a clear day you’ll get breathtaking views. With low-hanging whisps of clouds creating the atmosphere and the surrounding forest providing a cloak of darkness, there was an eerie feel to the lake but this only added to its appeal. It’s particularly beautiful at dusk. And as you head back to the hotel to remove your layers, you know that a sanctuary of luxury awaits you, which is quite the reward for braving the brisk winter temperatures.
Their four-poster bed was amazing. Like sleeping on plump, fluffy clouds, it provided me with the soundest night’s sleep and I left the hotel after a two-night stay like I was walking on air. Truly relaxed and recharged, I was ready to brave December and the Christmas madness that was bound to ensue. There is much to explore in the surrounding areas of the Lough Eske but when you arrive, you may struggle to drag yourself out beyond the gorgeous hotel interiors. It’s the perfect spot for a winter break and you won’t experience this five-star treatment anywhere else. Every detail is thought out and every need catered to; I couldn’t recommend this hotel enough.
Prices start from €220 per night in a deluxe room, based on 2 adults sharing. Guests receive breakfast and access to the hotel’s spa facilities. Derry is one of the most convenient and nearest airports to the Castle – transfers take around 1hr 30 minutes by car and hiring car is cheap and straight-forward.