This stunning house just outside Lahinch was our Country House of the Year in 2003 and, although many new properties have opened since then, it remains one of Ireland's most appealing (and luxurious) country houses and is run with warmth and efficiency.
It's on a wooded 15 acre site on the River Moy and a commanding position overlooking Lahinch Bay allows fantastic coastal views. Although it appears to be quite a small, low building as you approach, it's built on a hillside and has a lower floor on the sea side - a side entrance below has direct access to the dining room and conservatory, and the lower bedrooms, which is useful for anyone who might have difficulty with the narrow spiral staircase which joins the two floors internally.
A welcoming fire and fresh flowers in the hallway set the tone on arrival and, as well as several bedrooms, there's a large traditional drawing room on the entrance level. Furnished with antiques, it's in the prime position on the corner of the building, and a favourite spot to sit and take in the views. Guests are welcome to enjoy aperitifs from the honesty bar here before going down to dine, or to relax in front of the fire with coffee and petits fours after dinner.
Decor, in rich country house tones inspired by the landscape, uses natural materials, rugs and beautiful heavy fabrics to great advantage throughout the house and, together with the warmth of open fires and good lighting, the result is very atmospheric.
The stylishly decorated bedrooms all have sea views and, while they vary in size, all are luxuriously appointed and the lovely bathrooms have underfloor heating and gorgeous L'Occitane toiletries. The main rooms are wonderfully spacious, some with canopy or four-poster beds, others more contemporary; one extra-luxurious suite has a private conservatory overlooking the Atlantic - the ultimate hideaway!
Also with a conservatory, and well positioned to take advantage of the sea view, the elegantly appointed restaurant is on the lower floor, beside the original kitchen - which is still used and retains the old arch where the range once stood. While very professional, it's unusually friendly with an open door policy - guests are encouraged to pop in to see what's cooking.
Chef Matthew Strefford serves a seasonal, 5-course tasting menu which is changed daily so, while there is no choice, guests staying several nights can look forward to a completely fresh menu each evening. The style is kept simple, yet the cooking is refined and with the little treats that make dining out special. Breakfast is served here too - a lovely, stylish place to experience the best of local produce in an elegant and atmospheric setting.
There's a short but interesting wine list and, all round, this lovely house and its delightfully quirky features - the upstairs drawing room, the spiral staircase, the old (covered!) well in one of the bathrooms - offers a unique experience.
* O'Looneys Bar & Restaurant in Lahinch is in common ownership