“My house….stands on a lake, but it stands also on the sea” Oliver St. John Gogarty
It was a wild day driving to the Wild Atlantic Way with a yellow storm warning in operation. There was no doubt that it would be an exciting sight when the Atlantic Ocean came into view and it didn’t disappoint. Renvyle House Hotel is a charming country house hotel, set in 150 acres of unspoilt Connemara landscape and much beloved by families for many decades. Owned by the Coyle family since the early 1960’s it has been managed by Ronnie Counihan for 17 years. Renvyle House has a terrific history in hospitality and some of the original building dates back to 1883, when it was a hotel. In the early part of the 20th century it became a summer retreat for the surgeon and poet, Oliver St. John Gogarty, who fell in love with it. There are many tributes to its history around the hotel in the form of extracts from Oliver St. John Gogarty’s writings and some wonderful paintings of the property and the surrounding landscape by various artists .
There are 64 bedrooms in Renvyle, which are well laid out and comfortable. I was fortunate to have No. 75 which was the furthermost room from the main building, negotiated by several long corridors. On the positive side it was literally only a stone’s throw from the Ocean. Drawing back the ubiquitous net curtains (there to provide privacy as there was a public road running alongside the Ocean). I had my own private view of an Ocean that was tossing surf into the air with vigorous abandon and it was exhilarating. Renvyle House Hotel is not your luxury hotel with loads of ‘guff and stuff’ but a genuine authentic experience. It reminds me of a well loved Teddy rather than a pristine pouty doll. I much prefer the Teddy any day, as do most people.
A Stress Free Zone: There are many reasons why Renvyle has enjoyed huge success in the hospitality sector, despite it being located in a very remote part of the country; just beyond Letterfrack in the heart of Connemara not too far from Kylemore Abbey. The hospitality is very relaxed and this is evident from the moment you see the sign ‘You are entering a stress free zone’ on the driveway of the hotel. On either side of this narrow driveway there are stunted gnarled trees announcing to one and all how difficult it is for plant life to survive in this unprotected landscape. Even the daffodils, which were in full bloom, were all leaning in horizontal fashion towards the ground in an effort to survive the severe gusts. Surprisingly there are small pockets of well protected gardens, such as the Horseshoe and Rose gardens as well as the Croquet (summer only!) lawn outside the long sun lounge. Here children were deliriously happy running around and playing football as every child should in an ideal world.
Parents were able to relax in the sun lounge reading at their leisure. It is no wonder that so many families like this hotel. There is also a very large room dedicated to children playing indoors and the joyful sounds emanating must have been music to the ears of their parents. It was also music to my ears, being an adult on my own, and I had no problem settling myself for a good read of the newspaper in the quiet surrounds of the Long Drawing room. The main Reception area is also very suitable for a chat or a read. All the fires in the public rooms are real ones in which they burn turf and wood. Not the most expensive perfume comes even close to being as evocative as the scent of a turf fire. If further relaxation is required there is always the small par 3 golf course or a game of tennis, all part of the complimentary facilities on offer.
Cuisine: The Rushenduff Restaurant is presided over by Chef, Tim O’Sullivan, one of Ireland’s most respected chefs. His cleverly thought out Menu gives guests some true Irish flavours. Children are catered for at a separate time and place so the dining experience is top notch. On the Menu that evening was Quail for starters followed by locally caught Cod for the main course. Whilst I didn’t get to meet Ronnie on this visit I did get to meet his son Philip, who has been working there for 6 years. This is what Irish hospitality is about; always the next generation ready to help at first and then take on the baton as the next custodian. In more modern establishments you never ever get that sense of continuity.
When leaving the next day I stopped briefly at the duck feeding area beside a small lake where I noticed some visiting Brent geese that were also enjoying the generous Renvyle hospitality. This is a Country House Hotel where you can happily bring your Mummy, Granny, partner and children to, knowing that each generation will enjoy the experience. It now only remained for me to take one more detour to the nearby Kylemore Gardens for a quick visit before heading over the Twelve Pins back home, remembering the joyful sounds from Renvyle’s ‘Stress Free Zone’.