Sublime, smart, stunning and swanky is the only way to go for Niamh Mac Sweeney as she retreats sea side for the weekend.
I do like to be beside the seaside – as much in the summer time as in the depths of winter. Regardless of the season, there’s something therapeutic about being close to water and when perched, quite literally, on the edge of a cliff, you can’t get much closer to nautical nature than this!
Since my first dining experience at the Cliff Townhouse – a jewel in the crown of Dublin’s culinary scene, which offers sublime food and magnificent views over St Stephen’s Green – I have desperately wanted to stay in its sister hotel, the Cliff House Hotel in Waterford’s picturesque seaside village of Ardmore.
People say you should take advantage of what’s on your doorstep and Aird Mhór, meaning ‘great height’ is an apt location for the Cliff House Hotel.
The commanding views out through the large wall of glass as we enter the hotel’s reception area are quite simply breathtaking. We instantly agree this has got to be the best view in town.
Taking full advantage of the expansive vista out over the Irish Sea, the hotel’s vantage point and the smell of the fresh sea air confirms what I already learned on the drive to this scenic part of the country – all of our senses were in for a treat at Ardmore.
No matter where you are in the hotel – and of course depending on the weather during your stay – the view constantly changes. But one thing that is consistent is the spectacular seascape that surrounds the entire hotel.
SMALL BUT MIGHTY
As the saying goes: ‘good things come in small packages’, and while the Cliff House is certainly a boutique hotel in size, nothing is done in small measure here. Upon arrival, we are swiftly shown to our room and place of refuge for the weekend.
As with the stunning reception area, we are immediately taken with the veranda suite; it’s easy to feel at ease in such sensual surroundings and we instantly feel enveloped in its style and substance.
The split-level, loft-style suite feels like our own private apartment, and we are once again taken by the chic ground floor living area with its tasteful décor. An exquisite and unique collection of original 18th-century furniture gives way to a cosy fireplace in the centre of the living room for those chilly winter nights. While there is certainly much to explore in the great outdoors, this cosy den of seclusion offers no urge to venture outside.
Another saying that springs to mind is: ‘the devil is in the detail’, and the creators of the Cliff House Hotel have certainly hit all the right design notes. From the contemporary tweeds, to the splashes of vibrant colour, down to the unique collection of books that adorn the shelves of our suite – if this is a ploy to keep us here its certainly working, and I can’t imagine any reason why we would want to leave this magical version of relaxation heaven.
Upstairs in the suite, the bedroom takes full advantage of the cliffside location with floor-to-ceiling glass doors opening onto a large private veranda, which is perfect for lounging, taking in the ocean views and breathing in the fresh sea air.
The bathroom is a real treat too with glass-sided, rainforest showers giving the impression of bathing in the open air.
While there is certainly much to explore in the great outdoors, this cosy den of seclusion offers no urge to venture outside
On the first night of our stay at the Cliff House we decide to eat in its award-winning Michelin star restaurant. The House Restaurant is renowned throughout Ireland for its fine cuisine and serves plenty of Irish and international foodie fans on a daily basis, who travel from far and wide to sample its impressive menu.
Martijn Kajuiter is the brains behind this creative culinary operation, and with the help of two other Michelin star chefs – Stephen Hayes and Darren Mulvihill – this unique menu, which consists of produce grown on Irish soil and sourced from Irish seas, is executed to perfection.
Whether you order from the à la carte or indulge in The House Restaurant’s popular tasting dinner menu, be warned your taste buds are in for a culinary explosion. Given that the menus change regularly, if you don’t get to sample all of this restaurant’s many delights in one sitting, then its all the more reason to come back again – which is exactly what we plan to do.
The Bantry Bay organic salmon with ballotine, iced cucumber and Irish garden beetroot and horseradish is a perfect starter for the senses. While West Cork scallops, simply prepared are equally delicious and set the standard explicitly before the main event.
With so many fruits of the sea on offer it’s difficult to decide on mains, but eventually we settle on the halibut and monkfish – both of which are consumed with great mouth-watering satisfaction. A bottle of Albariño is the perfect accompaniment to our meal and creates the right balance for our fish feast.
The wine list at The House Restaurant is as exceptional as the food menu and it’s obvious the sommelier has worked closely with the chef to create an innovative and exciting mix of wines that reflex the diverse style and flavours and the strong emphasises on seafood on display.
Given that this is a Michelin star restaurant, all courses are served with the ceremony, panache and elegance one would expect, but it is the deserts that really seal the deal and a plate of pear sweetness strikes the right balance against the mains.
Due to the impressive views from the restaurant, lunch or afternoon tea at The House come highly recommended when the sea expanse is all the more striking. For now though, we are content to retreat to our loft haven to relax some more.
LASHINGS OF LAVISHNESS
Following a hearty breakfast its time to sample the Well Spa which takes its name from the sacred spring at St Declan’s Well, which is just a short walk from the hotel.
What can I say about the Well Spa? Just that whether you opt for an Irish seaweed facial using products from the VOYA range, a body massage that targets specific areas or a specialist bath using Irish peat, the healing powers of the ocean and Ireland’s natural assets are on display at the Well Spa and certainly proove to be both relaxing and rejuvenating.
The spa is set into the rock face and as we submerge ourselves in the outdoor hot tub, a light sea mist sprays us pleasantly and we wonder once again if we have died and gone to sea heaven. Is it possible to be more relaxed than this? We think not!
Although our visit to the Cliff House Hotel is all about pleasure, there are plenty of excellent mid-week packages for corporate and team building events. And with exceptional sea views, visitors can relax and host corporate gatherings in a discreet venue far from the madding crowds.
Equally, if planning a special occasion, an evening of fine dining or an exclusive wedding, the intimacy and personable nature of the hotel will certainly make it a day to remember.
For peace and relaxation, the Cliff House Hotel has amazing sea views, excellent cuisine and spa facilities that will be hard to beat. At this quaint corner of the world, overlooking sandy beaches and rocky enclaves, elegance and warm hospitality await you, and nestled on the coast this chic, boutique hotel has given us all we could ask for and more from a seaside holiday. Could we have asked for more? Only that we wanted to stay longer.
Does the Cliff House Hotel live up to its enviable reputation? It most certainly does, and then it goes beyond expectations to a whole new height.
TAKE FIVE: Things to do
Fishing: There are so many options available near the Cliff House Hotel including: fly-fishing along the Blackwater River, which is renowned for offering some of the best salmon fishing in Ireland; saltwater fishing out of Cork Harbour, the second largest natural harbour in the world; rock fishing at Ardmore Head; or deep-sea fishing with local fishermen on a half or full-day excursion on boats out of Youghal, Dungarvan, Helvick and Ballycotton.
Golf: World-class championship courses include the Old Head of Kinsale and Mount Juliet – both a 90-minute drive from Ardmore. Fota Island Golf Club and Waterford Castle Golf are within an hour’s drive of the hotel, while local courses for a quick round include Dungarvan Golf Club, The Gold Coast, and West Waterford Golf Club.
Outdoor adventures: Canoe down the River Blackwater with an experienced guide; take a bike trip with Lismore Cycling holidays; scuba dive with Seahunter Diving or Ardmore Diving; or go quad biking with Bridgefield Buggies at Castlemartryr – when it comes to outdoor activities the options are endless.
Walking: There are numerous cliff path walks near the hotel. One of the walks has marker posts along the route and passes an old coastguard station, St Declan’s Cell and Holy Well, a ruined church and an abandoned coast guard lookout. For the more adventurous, guided hiking through the Comeragh Mountains with Ardmore Adventures can be arranged.
Whale Watching: Andrew Malcolm is West Waterford’s best guide for nature walks – and can lead you on bespoke foraging, whale and birdwatching hikes. Dolphins, fin whales, minke and the occasional humpback are quite easy to spot between November and February each year, off the Ardmore cliffs. Capitalise on this rare pleasure by wrapping up warm, with binoculars, campstools and flasks of warm drinks provided by the hotel, and head out with Andrew to spot these spectacular creatures. €50 per person for a two-hour session, with reduced group rates also available.
Get in touch
The Cliff House Hotel is an hour’s drive from both Cork and Waterford airports and Rosslare Car Ferry. Dungarvan and Youghal are a 15-minute drive away, while Dublin is about a two-hour drive away.
The Cliff House Hotel has a number of mid-week, weekend and seasonal packages. For more information on individual packages and special offers, log on to www.thecliffhousehotel.com.