If you are on any type of social media, you’ve probably heard about Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, the world’s longest defined coastal touring route. While the jaw-dropping scenic views of Ireland have been here for centuries, this part of the west coast of Ireland may be unfamiliar to you. This was my second time to visit the Emerald Isle and it felt like coming home to be back in County Donegal. We were driving down from Northern Ireland and dropped into Letterkenny for a two night stay at Castle Grove Country House. Located in the north west of Ireland, Castle Grove is an historic manor house that was built in 1695. Only someone with a deep background in hospitality would have the ability and experience to convert a 300 year old mansion into a four star, award-winning hotel.
This part of Donegal was new to us, so we were excited to explore Glenveagh Castle, Sliabh Liag, some of the highest sea cliffs on the island, and learn about the Donegal food coast. We didn’t have to go far to learn about the regional Irish food. Turns out this Georgian house, seated on the banks of Lake Swilly, also has a private walled garden, designed by “Capability” Brown. They grow their own organic produce on the family-owned 250 acre estate. Make sure you include dinner or Sunday lunch at Castle Grove, even if you aren’t staying here as an overnight hotel guest.
We were fortunate to stay at Castle Grove on Mother’s Day weekend, so flowers and fresh baked sweets could be found through the country house. After a leisurely morning drive in the country and visit to Glenveagh, a special area dedicated to conservation, we returned to our hotel for afternoon tea. After numerous stays at Ireland manor houses, I’m pleased to say that Castle Grove had some of the best tasting pastries we’ve come across in Ireland – they have their own in-house pastry chef. Their chocolate brownies, carrot cake and scones, made with fruit jam from the garden, were delicious.
That evening, after a gourmet meal of lamb and fresh local fish, we retired to the Jonathan Swift suite. One of 15 en-suite bedrooms, our upstairs room had a gorgeous antique four poster bed and our own private sitting room for us to have our own tea party. All superior rooms over-look the gardens and you need not worry about packing a robe, hair dryer or shampoo. If you require an ada accessible room, there are several on the ground floor of the property.
You would think that we would be stuffed to the gills after indulging in afternoon tea and a multi-course dinner – with dessert. However, we managed to rise to the occasion and order the full Irish breakfast in the morning. In case the Irish breakfast is new to you, it includes egg, sausage, bacon, optional Irish pudding, tomato, toast, juice and coffee or tea – sometimes this is in addition to fresh fruit, yogurt, cheese and granola. Perhaps if we had hand plowed the entire 250 acres on the property, we might have burned off some of the calories that we had consumed over the past several days. Instead, we took a short walk around the grounds and then headed into town for more sightseeing. Depending on the length of your stay, the staff is happy to arrange local golf, horse riding, fishing or other sporting activities.
Rates for a stay at this Georgian country house range from 110-200 euros low season, to 150-250 euros during high season. As always, check the hotel website for current prices and special offers. You can also compare rates at agoda.com.
Review by Nancy D. Brown, Bay Area Travel Writer and Country House admirer. I was a guest of Castle Grove Country House and Ireland’s Blue Book while exploring Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. All photos courtesy of Nancy D. Brown.