Saturday 16 December 2017

Weekend Away: Kilronan Castle, Co Roscommon

Kilronan Castle sits in rural Roscommon
Kilronan Castle sits in rural Roscommon
The bedrooms are fit for a king

Gemma O'Doherty

First impressions

It’s after 10pm, we’re weak with hunger, but our home for the night, Kilronan Castle in the wilds of rural Roscommon, is still another half an hour away.

It looks as if we might be going to bed on empty stomachs until an angel called Marina comes to the rescue when we ring reception and explain our plight.

“Take your time,” she says. “We’re busy tonight so the kitchen is still open. There’s no hurry at all.”

Castles built from scratch in the 21st century wouldn’t normally be my cup of tea, but I’m willing to forgive any of Kilronan’s architectural pretensions after that sort of treatment. It should be bottled up and drummed into every hotel receptionist in the country.

Room to book

King Henry VIII would feel at home in room 110, and American coach tourists, a key target market for this four-star pile set on 49 green acres, must swoon when they arrive.

A four-poster bed made for serious snoozing, plush sofa, lavish satin curtains and generous furniture create a regal feel, and the huge marble bathroom is a joy, and spotlessly clean. I’m the sort of hygiene freak who runs a finger under the basin when I check into a room. Top marks to housekeeping.

Heads on pillows, a blissful night’s sleep awaits, but hang on! Is that piped music coming from the speakers outside our door? At midnight, I gently enquire from reception when it might be turned off. Five minutes later, silence reigns.

The food

The Douglas Hyde restaurant, named after the first president of Ireland, who was born in nearby Castlerea, is a lovely room to spend an evening in. Huge bay windows gaze over gorgeous views of the castle lake and woods, and interesting paintings dot the wood-panelled walls.

The menu teems with top-of-therange ingredients, from oysters and scallops to guinea fowl and beef on the bone, but the choice of accompaniments is eccentric in places.

My seared quail and foie gras (€11.50) was tender and satisfying, but served with a sour coleslaw which missed the mark. Another odd choice is the union of oysters and spinach.

The dry-aged fillet steak (€29.95), which came as a main, was served with crisp potato rosti and wild mushroom.

Pick of the puddings was a chocolate fondant (€7.50), served with a novel Guinness ice cream and Bailey’s Anglaise Breakfast, served until 10.30am and buzzing with young families when we were there, was more of a canteen experience. A buffet of mediocre cereals, fruit salad and juice from a carton didn’t overexcite us and we felt our fry was pre-cooked.

But our waitress, Neha, provided such adorable service, it made up for any gastronomic disappointments.

The pamper factor

The castle spa sits in the east wing of the property stretching over what seems like acres of marbles floors and gleaming corridors. It has the feel of a Grecian temple with white columns, shimmering pools and dimmed lighting, but there’s nothing ancient about the extra-large Jacuzzi, hydrotherapy suite and smart changing rooms. Below is a good-size indoor pool with mosaic blue tiles. There’s also a state-of-the-art gym. If you’re staying for treatments and want a massage worth its salt, ask for Lindsey, a delightful local therapist with magic fingers. Budget €45 for the pleasure.

What to do

Like its nearby sister hotel, Lough Rynn, where BOD and Amy had their nuptials, Kilronan is wedding central. Which other Irish hotel can boast two weddings a week — minimum — booked between now and December? Somebody’s keeping the IMF happy.

Quite simply, this place is adored by the bridal brigade, but what does that mean for uninvited guests?

Happily, the sheer scale of this hotel and its state-of-the-art sound-proofing mean you probably won’t even be aware of a 200-person party going in the ballroom.

The glorious grounds around the estate are great for exploring on foot or bike. Set off on a woodland trail through ancient forestry or stroll along the shores of lovely Lough Meelagh. Sligo and Carrick on Shannon are a short spin away.

The damage

A one-night stay midweek costs from €99 per double room, including breakfast. Add on another €50 per night for a weekend stay. A castle suite room costs from €159 midweek, but ask for an upgrade when you book and you might be lucky.

The details

Kilronan Castle Estate and Spa, Ballyfarnon, Co Roscommon. Tel: 071 961 8000;

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