At the heart of this impressive relatively new hotel there is indeed a castle and, although it does not have views of Lough Eske, the setting should not disappoint as it is surrounded by beautiful woodland and formal gardens.
With a history dating back to a castle built by the O’Donnells (founders of Donegal town) in the late 1400s, it is no stranger to add-ons and reconstructions, so the recent restoration of a Victorian castle (destroyed by fire in 1939) seems totally in keeping. And it has been very well done.
Not only does the luxurious castle itself have great atmosphere and presence, with its spacious public rooms, impressive fireplaces and leaded windows, but the new sections are well conceived to be easy on the eye as well as being supremely practical in use.
On arrival, for example, it’s a pleasure to see how well-chosen sandstone subtly links the colour of new sections to the castle frontage, and there are similar examples everywhere – notably the leisure centre and spa, which is in the old walled garden and designed to look like the old lean-to glasshouses, with the swimming pool in a lovely bright garden setting.
The 96 bedrooms and suites vary according to their position in the property, with most luxurious castle suites offering a sumptuous blend of antique charm and modern comfort, while others have a simpler, more contemporary feel; all are stylishly appointed, with lovely bathrooms and all the modern extras including wi/fi.
Staff are friendly in a casual way and, although it does not have the personal hospitality that is so special to family-run hotels in Ireland - and perhaps especially in Donegal - this is an exceptionally comfortable and relaxing hotel and a lovely place to stay.
Conference/Banqueting (300/250); small meetings (14-40); business centre, secretarial services, free broadband wi/fi. Rooms 96 (7 suites, 8 junior suites, 5 family, 40 ground floor, 3 disabled, all no smoking); children welcome (under 3s free in parents room, cot available free of charge, baby sitting arranged). Dogs permitted (stay in bedrooms, no charge). Spa, Fitness Centre and Pool, Golf Nearby
The restaurant - which has woodland views and opens onto a large slate terrace - is bright and luxurious yet contemporary, with lots of deep buttoning in comfortable bucket chairs and matching wall coverings, and a combination of darkwood tables with dark moss green runners and others set with crisp white linen cloths and green linen napkins. It makes a stylish backdrop for fine dining in the evening and, with simpler table settings, for an enjoyable buffet breakfast.
Executive Chef Philipp Ferber credits his love of working with local produce to his grandfather who could 'turn simple local ingredients into delicious meals fit for any table'. He has been making waves in the region's culinary competitions, and takes pride in creating signature dishes based on ingredients such as local crab (as in Inver Bay brown crab cakes, fennel and apple slaw, for example), and in offering a choice of breed (Angus or Hereford) on the steak menu.
A house speciality dessert of Frozen Tyrconnell Irish Coffee will please guests with a sweet tooth - an espresso and whiskey parfait, it is served in a glass with warm white chocolate foam and caramel crisp...
An extensive list of world wines is offered to match the food.
Staff are pleasant and helpful although, in the Guide’s experience, slightly disorganised – a little extra training could make a big difference to the dining experience here.
Cedars is often fully booked, particularly during the summer months when hotel occupancy is high (this is a popular wedding venue and short breaks destination), so advanced reservation is strongly advised.
*Informal meals are also available daily in the Gallery Bar, 11am-12 midnight.