Weekend Away: Delphi Mountain Resort, Connemara
The brilliant yellow furze bushes shine out like beacons as we drive through the stark beauty of Connemara towards Delphi.
The hotel itself looks as if it's hewn from stone and wood, and its gentle contours fit well into a landscape of rugged mountains, lakes and sandy beaches.
There's a turf fire burning in a hearth in reception and a warm but unforced welcome.
Room to book
Our first-floor suite is so luxurious it competes with the stunning views from the bedroom and reception room.
There's a welcoming bowl of fruit, books, board games on request, a magnificent kidney-shaped bathtub and a gigantic bed -- you'd be forgiven for camping out for the entire weekend under the crisp cotton of the thick duvet.
It's an added thrill to find that the bathroom taps run with mountain spring water.
If you're looking for something a little less fancy, there are dorms which are set up for summer camps and school tours.
Anything would taste good when you're looking out at the mist rolling in over the Mweelrea mountains, but don't miss the substantial buffet breakfast. The homemade granola was a favourite.
There's a reasonably priced buffet at lunchtime (€12) and very good bar food.
The evening meal was excellent, if a little pricey. Two courses cost €39; three are €49. Make sure to try the local produce -- the Killary Fjord mussels with spiced tomato, basil and pine-nut pesto were special.
For our mains we had pan-seared scallops with lemon mash, Parma ham and pesto, and the Louisburgh beef fillet, fondant potato, wild mushroom and red wine jus. It was top class.
Make sure to save space for the chocolate tart with hazelnut ice cream.
Delphi chalks up five stars when it comes to pampering. The staff make you feel at home without intruding, and their knowledge and interest in the local area is infectious.
At the spa, Eileen's full-body massage was deeply relaxing and the seaweed bath that followed incredibly restorative.
Once I got over the slither factor (and a fear of lurking crabs!), the feeling was magnificent. The seaweed is hand-harvested from Connemara shores, and you can buy some if you want to try to recreate the experience at home.
You won't want to leave, though. It's entirely possible to spend a whole day here, floating between the thermal suite and the relaxation area, sipping herbal tea, nibbling on fruit and stretching out on a lounger looking out over the Twelve Bens.
Everybody and anybody. You don't have to be an outdoorsy type to fit in or particularly young or fit. The atmosphere was surprisingly laid back and there was no pressure to do anything too strenuous.
It's perfect for anybody who loves the challenge and adventure of the great outdoors, but it is also a great spa location. What or how much you choose to do is entirely up to you.
What to do
You'll be spoilt for choice -- take your pick from a long list of activities that takes in kayaking, surfing, canoeing, raft building, abseiling, hill walking and archery.
On the other hand, you won't feel at all out of place if you want to laze around all day in a post-spa bathrobe.
If you want to venture further afield, Silver Strand is a stunning beach. Croagh Patrick isn't that far away either and, if you're missing things urban, Westport is within striking distance.
To some, the lack of TVs and unstable mobile phone coverage is a turn off, but if you want to switch off completely from the outside world, it's a distinct plus.
A seven-day residential camp for children, including all meals, 24-hour supervision and daily instructor-led activities, costs €499.
For families, five nights' B&B with two evening meals, family activities on two days and a seaweed bath for mum and dad costs €999. Other offers available on request.
Delphi Mountain Resort, Leenane, Connemara, Co Galway. Tel: 095 42208; delphimountainresort.com.