A destination for golfers, and matrimony-makers, Faithlegg in Waterford has a lot for the normal visitor who isn't wearing a polo or a suit. Lux surroundings, comfy four-poster beds, with dinner under high aristocrat-tinged ceilings, it's a place to live out all your opulent fantasies.
What was the location like?
On the map, Faithlegg looks to be set in one of the spots you imagine an early settler coveting, tucked away by Waterford Harbour where three sister rivers, the Barrow, Nore and Suir meet. The location is pretty sweet for modern-day travellers, a 25-minute drive to Waterford, and near some of Ireland's top beaches (Tramore, Ballymacaw Cove, to name a few). It's an old country estate with a massive drive-in that's been turned into a golf course. The hotel is on the outskirts of the village of Faithlegg, which is made up of a smattering of beautiful houses.
The location of Faithlegg has marked it as an important historical spot, at the confluence of three rivers. It was at Waterford Harbour where Faithlegg is set that early settlers entered, and from the hill that the hotel stands under, the Minaun, that the harbour was monitored. According to lore the giant Cainche Corcardhearg son of Fionn of the Fianna who was stationed here to keep a watch over Leinster. Strongbow the Norman landed at the harbour in 1170 and this was followed by the arrival of Henry II in October 1171. Legend has it that Henry’s fleet numbered 600 ships and one of the merchants who donated to the flotilla was a Bristol merchant named Aylward, who was awarded the 7000 acres centring around in Faithlegg. The Alyward family upgraded their Motte and Baily enclosure, to build Faithlegg Castle and church in the 13th century. The family ruled the area for 500 years until they were dispossessed in 1649 by the armies of Oliver Cromwell. The property was subsequently granted to a Cromwellian solider, Captain William Bolton. In 1783, the house was built by Cornelius Bolton who had inherited the Faithlegg Estate from his father. In 1819 the Bolton family sold the house and lands to newlyweds Nicholas and Margaret Mahon Power, the Power family crest of a stag’s head and cross remains the emblem of Faithlegg to this day. The House passed to Hubert Power, the only son of Pat & Lady Olivia Power, and in 1920 upon Hubert’s death, it passed to his daughter Eily Power, in 1935 Eily and her husband sold the House to the De la Salle order of teaching brothers after which it acted as a junior novitiate until 1986.
The team at Faithlegg have nailed the interior, retaining all the old-worldly features and merging these with the modern aspects required for a working hotel nicely. There's a big emphasis on textures and fabric, gorgeous wool blankets sit on the beds, tweed is fitted to the stone stairs and tactile wallpaper lines the walls. You can tell that thought and effort has been put into every inch of the place, from the enormous ceramic horse that greets you in the entrance to the handmade key cabinet that catches your eye when you wait to check in.
One of my main bugbears with Irish hotels sometimes is when you sign up to stay in a stunning old-style spot only to be placed in a vat-pack room which is younger than some things hanging around your freezer. This is absolutely not the case with our experience at Faithlegg, the room was straight out of a Downton Abbey set. Even the names of the rooms have a nod to the past, each one named after local dignitaries and supremos with a connection to the estate. High-ceilinged, sash-windows covered over with heavy curtains that were tied with tassels and a four-poster bed (that had extreme Princess and the pea, such was its height). We got a room that looked out over the garden at the back, and it was an excellent place to relax on the matching chairs munching some of the complimentary shortbread biscuit which was A1.
The service and facilities
Everyone was super nice when we were there, it was a busy Saturday with a wedding taking place but everyone was in a good mood. Faithlegg is definitely a golf-lovers haven, with a great mature course that's nearly 20 years old designed by renowned Irish golf course architect Paddy Merrigan. There's a fully kitted out leisure centre, with a 17m swimming pool (with a kids section), a sauna, steam room and Jacuzzi alongside a fully kitted out gym, there's also an aqua aerobic class that guests are welcome to join.
Food and Drink
With a restaurant run by Executive Chef Jenny Flynn, it's far from the usual hotel food fare that can be got at Faithlegg. Flynn has created a truly exciting menu, of seasonal Irish ingredients that still have a nod to that old-aged glamour that the hotel embodies. Dishes filled with ingredients that sing together in surprising and non-traditional ways, adding textures and consistencies that wouldn't normally be found on the one plate. A Wexford woman herself, you can tell Flynn's passion for the South East just from glancing at the menu, blaas, mackerel caught off the coast all appear alongside Irish delicacies like dillisk. Flynn's and the team's flair for dessert really stands out, complex and fiddly plates are served with a cool air of casualness by very charismatic Italian waiters.
There's also a series of bars that run along the far side of the ground floor, are never without the shake of a cocktail maker and looking at the menu it's no surprise. While the also have some great beers on draught and a mean whiskey collection, cocktails seem to be the flavour of the month.
Probably sitting in the dining room having dinner, it was honestly one of the best settings. High ceilings, the chatter of talk bubbling up to the ceiling, the professional swish of the waiters, it was a great experience.
The hotel is wheel-chair accessible, with the main foyer, bar and restaurant set on the ground floor.
There were plenty of families there, some of them with pretty small babies and toddlers, according to the website there are family-rooms available. There's also a kiddie section at the pool which little humans would no doubt love.
Where's good to eat nearby?
With the restaurant as good as the one at Faithlegg it's hard to pass up. There are some great spots in Waterford City and Tramore too if you are looking for a nice bite.
Would we recommend it?
Definitely, Faithlegg has the unique benefit of being a destination hotel but also in a great location that has loads of great spots nearby to visit. I had shamefully never been to that part of Ireland (except for sitting in 9 hours worth of traffic on the way to All Together Now 2019') so it was a real eye-opener to visit and see the amount of amazing locations and sites there are in that part of the world.
Bring your togs and leave out plenty of time to enjoy the leisure section. Also top tip on a sunny day, grab a beer from the bar and sit out the front which has some amazing people watching (there's a great confluence of golfers, wedding guests and hotel guests), it's a lovely vantage point to take it all in.
Where is it again?
In co. Waterford's Faithlegg X91 H008
How to keep up with them?