The craic flowed almost as much as the stout on a flying visit to Donegal Town
Surrounded by American tourists with gentle notes of country music lingering in the late summer air, I knew I was in Donegal.
My father and I had ventured from Belfast, across the invisible border, to check out the idyllic Donegal Town as guests at the Abbey Hotel.
Overlooking The Diamond, the main square which serves as a focal point for the town, the hotel is renowned for its views of both Donegal Bay and the bustling town centre.
We had arrived at lunchtime and the town was teeming with tourists, petrolheads and music lovers as the usual bus-loads of Americans were bolstered by a bike meet and a country music weekend being hosted at the hotel.
My dad has loved motorbikes since he was a child so after a curious look at the 30 or so gleaming machines parked in the middle of The Diamond, we set off for a wander around the town.
The picturesque former seat of power of the O’Donnell dynasty sits at the mouth of the River Eske and is beautifully framed by the stunning Coaghgorms or Bluestack Mountains.
After a stroll through the town, along the banks of the Eske and around Donegal Castle, we had worked up a thirst and ducked into the charming McCafferty’s Bar for a few creamy pints of Guinness.
We wiled away the afternoon drinking stout and having the craic with bar staff and customers before it was time to head back to the Abbey Hotel to check-in and grab some dinner.
The hotel is in the perfect location to enjoy all Co Donegal has to offer and is within minutes of stunning coastal drives, beaches and discovery points of the famous Wild Atlantic Way.
It was the ideal spot for our short trip to Donegal and we were quickly checked into one of the huge family rooms the hotel has on offer.
With two single beds and one double there was plenty of space for my father and I to relax and freshen up before heading down to the Market House Restaurant for dinner.
The restaurant boasts a hearty menu stuffed full of classics to suit all tastes from steaks and burgers to pasta and seafood dishes.
Kicking off with wine, we decided on the Paul Mas merlot, a Languedoc wine with lush velvety tannins and sweet berries as well as rich flavours on the nose.
For starters we both opted for the duo of Greencastle scallops served with black pudding and smothered with a creamy spring onion and garlic sauce.
Scallops are always my acid test for a kitchen. If they can’t get scallops right it usually does not bode well for the rest.
Luckily for us the chefs at the Market House Restaurant knew what they were doing, the scallops had the perfect consistency having been gently fried for just long enough.
Dad and I diverged on the mains, I opted for the chicken chorizo penne pasta topped with wild rocket and parmesan shavings while my father went for the signature 8oz steak on the stone, prime Irish fillet steak served with a trio of sauces.
The pasta was a delight. Well cooked, but not overcooked, penne with succulent chicken pieces and smoky chunks of chorizo topped elegantly with parmesan shavings.
My dad’s steak also didn’t disappoint. Cooked exactly to his medium-rare specification, it was juicy, flavourful and complemented perfectly by the sauce trio and a healthy side of chunky chips.
As we finished off the last few mouthfuls of delicious merlot, the restaurant heaved with tourists and music lovers who had come to check out the Jimmy Buckley Country Music Weekend being hosted at The Abbey.
Stuffed full of food and stout, we decided to call it a night and head back to the spacious family room.
Not long after our heads hit the pillow we were both sleeping soundly on the plush, comfortable beds and it was a struggle to respond to the alarm when it burst into life eight hours later.
After a warm, enveloping shower from a rainfall shower-head in the sleek modern bathroom, we headed downstairs for our locally-sourced breakfast before making the long journey back to Belfast.
The delightful array of cereals, yoghurts and fruits was well balanced with the delicious array of cooked meats on offer. Both slightly hungover, the fry was too good to resist.
With thick smoky bacon, plump sausages and slabs of black and white pudding alongside fried eggs and potato bread, it was the perfect way to round off our trip and set us up for the journey home.
The Abbey Hotel Donegal Town is a premier venue for live music events including country & western weekends, comedy shows and live bands to name but a few, with lively traditional Irish Folk Music in the popular Abbey Bar also a regular occurrence.
They have a range of superbly appointed bedrooms including family rooms, suites, inter-connecting rooms and enabled access rooms, with complimentary access to leisure facilities in their sister Hotel, the Central Hotel.
For more information go to www.abbeyhoteldonegal.com or call 00353 74 9721014.