Glenlo Abbey which was built in the 18th Century by the Ffrench family, one of the 14 tribes of Galway, feels more like a grand country house than a hotel, and its interior spaces are exquisite.
The main house is a luxurious confection of dark wood, deep-pile carpets, dazzling chandeliers, gold leaf and high, stuccoed ceilings. We enjoyed lunch in the Oak Cellar Bar - previously the house's kitchen - then virtuously worked it off with a cycle around the grounds on the hotel's pair of Pashley Princesses. We arrived back just as the rain hit, but no matter - the billiards room provided further distraction, where accident rather than design saw me triumph on the distinctive orange baize.
Falconry, which is on Unesco's Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list (and my bucket list!), has been around for 4,000 years, Jason Deasy, Glenlo's expert falconer explained to us, as we prepared to meet five 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.
Next up was something that had long been on my bucket list: dinner in Glenlo's Pullman Restaurant. The two-carriage eatery, originally part of the famous Orient Express, has been in situ on Glenlo's grounds since 1998. In their previous incarnation, 'Linda' and 'Leona' ferried innumerable stars in grand style, and in January 1965, had the honour of bringing Churchill's remains to Bladon, for burial at his ancestral home, Blenheim Palace.
We were privileged to find ourselves ensconced in one of the Pullman's two private compartments, with our waiter, Vito, a dead ringer for Leo DiCaprio, providing us with peerless service for the evening. The food, by head chef Michael Safarik, a keen forager, rivalled its surroundings for excellence, with each dish more spectacular than the next, the flavours eliciting oohs and aahs from us as we shared forkfuls of the edible artworks amid the art deco loveliness. Despite being full as ticks, the lure of a fireside nightcap in the eau-de-nil opulence of the main house's Ffrench room proved too strong, and we relived our five-star foodie experience with Mitko, Glenlo's affable bar manager.
The whole weekend was glorious, from our perfect pitch to Glenlo's five-star fabulousness, and certainly the ideal antidote to midlife morosity.
To paraphrase a famous quote: Galway… I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Gemma Fullam CONTRIBUTOR with The Irish Independant.
Full Article: www.independent.ie