Niamh Mac Sweeney goes west to sample fine dinning and luxury at the multi award-winning Knockranny House Hotel & Spa.
Overlooking Croagh Patrick, Clew Bay and the picturesque town of Westport, Knockranny House Hotel & Spa is one of Ireland’s finest and most luxurious hotels and it is as much a firm favourite with locals as it is with new visitors to Co. Mayo, Since it opened in 1997, Knockranny House Hotel has won many awards and accolades, owing to its reputation for excelling in the art of hospitality and excellent service.
There is much to see and do in and around Westport, from the culture of Westport House and Clew Bay Heritage Centre to cycling the Great Western Greenway, climbing Croagh Patrick and enjoying the many adventurous activities the wild Atlantic waters have to offer.
The coastal town of Westport is a heady mix of mouth-watering restaurants, busy bars and quaint craft shops. It’s impossible not to soak up the unique atmosphere of this town, and it’s easy to see why Westport was voted the best place in Ireland to live.
Given the vast and varied things to do along this coastal town, the only problem will be finding the time to fit it all in.
THE ART OF DESIGN
After a prompt check-in, we are shown to our home from home for the weekend. The aptly named Wow Penthouse Suite does just that – it wows at every turn. This beautifully designed suite boasts the finest views of Croagh Patrick and Clew Bay.
The suites spacious entrance hall, lounge, bedroom and bathrooms are beautifully designed and the contemporary furniture and art that adorn the rooms are on point when it comes to style and substance.
A fine selection of reading material sits on bookshelves throughout the room and once again we wonder if we will have enough time to indulge in the pleasure of an afternoon of nothing more than reading and relaxing?
SPOILT FOR CHOICE
With so much excellent gastronomy in one place, it’s hard to decide where to dine in Westport. But given Knockranny House Hotel’s La Fougère restaurant is a multiple award-winning restaurant, perched on the hillside overlooking Clew Bay and Croagh Patrick, the decision is made for us.
Voted Best Chef in Connaught, Seamus Commons, one of Ireland’s most respected chefs, heads up the team at Knockranny and uses locally sourced produce to create a relaxed fine dining experience that is hard to beat.
We start with a wholesome celeriac soup, and a smoked salmon starter – the smoked flavours expertly offset with citrus aioli and pickled cucumber. As the restaurant is renowned for its fresh seafood, we stick with fish for the mains, opting for sea bass, ratatouille and beurre blanc lentils, and seared sole on the bone with almond butter, Killary mussels and cauliflower purée.
With so much to do and see in Westport, our only complaint was finding time to do everything in one weekend
Knockranny’s resident Sommelier, Nicolas Faujours is no stranger to awards either, having won Best Sommelier in Ireland in 2013. And the wine list reflects his confidence and sense of adventure. After much deliberation, we settle on an Albarino, which goes perfectly with our fish feast.
Given that pistachio in desert is one of my favourite things, I instantly went for the pistachio gateaux, with caramel sauce and pistachio ice cream, while my companion went for the Bavarois crème anglais with cider raisins and stracciatella ice cream.
Savouring every moment of this fine dinning experience, we can’t help but admire the design and décor of this French style restaurant. Replete after an exquisite dinning extravaganza, we retire to the warm and inviting Brehon Bar for a nightcap.
Whether it’s a pre or post dinner tipple, the bar at Knockranny is a cosy spot to relax, read or enjoy some local entertainment in the form of an acoustic folk singer or resident piano player.
The Brehon Bar’s elegant afternoon tea is a real treat too and great value for money. Traditional classics like Knockanore cheese and Knockranny’s own house-smoked salmon, work well alongside tropical flavours of passion fruit and delectable citrus fancies. At under €20 including a glass of prosecco, afternoon tea at Knockranny certainly won’t break the bank.
And if cocktails not cute sandwiches are more to your liking, then sampling Knockranny’s extensive cocktail list is a must. Another award winner, Knockranny’s mixologist Owen Hughes recently collected the prestigious award and title of National Cocktail Champion 2015 for his aperitif cocktail called St. Clements East –definitely the first one you should try.
GREENWAY ALL THE WAY
After a peaceful sleep in our sumptuous suite and a hearty breakfast, we are ready to take to the great outdoors. After a quick stroll through Westport, stopping off at splendid craft and gift shops along the way, we walk through Westport House and down to the quay to breath in the fresh sea air.
Changing mode of transport, we get on our bikes to speed things up. The Great Western Greenway is Ireland’s longest off-road walking and cycling trail in Ireland. The 42km Greenway follows the route of the Westport to Achill railway line, which closed in 1937. Whether walking or cycling, the landscape is breathtaking and we vow to return again soon to enjoy the surroundings some more.
Although we didn’t do the entire route, after a couple of hours on our bikes we do feel justified to return to the hotel for some relaxing and pampering. The Spa Salveo has a vitality pool, a thermal suite, relaxation area, fitness suite and twelve treatment rooms, including a serail mud-chamber and dry floatation.
Using traditional Swedish massage techniques and a blend of aromatherapy oils, my therapist expertly relieves all the stresses and strains from my aching muscles, and on leaving the spa a few hours later, I feel like a new woman.
With its picturesque location, intoxicating ambience, excellent service and beautiful décor, Knockranny House Hotel offers a truly unique and unforgettable conference, events and wedding experience.
Popular with locals and visitor from further afield, Knockranny is renowned as a wedding venue of choice for potential newlyweds. Given that the hotel can cater for and tailor packages for weddings big and small, there is real appeal for people with all tastes and budgets.
WONDERS OF THE WEST
With so much to do and see in Westport, our only complaint was finding time to do everything in one weekend. Whether its high octane activities or slow leisurely strolls, fine dinning restaurants or kitsch country cafés, traditional pubs or stylish cocktail bars, Westport has something for everyone.
And if you’re only complaint after a weekend in the west is that you didn’t get to do everything you would have wanted – well that’s not the worse complaint is it?
As we drive out of the driveway of Knockranny House Hotel, we both agree we will have to return to the west many times if we are to tick everything off our wish list. Explore some more and relive our Atlantic coastal adventure? Yes please!
The hotel’s Greenway Getaway includes two nights accommodation for two adults and two children (under 10) with a breakfast each morning, and bicycle and helmet hire for one day with a packed lunch. Access to Spa Salveo’s pool and thermal suite and treatments can be arranged. The Greenway Getaway package is available from €185 per person and children under 10 stay for free.
The hotel’s Greenway Getaway includes two nights accommodation for two adults and two children (under 10) with a breakfast each morning, and bicycle and helmet hire for one day with a packed lunch.
Access to Spa Salveo’s pool and thermal suite and treatments can be arranged. The Greenway Getaway package is available from €185 per person and children under 10 stay for free.
Served in the Brehon Bar with its panoramic views over Clew Bay and Croagh Patrick, ‘Afternoon Delight’ Knockranny’s elegant afternoon tea serves a selection of open finger sandwiches, homemade scones and a selection of pastries and cakes.
Served with a choice of tea, coffee or hot chocolate, afternoon tea is available for €14 (serving one) or €24 (to serve two), or with a glass of prosecco for €19.50 per person and is available daily between 2.30pm and 5.30pm.