A Tranquil Haven in the Heart of Connemara
Driving to Cashel House, a glorious Irish Historic hotel in Connemara is one of Ireland’s great driving experiences. Lyric FM on the radio and views and landscapes that encompass all your favourite earthen colours of raw sienna, burnt umber etc. If you are really lucky this will be set against the bluest of blue skies. Cashel House Hotel overlooks the majestic Cashel Bay on the west coast of Ireland and I knew that I was coming to a favourite classic Country House Hotel retreat. Built in the 19th century this gracious country home was converted to a family run four star hotel in 1968 by the McEvilly family. Situated in the heart of Connemara and nestling in the peaceful surroundings of 50 acres of gardens and woodland walks this little bit of paradise is perfect for me as it offers one of my favourite pastimes – walking along nearly empty beaches and breathing in that pure ozone air. Nothing too onerous on the body but the mind definitely reaches top gear in this heady atmosphere.
There are 35 bedrooms and suites which are all individually decorated and furnished with antiques presenting a charming chintzy country house style. There is always a comfy sofa nearby and the log fires give off a relaxing homely atmosphere. We had a choice of bedrooms to choose from. The rooms at the front of the House are in the same original configuration so beautifully authentic and with super views over the trees to the nearby bay. My aim is to have slept in every bedroom in Cashel House and I think I am up around the 20 mark now. This time I was in a Suite on the second floor right at the end of corridor. This new (from over 20 years ago!) wing juts into Kay McEvilly’s luscious garden and one can see all the hard work that has been done to create the herb and vegetable garden. They even plant their own potatoes in spring time. My bedroom comprised the bed and sleeping area just inside the door and then stepping down to a cute little sitting room, complete with banquette seating under the window. Just the ticket for those guests who might consider themselves the next Seamus Heaney in the making!
Lunch and Afternoon Teas are served in the Bar Conservatory overlooking the gardens on lovely fine bone china offering guests that little extra touch of finesse that is rarely found in hotels nowadays. Menus include soup and sandwiches, salads and of course home baked biscuits and scones. My granddaughter just loved those Afternoon teas with tea being served in those wonderfully decorated fine bone china teapots. The elegant dining room is located to the front of the House and has another fine conservatory overlooking the gardens . Here we dined (or feasted as my daughter said) on country house cooking at its best; including locally caught seafood, Connemara lamb along with freshly picked fruits and vegetables from Cashel’s own gardens.
Nearby is the lovely little village of Roundstone, a beacon for artists and naturalists so I am always in good company here. If more action is wanted then we can always head for Clifden which is a buzzy town, full of local gossip! If I am moody mood I might drop along to Kylemore Abbey & Gardens which are less than 30 minutes drive from Cashel House. It is one of those slightly spooky places where one can feel the overwhelming sense of past times, some of which makes you shiver as the DNA of the local history fills the air around you. Then you see what the ‘butter making’ nuns have done to bring it up to being one of the most modern visitor attractions and you just know that everything is alive and well for the future. The McEvilly family are terrific at sussing out more unusual activities for their guests so I am never shy about asking.
When the time comes to leave Cashel House Hotel the grandchildren are full of talk all about Kay McEvilly and her dog ‘Sammy’ who Kay kindly let us take on our walks. The children are still talking about it and whenever a little holiday is proposed Cashel House is always first on the list.
Heavenly peace far away from the maddening crowds