Travel: Comfort and cuisine close to home

Clanree Hotel , Letterkenny
Clanree Hotel , Letterkenny

Sometimes it’s hard to beat an old favourite when it comes to choosing a destination to unwind and relax. Our writer returned to The Clanree Hotel in Letterkenny and found the experience as wonderful as ever

If the first impression of a hotel begins at reception then my first impression of the Clanree Hotel in Letterkenny was - a queue. A long one.

We had somehow managed to arrive at the same time as two coach loads of wedding guests who were all checking in for the weekend.

I have to admit my heart sank at the prospect of standing in a queue at the start of my ‘relaxing weekend’. However, the staff at the Clanree lived up to their reputation of being helpful and customer focused as a lovely lady offered to put our bags in a secure room while we headed off into the town for some retail therapy and a cuppa.

When we came back an hour later the queue was gone and we could begin our lovely relaxing weekend.

There are so many things to love about the Clanree, including its location at the gateway to the Wild Atlantic Way. Lots of the things I love are tiny but they all add up to a fantastic experience.

Hands up who has stayed in a hotel and wrecked their back on wafer thin mattresses on the teeny beds? I know I have. Not so at Clanree. In the twin room, myself and my guest had the luxury of stretching out on two separate double beds that were quite possibly the most comfortable I had ever slept in. I am an insomniac and even in the comfort of my own bed I still struggle to sleep. But at Clanree I slept like a baby. This may not seem like that big a deal, but for me it was top of my list when I thought about what I wanted to write about.

One big minus point for me (which may not seem all that important unless you are a gadget geek like me) was the lack of a plug socket beside the bed. One bed had a socket but the other, the one I somehow ended up in, had the closest socket across the room. This probably won’t bother you that much unless you need to charge your iPhone twice a day, as well as a Kindle and an iPad. A small thing but an important one in 2016.

We also enjoyed a beautiful meal in the hotel restaurant and it too was one of the best I have ever enjoyed. And believe me, I am a very fussy eater!

The menu, which was pleasantly varied, could best be described as modern Irish cuisine. It was delicately plated but the portions would more than satisfy the heftiest appetite. To start with we both enjoyed the shitake mushrooms stuffed with brie and rosemary, panko crumbed and with a gorgeous mango coulis (there’s a chance I may have used artistic licence with the ‘gorgeous’ but it was, so I stand by it!)

We went our separate ways with the main course. I opted for the crispy skin chicken with wild mushroom and tarragon cream. I had this with mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables. And I enjoyed every succulent mouthful.

My guest enjoyed the seared fillet of salmon with spring onion mash and sun dried tomato and butter cream. I am not a fish fan but even to me this looked delicious and I am assured it tasted even better than it looked.

We went very traditional for dessert, with sticky toffee pudding and dark chocolate brownie, both of which were as rich and decadent as you could hope for.

And if that wasn’t enough food for you, the breakfast was also worthy of a mention. The buffet had everything you could want for the most important meal of the day. Cooked Irish breakfast? Tick. As much toast as you could manage? Tick. Fruit? Yoghurt? Porridge? Tick, tick tick. And something I have never seen before - a machine that makes fresh pancakes for you at the touch of a button.

After some more retail therapy in Letterkenny, some much needed R&R was enjoyed in the hotel’s swimming pool, Jacuzzi, steam room, sauna and whirlpool. While for many people a spa is certainly not on the top of their must-have list, it was definitely a bonus and added even more to my love of the hotel.

I would like to give a special mention to each and every single one of the staff that we met during our weekend stay. Everyone was friendly and went out of their way to be helpful. Ah, I hear you say, but they knew you were a journalist. But here is the thing, not only did I eavesdrop on surrounding interactions between staff and other hotel residents, I have also stayed here before and everyone gets treated with the utmost respect.

In your room you will find a folder with a letter in it that reads: ‘Our reputation is built on quality, service and attention to details’. And I have to say that reputation is absolutely well deserved and I have no hesitation whatsoever in recommending it for a special weekend away.