A Baronial hunting, fishing and shooting Lodge restored to glory days
Having visited Mount Falcon Castle many times during its ownership by a true eccentric, Constance Aldridge, I was unsure what to expect as I drove up the driveway. Mount Falcon Castle is a Victorian Gothic Manor built in 1876 with grey cut limestone and it is an imposing sight. It is a typical Anglo Irish Country House from the 19th century. I knew immediately on arrival that it had been given not only a major restoration but doubled in size to accommodate more bedrooms and leisure facilities including pool, gym and spa. Happily the new addition merges extremely well with the original as the new owners saw fit to use the same building material; this meant that it didn’t offend my aesthetic senses. Whew! The owner, Alan Maloney has kept the integrity of a ‘family owned’ Country House lodge, whilst enhancing it and making it even more attractive. It was a hard act to follow in the footsteps of the ubiquitous Connie Aldridge but he has done this with style. There are 32 bedrooms in the hotel and luxury self catering lodges nestling throughout the extensive grounds.
The Estate: Let’s begin with the grounds. The Mount Falcon Estate runs to 100 acres and is a hive of activity for guests who like to be proactive and busy. Apart from the indoor facilities the Estate offers some of the best wild Atlantic salmon fishing in the country. They own two miles of fishing rights along both banks of the Moy River with 6 rod beats, including the famous Wallpool beat. There is a 3 acre lake as well for trout fishing which is described as being stocked with ‘hard fighting rainbow trout’! Well, I never heard that kind of description before so I might think about a little work out in the gym before tackling those trout in the lake. Also available on the Estate is clay pigeon shooting, archery and a most unusual sport ‘Falconry’. Then the penny dropped; the house is called Mount Falcon so naturally Falconry is an obvious sport to have available for guests. It also reflects Alan’s ethos of ensuring that the House and the facilities have a synergy so that the various components are integral to the Mount Falcon Castle experience. Apparently the Falconry is extremely popular and presently they have 21 birds in the ‘weathering area’. Golfers are also well catered for. There are three signature links golf courses (Carne, Rosses Point and Enniscrone) all within a short distance and this trio feature in the top 10 for Ireland. I am exhausted just thinking about so much activity so I think I might just chill out and relax instead with a walk in their extensive woodlands which I believe are home to 197 different species of trees. I just might find an Ent or two there!
The House: It is hard to know where to begin so let’s start with the large main Hall where the multi coloured floor tiles are still intact and extended. These are the Victorian tiles that remind you of a convent, so remember to walk straight with your chin up There is the Morning Room (set for afternoon teas), the Lounge, which still has a mirror from Connie Aldridge’s time as custodian of this remarkable House, on the wall; and the Bolthole Bar which was the old dining room and is now a very cosy bar. Throughout the building the original floor boards are still there, along with the pitch pine windows and shutters. I gather that tons of paint had to be stripped to bring the shutters back to their original colour, which is a light brown and brightens the building considerably. I was tickled pink to see the old servant bell ringers for each room still hanging on the corridor wall of the old servant’s quarters. These had been connected but I gather that they had to be disconnected as guests were ringing them all the time – in particular adult guests who should know better! There are several authentic antique pieces scattered around to the House which have been lovingly restored and throughout the House there are paintings and prints depicting the sports so beloved by the landed gentry, i.e. hunting, fishing and shooting. I simply adored the stuffed Eagle Owl (recently deceased), called Gandalf, standing proud in an alcove on the main staircase, with his beady eyes keeping an eye on the Reception below. The fire in the Hall is real, as too are some of the other fires, in keeping with the authenticity and ensuring that the first thing that hits you when you arrive is the gorgeous aroma from crackling wood.
The Bedrooms: The rooms in the original building are all Suites and De Luxe rooms with wonderful names such as the ‘Wallpool Suite’ so named after one of the fishing beats; some of these have cute little alcoves where old fashioned desks await those who wish to do a little work. The careful restoration ensured that most of the rooms kept their original configurations. The furnishings are a mixture of old and new with the new having been purposely built here in Ireland to suit the style of House – yes dark wood but it is in total keeping with the style of the House. The bedroom I was allocated was a standard room in the new wing and it was a very generous size with all the fittings and a large bathroom with separate shower. Thankfully there was also a proper hairdryer (no bathroom blowers) so no excuse for a bad hair day. The king size bed was really comfy, even though it was a zip and link mattress. I also enjoyed the duck down duvet. So often nowadays we don’t get a duck down duvet but I was assured that if I wanted a non allergic type it was no problem to change it. There is also wifi throughout the House with no time consuming codes etc. to access it – another plus.
The Kitchen Restaurant: Located in the original kitchen there are two rooms in the Restaurant, both with real fires in multi fuel boiler stoves – just love it. The décor is stunning in both rooms which have been stripped back to the original stone walls. The original stone floor in the smaller room is complimented by two old fashioned glass kitchen cabinets full of memorabilia from bygone days. This room also has four incredible murals depicting various types of fish and all sorts of game birds. For dinner that evening I opted for the Skeaghanore Duck, which was slow cooked and garnished with pickled mushrooms, red onion tart and sweet sherry dressing. Keeping with the game theme (couldn’t resist!) I had Loin of Venison for my main course. This came with a crust of hazelnut and black pudding, apple puree and parsley root, which made for a succulent combination. For dessert I enjoyed a delectable Tarte Tatin which was so good I thought I had been transported to France. There is a new Chef in situ – Andy Turner – who worked in various well known establishments such as Chapter One. I have no doubt that we will be hearing lots of good things about his cooking in the not too distant future.
Sometimes when one visits a well loved establishment that has been restored and updated we feel a slight pang for the past. When I drove away from Mount Falcon I didn’t feel anything other than joy that my visit was as good as previous ones and that actually the House has now arrived to its ‘heyday’. That’s some feat and a real rarity in the hospitality industry.