Set in the grounds of Ashford Castle, with which it has been in common ownership since early 2014,The Lodge enjoys one of the most beautiful locations in Ireland, with views down Lough Corrib and, adding interest in the foreground, Lisloughrey Quay with small boats in the harbour and its old stone buildings set against wooded hills.
The heart of the hotel is a fine period house which was once home to the General Manager of Ashford Castle. Behind it, new accommodation has been added discreetly in two-bedroom units, built around an attractive landscaped courtyard (where civil wedding ceremonies may be held); to the side, a bright and airy function room is well-designed with direct access to a bar and other public areas, and also to the lawn at the front of the house, making a wonderful setting for weddings and other special occasions.
A modern approach was taken throughout the interior at the time of its initial redevelopment. However, since it came into the ownership of Beatrice and Stanley Tollman and enjoys close integration with sister property Ashford Castle, refurbishment has restored the elegance of this beautiful old house.
The best accommodation is in the old house, with views down Lough Corrib - two suites have a free-standing bath in the room, one of them copper; however most rooms are in the new development, where the bedrooms are not especially large but have wall-mounted flat screen TV and various technical extras and, more importantly, the benefit of big, very comfortable beds and tip-top quality pillows and bedding.
The fashion-led bathrooms were not so easily changed, but they are a good size; standard rooms have only a power shower with rain dance shower head, but the ten more spacious junior suites have better bathrooms including full bath, and it is worth paying a premium if necessary.
Business facilities include the first floor Library in the main house, which is suitable for meetings (or private dinners) of up to 30.
Conferences/Banqueting (200/180); freebroadband wi/fi. Treatment rooms, masseuse, jacuzzi, sauna, fitness room, walking, boat trips, fishing (trout, salmon), golf & equestrian nearby.
Rooms 50 (26 suites, 10 family, 24 ground floor, 3 disabled, 38 shower only). DB&B from about €140 (room rate). Children welcome (under 10s free in parents room, cot available free of charge, baby sitting arranged); all day room service; lift.
Wilde's at the Lodge:
Named after local legend Sir William Wilde (father of Oscar) this smartly appointed restaurant is in two rooms on the first floor, with lovely views of the lough and quay. As the evening draws in, warm lighting creates an atmospheric setting for what promises to be an unusually interesting meal.
Talented and inventive, Head Chef Jonathan Keane grew up in Connemara and a love of the great West of Ireland foods clearly informs his cooking.
Menus inspired by the availability of local produce change with the seasons, adding an extra dimension to the dining experience as - through each dish and his suppliers list - Jonathan introduces guests to his chosen ingredients from land and sea, and the people who produce or supply them.
While accomplished, the style is refreshingly simple with no unnecessary cheffy flourishes: the message is in the ingredients. Starters, for example, may include Killeen Parcel, which is made with goats cheese supplied by Killeen Farmhouse Cheese of Ballinasloe, Co Galway, along with Mulranny honey, plums, and leaves from organic supplier Reek View Farm, at Westport. You'll also find a gorgeous paté from Kate McCormack's in Westport, featuring perhaps in a fun starter the Westport Lolly, with rhubarb providing welcome sharpness and pecans for texture.
Killary Fjord Shellfish provide mussels from Ireland's only fjord, while other fish and seafood comes mainly from Gannet Fishmongers in Galway who, for example, supply the wild halibut for another lovely starter, in which the pan-seared fish is served with an intriguing combination of pickled beetroot, parsnip and caper.
A favourite ingredient is M.A.S.S. (Mayo Atlantic Sea Spray) lamb, which is the local variation on the pré-salé (salt meadow) lamb so popular in France and cannily marketed as 'the taste of the West of Ireland, seasoned by nature!'. It's supplied by legendary butcher Kellys of Newport, along with other meats including his famous black pudding and speciality sausages, some of which have seaweed in the mix - try the Wilde's M.A.S.S. shoulder of lamb, perhaps, marinated in coca cola and slow cooked, this unique dish comes with dillisk sausage, roast garlic and horseradish mash...
And vegetarians will love the care and creativity applied to their special dishes too - the tellingly named Kinlough Forest Rigatoni, for example, showcases the wild mushrooms and herbs that Jonathan and his team go out to forage for themselves.
Diners generally expect desserts to be decadent, and there's a fair share of chocolate and other calorie-laden indulgences to be enjoyed, but also seasonal fruits that will be appreciated by those who like a more refreshing finale to their meal - and, of course, some Irish farmhouse cheeses too.
Backed up by an interesting wine list and solicitous, knowledgeable service, this should be a very special dining experience.
* The bar food menu at The Quay Bar at the Lodge offers an inviting range of dishes, from Lodge Chowder with homemade soda bread to speciality sandwiches and hot dishes, including a rib-eye steak, all based on carefully sourced ingredients.