‘Different roads sometimes lead to the same castle.’ George R.R
We are taking this quote in its literal sense here! We travelled many roads to reach our amazing haven for the night, Lough Eske Castle. The rolling countryside we passed through from Dublin to Donegal was a treat in itself but the breathtaking estate of Lough Eske Castle really is remarkable. The narrow, winding country roads that lead to the castle are nestled in between rolling lush green fields. Many of us are prone to saying how we just want to escape and get away from it all, well if that is truly what your heart desires then this is the place for you. Cocooned in luxury the entire Estate is a thing of beauty. The doors to Lough Eske Castle reopened in 2007 after intensive renovation. Opulence is in abundance from the moment you step through the doors.
After our close to four hour drive we were more than happy to sink into the large leather King Chairs in the luxurious Lobby Lounge located just off of The Gallery Bar and order some lunch. Opting for Roast Cauliflower Salad €13.00 and Vegetable Chick Pea Curry €18.00.
Our first lunch dish was ordered from the Salad & Sandwiches section of The Gallery menu. Roast Cauliflower Salad arrived to the table adorned with shaved fennell, shallots, chickpeas, rocket and a zesty lemon dressing. A beautiful balance of flavours and textures made this one of the most moreish salads we have tasted.
A more substantial dish across the table was ordered from the Large Plates section of the menu Vegetable Chick Pea Curry. A Roast vegetable Tikka Masala with stunning sides of Pilaf Rice, Spiced Mango Salad and warm buttered Naan. A warming and hearty dish enlivened delicately with the suggestion of heat coming right through in every bite. Spiced Mango Salad was such a great accompaniment adding a superb level of freshness and considered equilibrium to the whole plate.
We stayed in one of the Courtyard Rooms, set in the original castle stables with patio doors opening directly into the castle courtyard. Our room was so fresh and airy and awash with natural light. The country chic interior decor is so charming and relates perfectly to its setting. Luxurious deep pile carpet in botanical shades of green and white complimented beautifully by the white wood wall paneling. Strong Oak furniture reinforces that five star feeeling. A King size four poster bed takes center stage, dressed in crisp white bed linen with tweed covered cushions adding that extra touch of Donegal decadence.
Leading off of our room was a stunning marble tile floored en-suite bathroom with double basin vanity areas surrounded by glistening granite tops as well as a gleaming white built in bath. A rainforest shower is separately glazed off from the main part of the bathroom as is the toilet. Lots of lovely products adorn the bathroom from The Handmade Soap Company, one of the stalwarts of every top establishments bathrooms and rightly so with their supreme quality and Irish origins.
We spent many happy hours strolling around perimeter of the calm and soothing water of Lough Eske. Leading from the Hotel Grounds a secluded walkway leads you to a boardwalk that makes your walking adventures even more exciting and immerses you fully into the serenity of the grounds.
Our many hours of walking along the picturesque waters of Lough Eske ensured our appetites were now ready for the main event. After a quick change we were ready to dine in style in the stunning surroundings of Cedars Restaurant. A beautiful space with a great mix of diners from families enjoying a little midterm getaway to couples spending a romantic evening in an idyllic setting. Our table was booked for 8pm. Making our way from our Courtyard Room to the restaurant we passed many floral and art displays and even a full Knight in shining armor stands proudly in one area of the hallways. Every staff member is so friendly and welcoming, clearly so very well trained by the outstanding management team here headed up by Donal Cox, a stalwart in the Donegal hospitality industry since 1993 and within Lough Eske Castle itself since 2011.
We were seated in one of the plush romantic booths to the rear of the restaurant. Secluded, private and everything a couple on a romantic getaway could hope for. Most of us lead busy lives that often leave little time to just sit and luxuriate over some lovely food and wine and there is definitely something about being in such sumptuous surroundings that makes you unwind and re-focus.
To celebrate the McKee brothers taking over the kitchen in Cedars Restaurant We were very generously treated to a five course tasting menu.
A selection of freshly baked breads along with unsalted, paprika topped butter with a pinch of Irish Sea Salt on the side kicked off our culinary adventure for the night.
First course of Canapés of Crab Tacos and Cured Lamb on Flaxseed Crackers were served with cool and refreshing glass of Prosecco.
Caramelised Onion and Cheddar Tart , Shallot, Walnut – warm, melting cheddar encased in a light and crispy pastry shell with subtle nutty undertones all married together so well thanks to the addition of caramelised onion. The wine pairing chosen for us was Casa Carmela, Yelca, Spain 2017. A nice pairing that cut nicely through the cheesy goodness of this dish.
Potato & Leek, Sheep’s Curd. This almost luminous green soup was poured table side into warm bowls which arrived at the table with a centerpiece of Sheep’s Curd and a Baby Hassleback Potato. A very stylish take on a classic soup which was wholesome and flavourful.
Duck, Onion, White Bean, Bacon – Very lightly poached juicy and rosy Duck Breast, really rich in flavour which wasnonly enhanced further by the addition of tiny bacon lardons and the unique texture and flavour of White Beans. The suggested wine for this dish was a Pinot Noir – Domaine Muret, Languedoc, France 2017. Although very pleasant on the palate this wine seemed a little too light to cut through the gameness of the Duck but that may be just personal preference.
Monkfish, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Pickled Mustard – A generous round of firm, meaty Monkfish with its distinctly light flavour was complimented beautifully by the sharpness of the Pickled Mustard that topped a delightful charred cabbage steak. A glass of Monastrell – Casa Carmela, Yelca, Spain 2017 was the chosen wine pairing and again not one we would have ever thought of pairing with Monkfish but it worked quite well and if anything, having wines chosen and paired for you really gives you the opportunity to mix and match in ways that otherwise wouldn’t.
Hibiscus, Vanilla, Strawberry & Pistachio – Macaron, this novel take on the French classic was light and flavourful. Aesthetically pleasing desserts are certainly enjoying their moment in the sun. The fact that this one was backed by substance and tasted great was a refreshing bonus.
A luxurious escape to Lough Eske Castle is certainly a Taste Experience we recommend. From the moment you arrive you are cocooned in Five Star opulence. There are many reasons to visit this unique castle from the excellent staff to the delicious food but for us the outdoor nature of this break away was monumental. Staying in a Lough side Castle is straight out of a fairytale.
WRITTEN BY KEITH MAHON & OLIVIA BYRNE