Dressed in a snuggly white robe and reading a gloriously glossy magazine by a roaring fire – yep, that’s a perfect Saturday afternoon in my eyes.
A painfully long bus trip up to Donegal off in that I spent one of the best weekend breaks I’ve ever had in Ireland, staying in (what I’m now telling everyone who isn’t fed up of hearing about it already) my new favourite hotel.
Solis Lough Eske Castle in Donegal is a beautifully restored old castle that dates back to the 1400s but has all the modern luxuries you expect from an esteemed five-star. With the shores of Lough Eske on one side and the peaks of the Blue Stack Mountains on the other, the scenery is just an added bonus to the pure perfection that is Lough Eske.
I took a trip up north with my friend Shiv with the aim of seeing the Northern Lights as part of the hotel’s new Night Sky package – I’ve always wanted to see the phenomenon so when I heard that they’re visible in our very own Donegal, I hightailed it up for a weekend of stargazing and lazy lounging.
Here’s what the Northern Lights are like from nearby Lough Eske…
Who could resist the chance to see this?
Right from the get-go, the staff at the hotel were so lovely – the kind of friendliness that reminds you exactly why Ireland has such a reputation of being so welcoming to visitors.
We were shown to our room, and here’s where I fell in LOVE. The photos of the garden suites genuinely don’t do them enough justice, but let me just say that the room was so incredible that myself and Shiv were jumping up and down like two gals on a weird sort of mate-honeymoon.
A four-poster bed, a roaring gas fire, and a jawdropping marble bathroom
While a view of the Solis Spa, gardens, and the castle itself make the garden suites extra special
The first night we meandered on over to the casual Gallery Bar in the main hotel for some late night grub. We had planned to head into Donegal, but soon discovered that the last thing we wanted to do was to ever leave this hotel.
A sound night’s sleep in the gigantic plush bed meant that I was rested and ready for my Northern Light’s experience the following day…
We filled up on brekkie (shout out to the omlette making station and freshly flipped pancakes), did a quick gym session (yes, my friend is a monster), and basically spent the whole of Saturday morning in our robes by the pool waiting for our local Northern Light’s expert, Marie Gallagher to bring us out on our luminous expedition.
Sadly, the typical Irish weather had other plans.
With the skies full of cloud and looking decidedly overcast, Marie offered to take us out instead on a drive to Sliabh Liag, taking in sights such as ‘The Sleeping Giant’ mountain peak, and a vague view of Sarah Jessica Parker’s house.
If the weather was clearer, the plan was to spend the night under the stars photographing the Aurora Borealis, with Marie guiding us through the shots on our cameras and providing a gourmet picnic.
As it were, we made do with watching the fierce Donegal waves crash off the cliffs and ate our homemade buns on the side of the mountain at dusk. I thought I’d be more disappointed that I didn’t get to see the lights, but knowing that I was going back for another evening at Lough Eske made up for it all.
We had dinner on the Saturday in Cedar’s Grill, the hotel’s more fine-dining eatery. Carefully selected local ingredients make up the delicious menu of meats and seafood inspired by the Wild Atlantic Way.
A starter of tender scallops with an orange and saffron jus followed by a main local lamb done four ways with pomegranate, yogurt, mint and almond had me bowed over.
If Donegal wasn’t so goddamn far away, I’d happily travel at least an hour just to have dinner in Cedar’s.
The final showstopper? This chocolate sphere that was SO good, we ordered two of ’em
Not even kidding, we rolled back to our beds that night.
The finishing touch to such an amazing weekend was a facial and thermal spa morning
Situated in the castle garden, the refreshing, peaceful setting of Solis Spa was the clencher for why this is my new fave hotel.
One half long shimmering pool, the other a relaxation room, hot spring bath and steam rooms, with expert treatments available. I went for the Yon-Ka Classique facial (€90 for 60 minutes) – which is the quintessential Yon-Ka facial and decongests and hydrates your skin at the same time.
While Lough Eske doesn’t come cheap, the pure indulgence and calm you receive at every single moment of your stay is worth every cent.
I felt like I’d been away for a week – that’s how relaxing it is.
The only way this hotel could ever get better? If they somehow managed to control the weather… Looks like I’ll just have to plan another trip up in the future to try catch those elusive Northern Lights. I’m really not complaining.