Weekend Away: Connemara Coast Hotel, Galway
On a cold winter’s night, my wife Deirdre and I braved the lengthy drive from Waterford to Galway — no easy feat with blizzarding sleet and roadworks slowing things up every time we seemed to be making progress.
Just as I thought we’d never get there, we saw it: the Connemara Coast Hotel, looking like something from a Paul Henry painting. With the sea swelling in the background and lights twinkling in the windows, it seemed like a cross between an old-fashioned hunting lodge and a 19th-century pub.
Room to book
Our intended laziness was fully facilitated by the staff. While our bags were whisked up from reception, we were shown to our Grande suite.
A small lounge area with reclining chairs for watching TV led on to a gorgeous bathroom, which managed to be gleamingly modern and quaintly antique all at the same time. A spaceage shower nestled beside an Edwardian- style sink set in a marble dressing table through one door, and a prairiesized bedroom, overlooking the sea and the Aran Islands from another.
Nothing beats being snuggled up warmly in bed on a wild stormy night with the curtains open so you awake to the sight of crashing white horses on the waves.
An ornamental garden at the rear of the hotel brings you down to the beach. There was quite a wind blowing when we started our trek, but we were dressed for the Arctic. Followed by the cry of herring gulls and kittiwakes, we wended our way back to the hotel, where we followed our bracing walk with a dip in the outdoor hot tub.
I will admit that I took a bit of persuading, but relaxing in the bubbling hot water with clouds scudding across the wintry sky, and a predatory peregrine falcon hovering over the salt marsh, proved an utter delight.
Bouillabaisse-style chowder (€6.50) was full of bite-sized pieces of seafood without being too filling for a starter. The sirloin steak (€23.50) — such an easy thing to get right, yet frequently cooked desperately badly — was done exactly as ordered.
Best of all, though, was a dessert that took my breath away. I ordered, because I was intrigued, cinnamon crème brûlée served with bloodorange ice-cream (€6.50).
Best. Dessert. Ever.
What to do
Weekends away can so easily become frenetic attempts to squeeze in everything a place has to offer, but this time we were determined not to succumb to that temptation.
The Connemara Coast serves breakfast until the civilised hour of 11am. After a lazy morning in bed, enjoying the views of the coastline and the Saturday newspaper, we had a late brunch followed by a leisurely shopping trip into Galway City.
Various walking tours are available if you’d like some guidance around the sights, leading you on historic strolls about town and rambles across the wild places of the nearby National Park.
For those more inclined to stay put, I passed a happy couple of hours in one of the hotel’s cosy nooks, reading an antique copy of Dickens’ ‘Christmas Books’.The little cubby-hole also had books from, among many others, Ed McBain and Wilbur Smith.
Our suite was at the far end of the hotel, so situated, I presume, to keep it tucked far away from any unwelcome noise pollution. Yet I did find the return journey — no elevator ride made it any shorter — to the bar or reception a little off- putting.
That’s why God invented room service, I suppose.
Rooms start at €60 per person sharing, or splash out on a Junior Suite for an extra €80. Grande suites involve a supplement of €125 per room, including breakfast. There is a special offer running at the moment to celebrate the hotel’s 25th birthday. You can pick up a standard room for €25 per person sharing on select days.
Connemara Coast Hotel, Furbo, Galway. Tel: 091 92108; connemaracoast.ie.