If you’re looking for a relaxing, luxury break away from it all this hotel should top your list, writes Catriona Doherty
Located in the Donegal countryside on the banks of Lough Eske overlooked by the Bluestack mountains, the scenic location of Harvey’s Point adds to that sense of serenity and calm you feel while staying at the hotel.
Although check in is at 4pm, the hotel provides complimentary free activities so there’s plenty to keep you occupied if you arrive early. On Wednesdays guest are invited to join TV personality and hotelier, Noel Cunningham, for a guided walk around the lake and Ardnamona woods. You can also get a bespoke Harvey’s Point walking trail map from reception, detailing routes that can be enjoyed at your own leisure, from a gentle 30-minute stroll to a more rigorous three to four-hour walk.
We arrived on a Thursday and there was a cookery demonstration scheduled for 1pm and wine tasting experience at 2pm.
First up, chef de partie Daniel Lambert was demonstrating how to make a vegan tandoori carrot soup in the restaurant’s open kitchen area. Daniel talked trough the recipe, whilst shared advice on how to flavour vegan food and maximise flavour e.g. he recommending bending the lemongrass stalk in half before popping it in the pan, and showcased various spices.
Daniel suggested substituting a wooden spoon for a spatula when stirring soup as it gets into more grooves of the pot. It was his many tips and tricks, jokes and personal anecdotes that made Daniel such an interesting speaker and it came as no surprise to learn that he’s actually an up-and-coming celebrity chef — he’s a guest cook on Ireland AM on Virgin Media One, he has a 20,000 following on Tik Tok, and his first book is coming out in September: Lush: Satisfaction guaranteed with 100 feel-good recipes.
Bellies full of hearty soup, we moved on to the Resident’s Lounge for the wine tasting experience led by restaurant manager Michael McGrane. Participants were invited to sample four generous glasses of wine — two white and two red — in the elegant lakeside venue, while Michael talked about how to best select wine considering clarity, characteristics, flavour, and a lot more besides.
It felt like a real treat to be mid-afternoon wine-tasting in such luxurious surroundings. The décor featured dark chestnut wood, leather grandfather chairs, shelves lines with an array of books, and a shining grand piano. A burning open turf fire added to a sense of comfort and cosiness.
There are numerous nooks and crannies within the hotel with a similar vibe, where guests can enjoy a drink, read, or wile away a lazy afternoon.
You pass through Isobel’s Gallery to get to the restaurant; its walls are lined with an eclectic mix of framed artworks. A quirky little snug in the reception area contains two quaint wooden benches beside an open fire, perfectly-size for handful of people and no more.
The Balcony Room was more contemporary by comparison, but equally as relaxing. Light flooded our bedroom via the floor-to-ceiling glass window and door that opened out on to a private balcony overlooking Lough Eske.
The bathroom featured a deep jacuzzi bath, double sinks and a huge rain-head shower. Complimentary homemade cookies and milk, tea and coffee were provided, along with a tempting array of drinks and treats in the mini bar fridge — best enjoyed sitting on the wicker recline chairs on the balcony.
That evening we dined in The Restaurant, which is exactly as described, ‘formal without being fussy’. Our table was positioned at the window by the water’s edge. Every now and then some of the guests from a wedding that was on that day, would walk along the pier to snap a photo. It’s that type of memorable place — where you would go for a special occasion or a treat and take photos to look back on.
The four-course set menu boasted five choices of starters, seven main courses, and seven desserts — so there was something to suit a range of tastes.
I opted for the scallops with cauliflower, hazelnut dukkah and smoked paprika to start, followed by Arancini (Italian rice balls) with butternut squash and fennel, the Floating Island dessert — meringue, crème Anglaise, whiskey caramel and vanilla ice cream.
Although there was no better person to advise of wine pairing than Michael, who had led the talk earlier, the cocktail list proved too tempting, and espresso martinis were added to the order.
The presentation of each dish was exquisite and the portion sizes ideal. The scallops were cooked to perfection and delivered a slight kick.
The arancini was the perfect something different; a unique combination of savoury and sweet. Whilst the dessert was melt-in-the-mouth delicious, decadent and utterly satisfying.
Back at our room, it was as if the gin fairies had visited in our absence. A nightcap to end the evening had been delivered; two mini bottles of An Dúlamán Irish Maritime Gin, a miniature iron crock containing lemon slices, chilled tonic and ice, placed on a tree slice decorated with moss.
It was a thoughtful touch to end a wonderful evening.
Harvey’s Point offer four-day painting breaks with artist Conal McIntyre, Sunday Sleepover deals, Late Availability offers, and a Five Days in Donegal programme highlighting local attractions.
An overnight bed and breakfast stay for two people is available from €298 per night.
The four-course set menu at The Restaurant is €65 per person.
Top three things to do in the area
Go on a boat trip with Atlantic Coastal Cruises; a locally owned and a family-run business. Enjoy a tour of Killybegs harbour, Ireland’s largest fishing port, and see all the local sights including Rotten Island lighthouse, St. John’s Point Lighthouse, Drimanoo Head, Muckross Head, and more.
Step back in time
Explore a castle in nearby Donegal Town. Built in 1474 by the ruling O’Donnell family, Donegal Castle fell into ruin in the twentieth century but was restored to its former glory in the nineties. There are pictorial treasure trails to keep the little ones entertained, and experienced guides who will take you through the history of this great Gaelic castle.
See Slieve League
Slieve League Cliffs are among the highest sea cliffs in Europe. You can either drive right up to the main viewing area, or you can use a car park located on the outskirts and go on foot. You’ll be rewarded for your efforts with stunning views of the rugged landscape, dramatic cliffs and Atlantic Ocean swirling on the rocks below. Standing there you’ll feel like you’re at the edge of the world.