The vibrant town centre sprawls down the hill towards the calm blue waters of the spectacular Clew Bay, while the unmistakeable majesty of the towering Croagh Patrick dominates the skyline; the outdoor opportunities endless.
Knockranny House Hotel is located just outside the town centre and opened in 1997 as a four-star hotel. A Spa and 40 luxury bedrooms were added, including a range of sumptuous suites, including a Presidential Suite, Penthouse Suite and a number of beautiful Master and Courtyard Suites.
The hotel’s culinary reputation is one of the major selling points for a stay at Knockranny House and arriving just in time for dinner, I didn’t have to wait too long to get a taste of what the hotel had to offer.
The restaurant, La Fougère, was awarded Best Hotel Restaurant in Ireland in 2010 and received Two AA Rosettes for culinary excellence in 2011. It was also named Best Restaurant in Connacht in 2011.
Dining options include table d'hôte, à la carte and tasting menus, prepared by head chef Seamus Commons, who puts emphasis on fresh seafood and the finest local ingredients. The hotel also hosts regular themed events throughout the year including a Seafood & Shellfish Weekend, Gourmet Game Weekend and a Vegetarian Weekend.
And La Fougère did not disappoint. Pan-fried Clew Bay scallops and a carpaccio of beef provided the perfect starter, followed by a flawless 21-day dry-aged sirloin of Irish beef and pan-fried monkfish.
The dessert menu will appeal widely to chocolate lovers, while wine enthusiasts will be more than impressed by the spectacular selection of fine wines on offer, which earned the restaurant a Best Wine List in Ireland award from travel experts Condé Nast.
The hotel’s Brehon Bar offers a very relaxed atmosphere and an excellent bar menu allows you to dine in a more casual environment with the benefit of an expert kitchen preparing the food.
Staying in a Courtyard Suite, I was treated to a very spacious bedroom, lounge area and luxury bathroom. The warm colour schemes attempt to create a peaceful environment and there really is great attention to detail in the rooms with comfort obviously very high on the list. Sleep came quickly and in spades.
A return to the restaurant for a hearty breakfast, this time the daylight hours exposing the diners to that special view out to Croagh Patrick and the Atlantic beyond.
Afterwards, I drove the short spin from the hotel, through the town, around Clew Bay and out the road to pay a visit to the majestic mountain.
Sticks were on sale in the visitors’ centre, but it was just a decent supply of water that was added to the back-pack as I ventured past the statue of Paddy himself, and upwards into the spring sunshine.
The climb is tricky in places for a novice who was not particularly dressed for the occasion. And I must admit, the freezing cold air combined with icy patches along the ascent resulted in a big, fat, fail in my first attempt to reach the little chapel atop Ireland’s most spiritual mountain.
The thoughts of the throngs who climb in bare feet made me feel particularly inadequate.
The views, however, even from only half-way up, are awe-inspiring as Clew Bay and its 365 islands offer a feast to the senses.
Climbers should reward themselves with a spot of lunch in any of the many restaurants and bars dotted around the Westport end of Clew bay. It is hard to beat on a sunny summer’s day, although, it being particularly baltic on this visit, it was an afternoon for soup and Six Nations rugby.
Back to the hotel and the legs were stiffening, so it seemed the perfect opportunity to try out the stylish award-winning Spa Salveo.
The Spa attempts, and succeeds, in creating a calming atmosphere with superb facilities, including a vitality pool with hydrotherapy stations, an expansive thermal spa suite, various relaxation areas, a fitness suite and twelve spacious treatment rooms, including a serail mud-chamber and dry flotation.
The aches and pains, setting in from my hill-walking, were certainly ironed out, while a swim in the vitality pool is an absolute must as the water appears to make a fizzing sounds as you swim beneath the surface.
Or perhaps that was just the sound of all my worries and stresses decompressing after two relaxing and rejuvenating days at the excellent Knockranny House Hotel?
Out and About in Westport
Saturday night out in Westport ranks alongside any of the top ‘going out’ towns in Ireland. An unrivalled pub scene and ever-improving culinary reputation, a weekend in Westport makes for the ideal short break.
Dinner was enjoyed in the quaint and cosy ‘The Pantry & Corkscrew’ restaurant, located in the centre of the town. The food and ambience provided the perfect start to the Saturday night, while the service was quite simply, stunning.
Diners are treated like prodigal sons and daughters returning home and the entire restaurant were also offered a complimentary glass of champagne when the proprietor learned of a couple who had just got engaged that afternoon.
I wonder if they had made it to the little chapel on top of Croagh Patrick?
For more information about Knockranny House Hotel, visit www.knockrannyhousehotel.ie.