There is a touch of Downton Abbey about the place. Pulling up in front of the huge, stunning country house and stepping out onto the gravel, you feel like you have travelled back in time. It was to be the perfect setting for our romantic break, Lough Rynn Castle, Country Leitrim, Ireland.
I did well, booking a special offer months in advance and paying €99 for an overnight stay that would normally have cost €219. I booked my parents as babysitters for the boys and planned to finish breastfeeding Number Three so that we could have a well-earned night away, just me and The Bavarian.
While it is commonly accepted that the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, it seems that *sometimes* that can happen to highly organised mothers’ plans too. Number Three got a few teeth, started to walk and got just a little bit clingy (OK, so he had a meltdown if I left the room at all) around the time we were going on holiday. Leaving him overnight was not an option. And so it was that he had a luxury five star hotel break at the age of not quite 11 months, something his mother had had to wait around 35 years longer for.
|Soaking up the decadence of the place
One of the two perks of the special offer I had booked was that there was early check in from 11am. We had planned to make the most of having only one third of our brood with us and arrive in time to check in early. I however am chronically late and we arrived at noon, only to be told that our room was not ready. On hearing this I was a bit irritated but glad we hadn’t rushed to be there earlier.
The lovely girl at reception quickly assigned us another room without us having to ask and Seamus, the excellent valet, showed us up. The room was small but cosy and beautifully decorated (see photo above). The only problem was there there was no room for a cot, as Seamus pointed out while we were oohing and aahing at the decor. We were then given the room originally planned for us (see photo below). While still a beautiful room, it was tired-looking compared to the first one. The cot got set up, our luggage transferred over and we were treated magnificently.
|Number Three surveying the grounds
I’d been looking forward to a nice relaxing bath but sadly there was only a shower. Instead we settled into the room and enjoyed a cup of coffee and planned our afternoon.
The second perk of the offer we had booked was afternoon tea and I was really looking forward to it. Surely a hotel as glamorous and tatefully decorated as this would have an excellent afternoon tea?Sadly not. Another disappointment for me. The tea itself came in a large pot and tasted fine. The food, however, was not as good as I would make for myself, let alone for guests. The Bavarian maintains that the sandwiches were fine, but in a five start hotel I expect better than fine. Yes, they were edible. But they were only sliced pan with egg mayonnaise, cucumber and salmon, ungarnished and with poorly cut off crusts. The sweeter elements were no better. The cakes may have been homemade, but they tasted shop bought and defrosted. For the scones there was cream but no jam. In fact one of the scones was a brown scone, the kind you usually get with soup. To my mind a brown scone has no place on an afternoon tea tray.
To improve our mood, we set out for a walk around the grounds, and I am very glad we did. The woodlands, lake and walled garden lifted our spirits. The views, both of the house in one direction and out across the lake in the other, were splendid and the weather played along for most of our walk.
We spent a couple of hours wandering around the lake shore and exploring. We even chatted to some fishermen who were just returning from a few hours lake fishing. The Bavarian, an excellent fisherman himself, got to ask lots of questions about the local fishing.
|Perch and pike caught in the lake that day
The walled garden was my favourite part of the grounds, being romantic and practical in one. At one corner there stands a turret, complete with an ornate iron balcony overlooking the lake, conjuring images of Romeo & Juliet, Rapunzel and other young lovers.
The walled garden houses a beautiful glasshouse in which, among other fruits, figs and peaches grow. I was fascinated. I would never have imagined that the often drab weather of the Irish north west could produce fruit used to warmer climates.
Along the walls of the garden there are espalier apple trees, decorative and practical at the same time. I could have spent hours wandering the gardens, but the weather was beginning to turn and we needed to head back inside and get ready for dinner.
Since we had a not quite 11 month old baby with us, we chose to eat from the bar menu rather than disturb the guests in the main dining room. I know that had we been there without children I would not have been impressed with having my fancy meal interrupted by someone else’s babbling baby.
Before making our decision we did check with the hotel staff that the food for both the bar menu and the restaurant menu comes from the same kitchen and would be of similar quality. The Bavarian was intent on having a steak, having had the best steak of his life at Kilronan Castle, Lough Rynn’s sister hotel, a few years ago.
The reception rooms opening off the bar are all open for bar food in the evening. We fell in love with the gigantic fireplace in the drawing room and chose a table there for our meal. The waiting staff couldn’t have been friendlier as they brought us the menu, the wine list and a high chair for Number Three.
For our starters we ordered seafood chowder for The Bavarian and deep fried brie for me. Both arrived quite speedily and looked great, at a first glance. My brie was tasty, nothing spectacular, but a simple dish well done. The chowder, however, was less than impressive. A skin had formed on it, presumbly while it was kept warm, it didn’t taste remotely of fish and it contained chunks of that awful, pink, processed crab stick. Thinking it had just been an unfortunate choice, we didn’t send it back.
Then, almost too quickly, the main course arrived. My fish and chips (I know, not the ideal choice for a five star restaurant, bu I do love it and can’t get it in Germany) was fine, except that the mushy peas weren’t proper mushy peas, just peas, squashed. The Bavarian, again, had pulled the short straw. His steak, of which he had such high hopes and had ordered rare, came out like a shoe sole, thin, brown and tough. The vegetables were cold and the butter as hard as a rock. There was no chance of it melting by touching anything on the plate. As soon as we caught the waiter’s eye, we sent it back. The waiter was extremely friendly and competent. He had no issue with sending the steak back and having another cooked.
Steak 2 arrived a few moments later. Poorly seared and entirely raw. Wierdly so. Not a drop of blood or juice came out, as if it was just defrosted. All in all a horrible piece of meat. The Bavarian gave up and took the baby for a stroll aound the beautiful room. A moment later our waiter walked past and, noticing the absent guest and the barely touched meal, headed straight for The Bavarian to apologise for the disasterous dinner. He was clearly embarassed by the kitchen’s quality that night and assured us that the steak would not be added to the bill. The Bavarian had lost his appetite and didn’t feel like risking anything else off the bar menu. Our lovely waiter brought us a drink on the house and I tried to cheer the Bavarian up a little by sharing my chips with him.
The following morning, we were pleasantly surprised with the breakfast buffet. There was a large range of food, from fruits to cereals to cheeses, cold meats and breads. There was also a menu for warm dishes such as pancakes or a fry. What was slightly confusing was that you could order porridge from the hot menu or just help yourself to it form the buffet. The only difference seemed to be that the ordered one came with a drop of whiskey. I only wanted a small portion, but with cream and brown sugar, so I decided to help myself to it at the buffet. The cream was missing so I asked a waitress. She disappeared. I waited. Then I asked the breakfast manager. She said she’d get it. I waited and waited but neither of them re-appeared. Poor service for a five star hotel, to my mind.
At check out everything ran really smoothly. The staff were brilliant, there was no issue about the dinner bill and the special offer voucher I was using was accepted without any issues too. Ideally I’d love to go again. The surrounding are gorgeous, the staff is excellent, the atmophere so relaxing. I’d even pay full price if I could be sure of nothing going wrong. I doubt The Bavarian will join me though. One bitten, twice shy.