Built into steep cliffs beside the pretty village of Ardmore and overlooking Ardmore Bay and the Irish Sea, this boutique hotel has brought a new focus to an area of outstanding hospitality and unspoilt natural beauty which has somehow remained a well kept secret until recently.
General Manager Adriaan Bartels is one of Ireland’s most respected hoteliers, well known for his warmth and discreet customer care, and the hotel has earned a reputation for its emphasis on service as well as exceptional food and a fresh contemporary style. While not a conventional five star hotel, it offers a different spin on luxury that guests find refreshing.
On arrival from the Dungarvan side, the hotel is impossible to miss - pretty with twinkling lights at night – and very easy to find. The drive through the quaint little village is short and, at the door, welcoming staff immediately make you feel at home.
The entrance into the contemporary reception area is stunning, with a dramatic spiral staircase leading down to the bar and restaurant, striking colours, and the open fire which is always such a welcome feature in Ireland - but the star is the sea, seen through the huge back window. The building has a unique layout, which can make it hard to get your bearings, but cheerful staff are always at the ready to rescue anyone who goes missing.
The gorgeous rooms are not huge but all have sea views, and many have a private balcony with table and chairs for al fresco dining. Décor, in several schemes, is bold and modern with wifi, flat screen TV etc as standard, yet with classic touches and an emphasis on comfort; the boldest is in a strong pink, which works well against darkwood furniture, subdued carpet, original artwork and feature bedheads – a ‘cat’s cradle’ of coloured wools strung behind glass, perhaps.
Generous bathrooms take up perhaps a tad too much of the available space but, with free standing bath and separate shower seen against soft natural light from a frosted glass window on the bedroom side and a combination of natural slate and iridescent mosaic tiling, they are impressive - and, while a little short on practical shelf space, have loads of fluffy white towels, robes, slippers and lovely toiletries to pamper.
And, when it comes to pampering, they're no slouches here, with The Well spa offering a stunningly positioned outdoor infinity pool - and a Jacuzzi, sauna, steam room and gym, all overlooking the bay. And, better still perhaps, there are steps down to a natural rock pool.
An excellent (and unusually speedily served) breakfast is served in the restaurant.
Events and meetings – details on inquiry.
Small conferences/banqueting (66/50); business centre, secretarial services, video conferencing, free broadband wi/fi, laptop sized safes in bedrooms. Children welcome (under 5s free in parents room, baby sitting arranged, play room). Leisure Centre (swimming pool, fitness room, jacuzzi, sauna, steam room); Spa (treatment rooms, massage); beauty salon. Fishing, golf, equestrian, scuba diving, surfing & watersports all nearby.
Rooms 39. Average room rate €225. 24 hr room service; lift. Dogs permitted (staying in outhouse/kennel, no charge).
The attractive bar and restaurant are on the floor below reception, overlooking Ardmore Bay and opening onto an extensive terrace. Head Chef Martijn Kajuiter moved from his native Holland with his family to settle in the area – and his dedication has made a major impression on the Irish culinary scene and beyond, attracting a steady stream of accolades, both national and international.
Simply laid tables are graced with the most beautiful Irish linen; made in Donegal, it provides the perfect complement for the exceptional cooking (although an undercloth would make it more comfortable in use, as it is is very fine).
The simply worded menu speaks of Martijn Kajuiter's philosophy – organic Clare Island salmon, Irish free-range pork, local Suffolk lamb, Ballinwillin venison (or even partridge), Helvick turbot, hake and monkfish and Skeaghanore duck (from nearby County Cork) all feature, as does the organically grown produce from a nearby allotment and, more recently, also grown on-site. Seasonality is king here, and menus depend absolutely on the availability of fresh local produce.
Yet, for all the strong simplicity of ingredients, they appear in a highly sophisticated international cuisine featuring smokes a-plenty (although less foams these days), and with many original touches. Starters, especially, are extremely complex and the many elements demand concentration. Main courses are less obviously intricate, with the emphasis on textures, colour and intense flavours; complementary ice creams and mousses feature strongly, along with dried accompaniments.
Be sure to leave some room for desserts, which are a highlight – as are the petits fours which are sure to end the meal with éclat.
Word perfect staff provide very professional service throughout.
All round, this is an exceptional and very labour-intensive dining experience, and it offers remarkable value - as does the wine list.
*Simpler meals are served in the bar; these may be included in packages offered, so check that you have the dining option of your choice when booking.