Originally an eighteenth century residence, Glenlo Abbey is just two and a half miles from Galway city yet, beautifully located on a 138-acre estate, with its own golf course and Pavilion, it offers all the advantages of the country.
Following a period of closure and major refurbishment under new ownership, it reopened in 2015 with Rory O'Sullivan, formerly of the Park Hotel Kenmare, as General Manager. Like the Park, it is not a very big hotel but the scale is generous and - despite the relatively contemporary tone that has been introduced to the decor - the public rooms are impressive in a pleasingly old fashioned way. The ambience is welcoming and there is a sense that the hotel is well on its way to achieve its aim "to truly offer a warm, personal and luxurious experience".
The three elegant receptions rooms in the main house - the Ffrench Room, the Kentfield Lounge and the Palmer Bar - have timeless appeal, offering a relaxing place to enjoy pre dinner drink and canapés, or the very popular Afternoon Tea.
Then there is the Oak Cellar Bar, which serves light food; it provides a hideaway just off what was the original parlour of the house, and now includes an atmospherically clubby lounge with a classic herringbone parquet floor, dark wood panelling and leather sofas.
The comfortable big, luxuriously-furnished bedrooms offer a good balance of old and new, with all the expected mod cons (including complimentary wi-fi) and marbled bathrooms with lovely Orla Kiely toiletries.
Breakfast is served in the classical River Room Restaurant - a lovely bright room with tables tiered to take full advantage of lovely views over Lough Corrib and the surrounding countryside, it is also open for Sunday Lunch and for dinner on some evenings.
The restored Abbey has also been upgraded, with under floor heating now making it a much more attractive venue for for meetings and private dining, and a new south-facing terrace overlooking the walled garden offers a sunny spot that can be booked for barbecues or dining.
The golf course has been redeveloped, taking it back to its original traditional 9 hole format, and the driving range - which, like the newly built elevated putting green, is fully floodlit for night-time practice - has been upgraded to 21 bays (9 covered,12 outdoor).
Glenlo Abbey offers something different from other hotels in Galway and, although newly restored, it has retained its special old fashioned nature and the warmly friendly staff who show genuine interest in their guests.
Conference/banqueting 220; business centre, secretarial services, video conferencing, free broadband wi/fi. Golf (9 hole); fishing, equestrian, falconry, cycling, walking. Children welcome (under 2s free in parents' room, cot available, baby sitting arranged). No pets indoors (kennels provided; dog grooming offered). Garden. Boutique.
Rooms 50 (4 suites, 1 junior suite, 41 executive, 17 ground floor, 1 for disabled, all no-smoking). Wheelchair access. Lift. 24 hr room service. Room rates from about €180. Ample parking. Helipad. Open all year, including Christmas.
This is the restaurant of choice at Glenlo Abbey - perhaps the country’s most novel dinner venue, it was our Atmospheric Restaurant of the Year in 2005: four carriages, two of them from the original Orient Express that featured in scenes from “Murder on the Orient Express”, filmed in 1974.
Adapting it to restaurant use was achieved brilliantly, with no expense spared in maintaining the special features of a luxurious train and, like the rest of the hotel, it received plenty of TLC before re-opening in 2015.
There is a lounge/bar area leading to an open dining carriage and two private ‘coupes’ compartments, each seating up to six. Background ‘clackity-clack’ and hooting noises lend an authenticity to the experience and the romance is sustained by discreetly piped music of the 1940s and 50s. The view from the windows is of a coiffeured golf course, Lough Corrib and Connemara hills in the distance.
Welcome by smart staff is pleasant, service throughout exemplary. Tables are set up as on a train, with silver cutlery, simple glassware and white linen - a fitting setting for the modern classic cooking of Head Chef Alan McArdle, who joined the hotel in April 2015, and his team. And, while the cooking may be open to international influences, there's a strong emphasis on local (and Irish) ingredients, which are showcased in named dishes and also proudly detailed in a supplier list.
Recommended as much for its unique, special occasion experience as for the fare - a visit is always enjoyable.