Cocooned in the breathtaking Delphi Valley, Niamh Mac Sweeney strikes the balance between adrenalin-fuelled adventure and unbridled relaxation.
From Galway we take the Clifden road, past Oughterard on towards Leenane, and then towards Louisburgh and past Aasleagh falls. The scenery is breathtaking, the mountains dominating the view, and from peak to valley, water chutes down craggy enclaves. Meandering sheep rule the road and vibrant rainbows spring up from behind hidden inlets.
With so much vying for attention, the drive is a real treat for the visual senses. Our destination is Delphi Resort, which is located in the Delphi Valley on the northern shore of Killary fjord. And while we are eager to get there, we are equally happy to soak up the wild and rugged landscape as we journey around the stunning peninsula.
Sometimes you have to go far out to really appreciate remoteness and to get a true sense of isolation. This is very true of a visit to Delphi and as we get closer, the trappings and reality of life slip further and further away. Our weekend retreat is well and truly underway.
When we arrive at Delphi Resort, we are instantly taken away by the charming hotel and how tastefully it fits into the mountainous landscape as if it has been there all along.
The architect – Frank Ennis – designed the contemporary structure modestly. Keenly sensitive to the stunning surroundings, the hotel curves seamlessly around the valley. Across 400 acres of forested land, Delphi Resort exists in perfect harmony.
Submerged in a deep glacial valley, its breathtaking backdrop does all the talking, and its boldness is something definitely worth boasting about.
Delphi as an adventure centre has been in operation for over 20 years, but in the early noughties it had a rebirth as a mountain resort and spa where people retreat to find a balance between calmness and activity.
With a strong focus on getting out and enjoying the great outdoors, Delphi Resort is as much a playground for fun and activities as it is for sitting back and admiring the view.
On entering the hotel we find the reception is warm and inviting and the smell of fresh turf burning in the open fire merely adds to the ambiance and homely atmosphere. There is a short intake of breath when we hear there is no phone signal, the wifi connection does exist but only some of the time, and there is no TV in the room. I guess that means that it’s time to unplug and switch off so?
It’s so quiet at Delphi. And it’s certainly easy to switch off from reality especially when sitting in a cosy, wood-furnished room looking out over a veranda that is submerged in a forest and surrounded by a stunning mountain range. Hearing and knowing that an abundance of wildlife is but a breath away, adds to the feeling of remoteness.
That evening we dine in 814 Brasserie, where seafood sourced locally features predominantly across the menu. As we look out over the scenic mountain views of the Mweelrea, we contemplate the personal mountain we will climb in the morning and relish a good nights sleep before the big adventure begins.
ZIP AND GO
From the adrenalin junkie to the gentle outdoors type, Delphi Resort offers every kind of activity to suit every type of person. Water sports enthusiast will love swimming, climbing, and plunging into the wild Atlantic, whether by surfing, paddle boarding, kayaking or coasteering. If you fancy yourself as Bear Grylls, then the Bushcraft Survival Skills activity will have you navigating your own journey of survival.
And for those that prefer to have their feet firmly on solid land, then rock climbing, biking or the bog challenge – which claims to soak you in mud from ‘your socks up to your eyeballs’ – will have you enjoying yourself so much you’ll have forgotten why you agreed to take on this challenge.
If you fancy yourself as Bear Grylls, then the Bushcraft Survival Skills will have you navigating your own survival
We did however agree to do the Go Zip ‘n’ Trek activity. Nervous but with no time to back out, before we know it we are harnessed up and climbing a gigantic wooden structure. High up in the trees, the legs start to wobble and fear sets in. Clem our instructor is reassuring as he explains the obstacle course we are about to embark on.
The pulse is racing and the adrenaline is pumping and although it’s frightening, we somehow manage to zip, climb, traverse and scramble around this thrill seeking adventure course. Our prize for achieving so much and confronting our fear of heights is the ‘bridge swing’ – a cross between a bungy jump and a giant abseil. It is not for the faint hearted! Dangled in the air, we place all our trust in Clem and his ropes.
We scream ‘pull the trigger’ hoping he’ll put us out of our misery quickly. He doesn’t and instead releases us when we least expect it. The feeling of release is immense and addictive. What we didn’t think possible, suddenly we want to do again and again. And we do!
After an adrenalin-fueled afternoon, we are ready to relax into the evening. Dining at the exclusive Chefs Table (a self-contained, 34-seater restaurant separate to the main hotel), Stefan Matz has mastered a tantalising seven-course tasting menu, each course combined with beers from artisan, craft beer producer, Black Donkey Brewing.
The Chef’s Table offers a unique interactive dining experience. The ‘open kitchen’ allows for plenty of interaction with Stefan in the kitchen and given that six of the eight people seated at the table are complete strangers, the conversation flows easily as everyone gets to know each other.
The menu has been created to celebrate the best of local produce and ingredients; the seafood is sourced along the wild Connemara shores; the mussels are freshly caught in the Killary fjord; the organically farmed lamb and beef comes from the hills surrounding Delphi, while local growers and suppliers provide plenty of fresh produce.
Famished, we devour the scallops with smoked black pudding, barley and roast apple crumble – Black Donkey’s ‘Sheep Stealer’ farmhouse ale a fine accompaniment.
The ‘Scythe’ Belgian pale ale matches perfectly with the next course of hake and prawn with red chard and scythe gel. Then it’s on to the meat – roast rack of pork, brined in Black Donkey’s ‘Buck It’, a hybrid amber ale which is washed down with even more Buck It.
After a cheese board with a difference, the desert is the real show stopper, and the beer and polenta cake with almond and pink peppercorn ice-cream, is a sublime end to a superb evening of fine dining.
HUNGARY FOR MORE
After a tranquil night’s sleep, and wanting to stay in a wonderful state of serenity, the following morning we visit the Delphi Spa to relax and unwind some more.
The philosophy of the spa is focused on the client’s health and wellness – a place to relax, recharge, reflect and reconnect – all of which are easy to do given the treatments and location.
I was aware that all of the products used in the spa are certified 100% organic and are made with the highest ethical and environmental standards. But I didn’t know much about the Éminence range itself. Thankfully, Linzi my therapist for the morning was a font of knowledge and passionately explained the history, ethos, research, science and the unique benefits behind this skin care range.
What we didn’t think possible, suddenly we wanted to do again and again
Founded in Hungary by Boldijarre Koronczay – an icon of the spa industry – Éminence Organic Skin Care uses only natural, organic, and biodynamic products to effectively address different skin types in the treatment of various skin concerns.
The Delphi mountain Spring Signature Facial is tailored specifically to my skins needs and Linzi explains the various herbs and plants used in this wholly natural yet prescriptive facial. The fresh herb and fruit aromas left me feeling utterly refreshed and rejuvenated, yet at the same time deeply relaxed and connected to nature.
Back in the relaxation room, the inspiring views of Ben Gorm are mesmerising and the feeling of tranquility and holistic harmony is tremendous. Equally impressive is that the spa – complete with Jacuzzi, steam room, sauna and relaxation area – uses its own mountain spring as the spa’s entire water supply and its seaweed is also harvested locally.
We couldn’t leave without calling into the Wild Atlantic Café. Located to the right of the hotel’s main entrance, it is a quaint and cosy place to go for soup and sandwiches or a well-deserved sweet treat after an activity-filled day.
The Wild Atlantic Café is a great place to pick up gifts produced by local crafts people. From textiles and pottery to organic beauty products and books, this artisan shop is home to many treasures that have been lovingly crafted by talented local artists. You can also buy locally harvested seaweed to take home with you and recreate your own Atlantic experience.
There are few places left in the world where it’s possible to unplug, retreat, and submerge yourself in total peace and serenity, while at the same time challenge yourself, test your boundaries and go beyond your comfort zone.
But somehow Delphi Resort manages to do just that, ticking all these boxes in one go. Whether on a work break away, a quiet weekend retreat or a fun-filled family holiday, throughout its history, Delphi Resort has proven its track record time and time again. A world away from reality, in a land where the impossible is possible, Delphi is where the adventure begins and where it keeps on giving.
WELL, WELL, WELL
Delphi Resort has been running spa and wellness retreats in Ireland for over two decades in the surroundings and tranquility of beautiful Connemara. Retreats are for those looking to unwind from the routine of everyday life by detoxifying the body and mind with practices such as yoga, meditation, healthy eating, holistic therapy and walking.
AIN’T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH
Looking to reward and motivate your team, develop the proven skill-set and leadership abilities of high performance teams, provide an opportunity to boost your team’s physical and mental wellbeing, or hone and develop your leadership capabilities? Delphi Resort is Ireland’s leading destination for business teams in search of world-class, results-driven, experiential team building and leadership programmes.
Delphi Resort has successfully combined the latest principles in strength assessment, organisational psychology, elite sports team performance strategies and outdoor adventure to develop the Everest High-Performance Team & Executive Leadership Programme.
The Everest Programme consists of four modules – Connect, Advance, Engage and Executive Leadership – and provides teams with an opportunity to experience the challenges of a simulated Everest expedition. By developing the knowledge, skills and attitudes of high performance teams and outstanding leaders, the Everest Programme empowers teams and leaders to achieve their goals and reach the pinnacle of success.
With over 20 land and water based activities available, Delphi Resort also offers several team bonding options for groups who want to break down silos and have great fun.