My TomTom told us it would take three hours to go from Dublin to Doonbeg so as we set off just after 2 p.m. last Friday we were looking forward to arriving before tea-time. Perfect. That is until we realised the small matter of Oxegen 2011 had slipped our minds, involving a massive traffic snarl-up. Once past Naas we zipped along again only to encounter a go-slow herd of cattle on the road beyond Ennis. As we eventually inched closer to our destination, I began to wonder whether the gods weren’t conspiring against us as it turned out that the most direct route to Doonbeg was completely closed for road works. They do say though that ‘good things come to those who wait’ and maybe the eventual near five hour trek was designed just to suitably whet the appetites. The Lodge at Doonbeg – a 400-acre retreat set on Doughmore Bay – is, after all, quite the most remarkable feast for the senses.
The aroma from the traditional open turf fire in reception at this five-star luxury coastal resort signals to the weary traveller that this is a place designed to blend the best of Irish hospitality with world-class facilities and standards. Indeed, stepping into the multi-roomed, two-storey ‘suite’ it was no surprise to learn that the 5-star Lodge at Doonbeg has been recognised as one of the select ‘Small Luxury Hotels of the World’. The décor is every inch a sumptuous Hamptons hide-away. The attention to detail is simply outstanding. Sink into an over-sized sofa. Admire the wood-beam embossed ceilings throughout. The fully-fitted kitchen has absolutely everything stocked (putting my own kitchen to shame it has to be said!). And the bathrooms are sheer indulgence with airy walk-in, wet-room style showers. Throughout, hints of nautical themes blend with nods towards the game of golf. After all, the rooms do have a view like nowhere else in the world. An 18-hole Greg Norman designed golf course and, beyond, the vast Atlantic Ocean.
A Feast For All Senses
If you can drag yourself from your suite (24-hour room service is available) you can opt to dine in Darby’s Bar where the New England panache continues, where kids are very welcome and where the prices are very reasonable. Fine dining is on offer in The Long Room where you’ll feel out of place unless smartly attired. With your glad rags on, enjoy sipping a pre-dinner cocktail or coupe de champagne overlooking the raw Atlantic Co Clare coastline. The menu is inspired by the sea and the hinterland, with fresh produce, all locally sourced. The super-friendly staff ensured any hint of stuffiness was swept away with good-natured banter. Chef Wade Murphy and his team clearly put incredible care and attention into every dish. That said, we requested a few menu changes and they were catered for without any question. This is the ideal spot for a romantic meal-for-two, if you can keep your eyes off the to-die-for sunset outside, with visiting swallows, native hares and various seabirds completing the compelling picture.
Out & About
For the ladies (or indeed the gents if so inclined) there are great spa packages on offer. The White Horse Spa centre offers marine-inspired facials, massages and treatments with plenty of Mother-To-Be options which certainly seemed popular. Do be sure to reserve in advance as it’s a busy spot. Individual attention is most definitely evident though. My partners sun-burned arms didn’t go unnoticed during a Swedish massage and the lovely attendant presented us with a complimentary sun soothing cream at the end. Before and after the treatments you can take a dip in the hot tubs, melt off a few calories in the sauna or steam-room or tone-up in the gym (temporarily re-located in another building during renovation works).
Of course, the quality of the golf, not just at The Lodge but at courses dotted throughout the surrounding area, is legendary. The driving range is a busy spot, as if the club house. Novices and pros alike get a warm welcome with options for all and voucher packages which will be sure to delight Dads throughout the country.
Among the many highlights of my visit to The Lodge at Doonbeg was an afternoon fishing (me. fishing? can you believe it!) at the local lake. Rods and tackle are free to borrow and the reward of landing a gleaming trout is a real treat. You decide whether you want the kitchen to cook it for you or you can be kind (to the fish and your own karma) by letting it go again.
Whether it’s patience getting there or patience on the banks of the lake, the Lodge at Doonbeg is a location that slowly unfolds its many little gems for those willing to wait. By the time it comes to leave, you’ll be wishing you’d booked an extra night for certain. The great thing is, you can day-dream about the experience until you return. I’m already planning my next trip!