Review: Lough Eske Castle, Donegal
One Night Stand: It may take a while to reach Lough Eske Castle, but the big reveal is absolutely worth it.
As you make your way down the long, winding driveway from the main road, anticipation builds. Snippets of the lake can be seen between the trees. A statue of a dragon breathes fire, resembling the branch of a tree. And then the castle appears, stoic and grand, with sandy turrets reaching towards the Donegal sky. As first impressions go, it's tough to beat.
Highlights: The interior of the castle is fairly modern, after thorough renovations in 2007, when the hotel opened. This means rooms are cosy and warm, and thoughtfully equipped with everything you'd need. The beds are impossibly plush, and quite tricky to leave come morning. Our dinner in Cedars Restaurant was faultless, with impeccably cooked local meat and creative dishes. The cocktail menu is impressive too, with an espresso martini best taken in one of the grand yet cosy living rooms, before a roaring fire.
Lowlights: In some parts of the hotel, the woodwork can be a little scuffed. A quick lick of paint would make a huge difference. Best for: Couples, families and spa bunnies - Spa Solis is kitted out with a thermal suite and swimming pool, and a variety of treatments are available.
Concierge's Choice: All the staff we spoke to urged us to get out and get active, with either a bike ride around the lake or a hike to the Blue Stack Mountains, which are right behind the hotel. More than one person recommended a drive to Slieve League.
Ask for room number: If you're after a traditional castle experience, four-poster bed and all, then request one of the five rooms in the castle itself.
Guests of honour: As is to be expected, the hotel remains tight-lipped about their previous celebrity guests. But we do know that Sarah Jessica Parker recently stopped by for dinner with husband Matthew Broderick.
Rates: Room rates start from €245 per night. This autumn, the hotel is offering a Midweek Tranquility Package, which includes two nights accommodation, breakfast, a four-course dinner on one night, afternoon tea on one day, and full use of the spa with a discount on certain treatments. Prices start at €449 per couple.
Contact: www.solishotels.com/lougheskecastle; 07497 25100.