Slieve Aughty Centre is a tranquil, remote eco-friendly guesthouse and certified organic restaurant, equestrian centre, and small conference and wedding venue in East County Galway. It is a place of beauty and peace, surrounded by more than 2,000 acres of forestry and awarded Gold in 2012 by Ecotourism Ireland.
They operate a sustainable business, growing their own fruits and vegetables for the Three Towers Organic Kitchen, which is certified by the Irish Farmers and Growers Association.
The nine en-suite bedrooms are all different, some with quite strong personalities notably in the bathrooms; most of the first floor rooms have balconies and they are perhaps surprisingly luxurious for an eco-destination, some with four-poster beds.
There are also delightful eco cabins that are especially suitable for families and can be self-catering or full board as preferred; a romantic honeymoon lodge - and two cottages, available for full board in summer and for self catering off season. The standard throughout is high, with open fires or stoves and comfortable sitting rooms as well as plenty of space outside.
You don’t have to take part in the activities of the centre and there is plenty to do in the area, but it’s a very friendly place and appeals to people who enjoy the slightly commune-like atmosphere - you can have a working holiday here, working with the horses or perhaps the garden, and if you want to have an equestrian holiday bringing your own horse that is fine.
Guests take their meals together, relax in the evenings, play games, or talk about the day’s riding. On a sunny day, you can just relax outside on the decking and enjoy the view.
Or you can just visit the organic restaurant and wine bar, The Organic Kitchen, which is in a new building, completed in 2012. Bright and spacious, it’s an uncluttered area with light cream walls and marble tiled floor, large plain country kitchen style tables with matching chairs, discreet lighting with plenty of candle holders and stands on both walls and floor to make it atmospheric at night. The kitchen is open and the food is served buffet style from a long table in front of the hatch.
The lunch menu is small, a choice of two well made soups - an earthy mushroom and a spicy tomato and coconut, perhaps, served with good home-made bread - which make excellent starters. To follow there would typically be a Spanish omelette, good house paté, salami, a risotto and fresh organic leaves with home produced chutney.
Desserts might offer a choice of apple crumble or strawberry mousse followed by good coffee and tea. There may also be a couple of local cheeses included in the meal and, with a glass of wine, lunch for two might be about €30, and very good value at that.
Dinner is served in the same style and would include a meat or poultry dish of the day, such as roast marinated free-range chicken. In addition to their own organic produce, listed suppliers include The Burren Smokehouse, Lisdoonvarna; Mossfield Organic Farm and Clanwood Organic Farm, both in the Birr area; Second Nature Oils, Urlingford; Beechlawn Organic Farm at Ballinasloe and Crowe Farm Meats from Dundrium, Co Tipperarary.
There is a wine bar adjacent to the restaurant serving a range of organic wines, beers and non-alcoholic drinks and also a selection of tapas/snacks from which to order. A list of about ten wines includes a rose and a prosecco; all are available by the glass and reasonably priced from €17 per bottle, €5.50 by the glass.
It is a very restful room and is an ideal area for a spot of quiet reading, have a chat or just to sit and watch the other activities of the centre.
It’s all very chilled out but it is ‘alternative’, with a different ethos to ordinary places to stay or eat, so it will be very friendly but just don’t expect quite the same kind of service as in conventional destinations.