Galway: From 5-star finery to a campsite ‘that might go for Tahiti’

This 12 months, a bout of midlife melancholy noticed me ponder the previous, however the pursuit of enjoyment in the end received out, and precipitated a celebratory no-frills tenting journey to the Wild Atlantic Approach which segued, delightfully, right into a bucket-list bonanza.

With my pint-side Mazda packed to the gills with a mad mixture of tenting gear and posh frocks, my buddy Christine and I set off on the lengthy drive to Galway, and Friday night time’s crib, Clifden Eco Seashore Tenting and Caravaning Park.

Situated on the estuary of Streamstown Bay, and owned by Kris and Tatjana Acton, the zero-carbon-footprint website has fairly the eco pedigree. It is a listed geosite, local weather impartial, and was the primary enterprise in Europe to ban single-use plastic bottles (there is a spring-water supply of remarkable high quality on website).

The placement’s pure magnificence is gobsmacking: grassy dunes, white-sand seashores, lapped by turquoise waters – in sunshine, it may go for Tahiti. We have been allotted an ideal pitch by the water, and having arrange camp, headed down the seaside to hunt out the tiny tidal island of Omey. Fortunately, the tide was out, enabling us to discover the ruins of medieval St Feichin’s Church; it was buried in sand till 1981, and is surrounded by a semi-sunken village, the inhabitants of which all died in Famine occasions.

Nightfall was falling as we returned to our tent, so we lit our eco-friendly brazier (supplied on website, for a price), cracked open the vino, and sat in companionable silence watching the now-navy sky mild up with stars. Magic.

View towards Cruagh Island from the cairn on the tidal islet of Illaunakeegher on Omey Island. Photo: Gareth McCormack, from Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way – A Walking Guide by Helen Fairbairn (The Collins Press, 2016)

View in direction of Cruagh Island from the cairn on the tidal islet of Illaunakeegher on Omey Island. Picture: Gareth McCormack, from Eire’s Wild Atlantic Approach – A Strolling Information by Helen Fairbairn (The Collins Press, 2016)

Subsequent morning, having cooked eggs and brewed espresso on our tiny range, we breakfasted watching seabirds swoop alongside, catching their fishy fill, whereas a far-off pod of bottlenose dolphins carried out wild Atlantic acrobatics. Heaven. After a bracing dip within the briny, we packed up, leaving no hint, and headed for Galway metropolis, and one thing utterly completely different.

Glenlo Abbey Resort, a cut-stone manor home inbuilt 1740, is located on the town’s outskirts, perched overlooking Lough Corrib and 138 acres of lush parkland. There is a extremely regarded nine-hole golf course on website, designed by Ryder Cup legend Christy O’Connor Jr, however we arrived in good time for our appointment with birdies of one other type.

Falconry, which is on Unesco’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity listing (and my bucket listing!), has been round for four,000 years, Jason Deasy, Glenlo’s knowledgeable falconer defined to us, as we ready to satisfy 5 of his raptors: Yoda, an African white-faced owl; Seamus, a Harris hawk; Phantom, a peregrine falcon; Indigo, a Chilean blue eagle, and Oisin, a barn owl.

Jason’s a mine of data on the traditional artwork, and through our hour-long expertise, defined how our language is peppered with phrases from falconry (a hen that’s ‘fed up’, ie full, is not going to fly, is however one instance); and the way falconry is employed in airports as an environmentally pleasant technique of hen management, decreasing the incidence of hen strike by 80laptop.

Glenlo Abbey Hotel, Galway
Glenlo Abbey Hotel, Galway

Glenlo Abbey Resort, Galway

I assumed I would be terrified by these gimlet-eyed killers, however they engender respect somewhat than worry. The exhilaration of watching a hen of prey soar by way of the air – Phantom the peregrine can fly at 246 miles per hour – and have it come to land in your gloved hand, mere inches out of your face, is indescribable. We have been really enraptured by the raptors, significantly the majestic Indigo, who, hilariously, views Jason as her life associate.

Glenlo – which was constructed within the 18th Century by the Ffrench household, one of many 14 tribes of Galway – feels extra like a grand nation home than a resort, and its inside areas are beautiful. The primary home is an expensive confection of darkish wooden, deep-pile carpets, dazzling chandeliers, gold leaf and excessive, stuccoed ceilings. We loved lunch within the Oak Cellar Bar – beforehand the home’s kitchen – then virtuously labored it off with a cycle across the grounds on the resort’s pair of Pashley Princesses. We arrived again simply because the rain hit, however irrespective of – the billiards room supplied additional distraction, the place accident somewhat than design noticed me triumph on the distinctive orange baize.

Subsequent up was one thing that had lengthy been on my bucket listing: dinner in Glenlo’s Pullman Restaurant. The 2-carriage eatery, initially a part of the well-known Orient Categorical, has been in situ on Glenlo’s grounds since 1998. Of their earlier incarnation, ‘Linda’ and ‘Leona’ ferried innumerable stars in grand type, and in January 1965, had the honour of bringing Churchill’s stays to Bladon, for burial at his ancestral house, Blenheim Palace.

Leona is the grand dame of the duo; constructed within the early 19th Century, her inside is a testomony to the craftsmanship of bygone days, with intricate marquetry, Lalique lamps and stylish brass fittings – certainly, she has multiple declare to fame, as she featured within the 1974 movie of Agatha Christie’s Homicide on the Orient Categorical.

We have been privileged to search out ourselves ensconced in one of many Pullman’s two personal compartments, with our waiter, Vito, a useless ringer for Leo DiCaprio, offering us with peerless service for the night. The meals, by head chef Michael Safarik, a eager forager, rivalled its environment for excellence, with every dish extra spectacular than the following, the flavours eliciting oohs and aahs from us as we shared forkfuls of the edible artworks amid the artwork deco loveliness. Regardless of being full as ticks, the lure of a hearth nightcap within the eau-de-nil opulence of the principle home’s Ffrench room proved too sturdy, and we relived our five-star foodie expertise with Mitko, Glenlo’s affable bar supervisor.

Sunday started excellently with a breakfast feast of eggs and smoked salmon within the attractive River Room and the planning of that day’s itinerary: luxurious lazing about, primarily, punctuated by the day’s newspapers and a film within the resort’s cinema.

Gemma admiring the view from the Pullman Restaurant
Gemma admiring the view from the Pullman Restaurant

Gemma admiring the view from the Pullman Restaurant

A lot debate ensued as to our film alternative. Having narrowed it down over lunchtime rioja and risotto within the Oak Cellar Bar, we plumped for Casablanca, the logic being that one by no means will get to observe a black and white film on an enormous display screen. The cinema has an everyday displaying every night, however is in any other case out there for anybody who desires to snuggle up within the supersized scarlet armchairs. Concierge Derek cued the movie, introduced us popcorn and left us to take pleasure in Bogie and Bergman… after which we stayed for that is night’s displaying, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, too, which, Audrey’s impeccable flip nothwithstanding, hasn’t aged half in addition to the previous basic.

We caught the top of the pianist’s repertoire within the fabulous Ffrench room, the music as high-quality as our nightcap of classic port, after which toddled tipsily off down the plaid-carpeted passage to our beds, to sleep like infants on the Egyptian-cotton clad pillow-top mattresses. Bliss. In actual fact, the beds are so snug, that come morning, I selected a lie-in over breakfast, however the considerate workers not solely organised a late checkout, however gave my pal a bag of fruit and ache au chocolat, which I loved in mattress with espresso from the in-room Nespresso machine. A win-win.

In actual fact, the entire weekend was superb, from our good pitch to Glenlo’s five-star fabulousness, and definitely the perfect antidote to midlife morosity.

To paraphrase a well-known quote: Galway… I feel that is the start of a good looking friendship.

Getting there

Unique two-night particular at Glenlo Abbey Resort:

Majestically rising from the nonetheless waters of Lough Corrib and relationship again to the 18th Century, the five-star Glenlo Abbey Resort is the place outdated world attraction meets up to date magnificence.

Linger for longer on the 138-acre property and benefit from the luxurious for much less! Ebook not less than two nights and luxuriate in a 15laptop low cost. Breakfast is served within the timeless magnificence of the River Room Restaurant, providing panoramic views over the property.

For bookings or inquiries, contact 091 519-600 or else e-mail or see

This characteristic initially appeared in The Sunday Impartial.

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