Hotel deal of the week: The Lough Rea Hotel and Spa, County Galway
On the surface, deals are plentiful - golf breaks and castles, country houses and estates, and all seem to be under-booked. Rooms appear to come cheap and plentiful, but in practice things aren't always that easy. Once the little luxuries have been added, a weekend away often adds up to as much as it ever did and a 'bargain' often turns out to be anything but.
An overnight stay at a four-star hotel with breakfast and three-course dining for €70pps seemed too good to be true, but a recent visit to the Lough Rea Hotel and Spa proved me wrong.
Just over two-years-old, from the outside the hotel looks much like the standard boom hotel but, once inside, any fears that the hotel is drab or identikit are quickly dispelled. The bar is lively, the lobby bustling and whilst the Lough Rea isn't in the mould of a castle break or golf resort, it's certainly cheery enough. Perhaps the decor won't be for everyone but it doesn't lack the details a four-star should offer.
The Lough Rea is well placed geographically. Twenty minutes to Galway, five minutes from Loughrea town and a short hop for the wider countryside. The Lough Rea has a diverse mix of guests - weekend walkers, coach parties and plenty of tourists give a busy feel to the hotel and by the time you add the locals, friends of the bride and groom, and the odd family to the mix, the place becomes more intimate than the brochure might suggest. Unlike many boom hotels, it's not simply a passing point for somewhere else or an edge of the town retreat for business travelers.
My room was a spacious, well-designed double with views over the limestone lake and the Slieve Aughty mountains. For a hotel in this range, the rooms, especially the en-suites, are excellent value. Glass screens, granite counters and luxury fittings make for decent bathing and once the walnut furniture, cushioned headboards and rich furnishings had been given the once-over I found myself pleased enough at how far €70 had managed to take me.
Dining at Lough Rea wasn't bad either - price aside, the service turned out to be excellent and the food pretty decent. Three courses including a tian of crab starter, rare beef mains and an excellent citrus tart with basil ice-cream were timed well and served perfectly. Drifting away over a cheeseboard and the last drops of a house Merlot left me in no doubt that my final destination would be bed and a late movie rather than the hotel nightclub.
It's a well worn criticism that hotels built in the boom are more often drop-off points for identikit travellers rather than hotels which leave an impression. In this particular case what may be true on the outside is forgotten by check-out. The staff are approachable and attentive, the town warm and welcoming, and whilst everyone prefers a castle for the weekend, paying a premium or a pittance is no guarantee of value either way. Even over this price the Lough Rea would be well worth the money and the little extras don't tip the balance either.
Independent Rating :
Room : 4 / 5
Food : 3 / 5
Service : 5 / 5
Atmosphere : 3 / 5
Value for Money : 5 / 5
What's the deal: I sampled an overnight package at the Lough Rea Hotel which included one night's accommodation in a superior room, a three-course meal in the Abbey Restaurant and breakfast the next morning. The package is available from €69pps and is available from the hotel website.