The Westmeath hotel has been reimagined as a funky four-star resort, as suited to kids as cocktails, overlooking Lough Ree
They’re onto something here.
I say it when I see a whole block of the golf resort painted black; when we walk into a lobby completely clad in timber; see shiny airstream food trailers where the 18th hole used to be; and when we pluck vinyl from a lobby shelf to listen to in our room.
Yep, they’re definitely onto something.
Once a farm, Co Westmeath’s Glasson Lakehouse began its hotel journey in the 1990s when the old house was developed with a Christy O’Connor Jr-designed golf course. I remember it as a fairly generic resort and wedding venue; the decor was tiring when Dublin’s Press Up Group acquired it for a reported €9m, and I doubt it and the word ‘hip’ ever appeared in the same sentence.
Well, now they can. The revamp is actually kind of thrilling.
The Rating: 7.5/10
Could you place Glasson on a map?
The village is off-grid, but punches above its weight — it’s home to the Blue Book’s Wineport Lodge, gave us The Fatted Calf (now relocated to Athlone), and is a stone’s throw from Lough Ree’s inner lakes. The Lakehouse’s perch, just 1.5 hours from Dublin and 10 minutes off the M4, is stunning and surprising.
Stepping inside, you’d half-expect to see skiers kicking snow off their boots. The open lobby feels like an edgy Alpine resort, wrapped in wood, with enormous fireplaces, a retail nook displaying McNutt blankets and La Bougie candles, and a couple eating at a rustic table with a dog by their feet. Its centerpiece is a round, leather conversation chair where I immediately want to sit with a craft gin.
The biggest transformation is out back, where several holes of the golf course have been re-landscaped and lake views stretch over food trucks (Wowburger and Elephant and Castle), a huge slide dipping into a new playground, an outdoor pool heated year-round to a lounge-tastic 32C, and three hot tubs steaming beside a sunken terrace. I’m already smiling. Where do we start? 9/10
This is clearly a Press Up hotel. If you’ve seen The Devlin or Mayson in Dublin, or T he Dean in Cork, Dublin (and soon, Galway), you’ll spot the hallmarks — zippy cocktails, restaurant booths perfect for catch-ups and people-watching, bold splashes of Irish art, a retro-fitted pub and hip young staff in jeans, trainers and over-sized blazers.
During our visit, General Manager Dave O’Keefe stops by at dinner wearing a pair of shiny gold Air Force 1 trainers. “They give me joy,” my wife says.
Interiors are eclectic and exciting. A herringbone floor may turn your head here, a neon sign there; and it’s impossible to resist the mini-Marshall amps and ‘Munchie Trays’ stocked with Tayto, Fruit Pastilles (and Rennie) in rooms. Glasson offers a much larger canvas to play with, and designers have kept the Press Up stamp while clearly having fun. Why not rip up the 18th hole? Why not paint that bedroom wing black, or add a boutique cinema? The Stella will start screening movies within the next year.
Activities are central. You can book pool slots, boat trips (from €40) and kayaks (€20/€10pp) on the lake, and kids’ golf classes can be arranged with resort pro, Lynn McCool. There are lots of families having fun on our visit. 8/10
King, Deluxe, Family and Suites are the room types available — I’d recommend asking for one that has been refurbished, and paying extra for a lakeview option. Ours paired comfy, king-sized beds with teal panelling, funky animal and botanical prints and neat touches like a minibar cocktail shaker, Smeg fridge, record player and robes (weirdly, one bore the crest of a non-Press Up hotel in Dublin). The bathroom hadn’t yet been refurbed to the same degree, however. Aside from some jazzed-up shower floor tiles and product dispensers, we could have been stepping back into the Lakehouse 1.0. Upgrades are coming, I’m told. 7/10
Dee Adamson, formerly of The Fatted Calf, is an inspired choice as executive chef. Her casual, bistro-style menu for Bonnie’s, the hotel’s buzzy food and cocktail hub, is a tasty first stab, and I’d love her passionate, local foodie ethos to be front and centre as the Lakehouse evolves.
A cider-brined pork belly (€13.50) and prawn tempura (€13.50) are zingy starters, with a braised lamb shoulder (€25) and pea, mint and basil arancini (€18.50) pick of the mains. It’s great to see Young Buck and Mossfield on the cheeseboard; I’d love more of that kind of provenance on the menu.
On our second night, we ate on the terrace (pictured above), but were disappointed to find its grill was for weddings and groups. Service had been lovely inside at Bonnie’s, but felt pressured here and there was confusion over orders.
Recruitment is a global issue for hospitality, and this is by no means unique to Glasson Lakehouse — inconsistencies in experience and training have been a feature of my summer travels. Customers need to be patient and kind, but are paying handsomely too. How long can it last?
Breakfast was a la carte, with no buffets for holidaymakers to graze, but the menu had great granola, tasty avo and toast and ‘Full Irish’ options, and the kids gave the French toast and vanilla buttermilk pancakes the thumbs-up. 7/10
We’ll need to see how the outdoor spaces work in winter, and wedding and leisure guests crossed paths lots on our visit. But the mix of families, adult groups, golfers and pet-owners mostly gelled, a spa offering is on the way, and there’s talk of more rooms and cabins. All told, it’s a genius set-up for gatherings, mixed groups, and young parents missing weekends away. They’re onto something here.
For a quieter stay, request a room further from the terrace. Dog-friendly stays are available; animals can accompany owners at the terrace and lobby areas as they eat.
Bring the bikes. The midlands are becoming a cycling hub, with the Old Rail Trail and Royal Canal Greenway nearby.
A ‘Stay and Dine’ offer has B&B and dinner at Bonnie’s from €240 midweek. glassonlakehouse.ie
NB: Pól was a guest of the resort.
Despite a long, hard year, those in the hospitality industry are exploding with creativity right now. It seems like everywhere you turn, there’s an innovative team launching something imaginative and vibrant.