When we turned the corner, the sun shone and glistened on Harvey’s Point Hotel, nestled among the trees. Two mute swans kept each other company among the rushes on the mirror-like lake; it was four o’clock on a beautiful, cold January afternoon. I felt we had arrived in Paradise.
We were in Donegal, in the north-west corner of Ireland. GG and I had decided that we should devote some of our retirement to seeing more of our own country and exploring what it has to offer. On the recommendation of others, our first ‘retirement visit’ had taken us to the banks of Lough Eske, just a few miles outside Donegal Town, a comfortable 3.5 hours drive from Dublin.
Harvey’s Point lived up to expectations, for sure, but what makes it different from other top hotels?
We stayed in an Executive Suite (the least expensive option) comprising an entrance lobby, walk in dressing room, a vast bathroom with huge power shower and double bath, his n’ hers washbasins, and make-up table.
A massive king-size bed, a chaise longue, armchairs, table and chairs and a huge television make up some of the furniture in the spacious sleeping area.
Even more impressive was the fresh fruit, delicious home-made cookies and fresh milk delivered daily. I detest the UHT longlife milk normally found in even top-class hotels.
Breakfasts in the dining room overlooking the lake with the reflection of the surrounding landscape in the water were excellent. Everything you would expect from a top class establishment is on offer such as freshly squeezed orange juice, pancakes or omelettes cooked to order and all the usual Irish breakfast items. Or you could have kippers or fresh fish or Eggs Benedict if that tickled your fancy. We watched the swans and birds being fed as we tucked in and ate like kings and queens. What’s not to like?
Dinner in the bar on our second night did not disappoint, but dinner in the restaurant on our first night was divine. It was included in our stay package, but is normally priced at €55 and certainly well worth it. Various breads followed by an amuse bouche of a tasty cup of carrot and coconut milk soup. My starter of scallops and main of monkfish were mouth-wateringly delicious and Graham’s starter of rabbit followed by lamb also got the thumbs up.
To cleanse the palate between courses, we were treated to a very unusual but tasty beetroot and apple sorbet. GG, of course, went for dessert, and I plumbed for the cheese ….and a very generous plate it was too. Oh and something else that impressed us was the excellent value in wines. Both of us loved the excellent wines (guests favourites) at a reasonable €32. For the purpose of research, we had the white and red on different nights. Oh the things I do for this blog!
- Cead Mile Failte
This phrase (it’s Irish for One Hundred Thousand Welcomes for any non-Irish readers!) is bandied about often, but in Harvey’s Point we met a genuine friendliness we have never experienced before in any hotel. From our welcome to our farewell, we were made feel valued and special and it was part and parcel of the ambience of this family-run hotel. It was not forced, but in fact seemed effortless. My breakfast omelette on the Sunday was cooked by the family’s eldest son (learning the trade). He can’t have been more than fourteen, but his friendly demeanour and pleasant nature impressed me hugely.
We were sorry to miss meeting the General Manager, the charismatic Noel Cunningham (well-known from his Ireland AM appearances as showbiz guru) who was on holidays, but we did get to chat to the charming Deirdre Mc Glone (one of the owners) who hosted a ‘Meet and Greet’ on the Saturday night. This unique occasion gave us a chance to meet some of our fellow guests and sip on very nice wine and prosecco! Other hotels could take some lessons here.
I know we were blessed with sunny and cold days when there, but in each season and in all weathers Harvey’s Point must have a charm. The views from the reading room and restaurant were mesmerising and it was easy to sit and gaze at the tranquil lake and watch the light and shadows play upon its surface.
Following a not too taxing but pretty walk of a few hours along part of The Ulster Way, it was pleasant to sit in front of a real turf fire and read. We even managed a game of scrabble! GG won.
- The little things that matter.
This is a dog-friendly hotel. The Lakeside Suites, all facing onto the lake at ground level with attractive wood-frame verandas are perfect for pooches.
There are plenty of gluten-free breads and foods.
Drinks in the bar are reasonably priced in comparison with other hotels.
Complimentary bottled water and newspapers are left at the concierge’s desk and one afternoon there was even fresh apple juice.
A concierge brings you to your room and explains everything. Too often you are left to try and work out the air conditioning yourself.
It is blatantly obvious to us why food critic Georgina Campbell gave it her accolade of Hotel of the Year 2017 and their many awards are proudly displayed on a wall leading to the restaurant, including Best Irish Hotel Award for five years in a row from Trip Advisor!
It is the beautiful setting, the gourmet food, the palatial accommodation that will bring you to Harvey’s Point, but it is the attention to detail and the friendliness of its people that will bring you back to Paradise.