Relaxed Grandeur in Dog Friendly Lough Eske Castle

Kirsty Johnston escaped to the luxurious world of relaxed grandeur and extraordinary personal service at one of Ireland’s top luxury hotels

It’s a three and a half hour drive to Lough Eske Castle – quite long for a one-night stay… but so worth it. I was sceptical about driving that distance for just one night – I mean who wants to do a six-hour round trip for a one-night stay? But I am so glad I did.

The hotel is an absolute gem – if you haven’t stayed there you need to. You won’t regret it. I will admit there are cheaper hotels in Ireland, but none can compare. I can honestly say this beautiful five-star hotel is the best one I have ever stayed in in Ireland, in fact it’s so amazing that the husband and I are already planning a longer trip in the New Year. They had a fantastic ‘Stay Three Nights for the Price of Two’ offer on when we visited and we were told that this deal will probably run throughout 2015 as well.

And of course it’s pet friendly, but not pet friendly in the way that most Irish hotels are – simply allowing pets to stay, Lough Eske actually treats doggy friends as if they are guests too. They are provided with their very own bed, water/food bowls and are greeted just as warmly as human guests. Pets are welcomed in both the Courtyard Guestrooms and Garden Suites.

The hotel is slap bang in the middle of 43 acres of stunning forested woodland – perfect for leisurely walks with the dogs. The secluded lakeside estate is just outside Donegal town and has a rich history dating back to the 1400’s – most notably it is associated with the O’Donnell Clan, the founding fathers of Donegal. Although we didn’t get a chance to explore the nearby town this time, we are hoping we will get to see a bit more on our next visit.

Lough Eske Castle Hotel is the only five star hotel in Donegal and is the winner of the World’s Best Luxury Country Hotel for the past five consecutive years. The lovingly restored castle blends its historic past with a dash of contemporary elegance.

We stayed in one of the Garden Suites, just opposite the spa entrance. This was the perfect room for us as it was accessed directly from outside. This was brilliant for the dogs as we could take them out to do their business simply by opening the door – no traipsing through the main hotel. The Garden Suites are extra spacious open-plan suites and were created when the castle was restored in 2007. Each Garden Suite has a high quality stone floor, which was music to my ears! There’s nothing worse than going out for a long country walk with the dogs and then worrying about them (or us) getting mud on the hotel room’s carpeted floor.

Each suite also has a Spanish basket gas fire and a comfy seating area – it is a really relaxing environment. During our stay we were treated to a couples’ massage, which was absolute heaven. Here the concept of the traditional spa break really transcends mere manicures, facials or massages. Instead, the focus is on a total wellness experience. The spa setting is authentic, refreshing and peacful – it is a great place to just relax and let the stresses of life wash away. The husband had never had a massage before, so when a couples’ massage was suggested he was a bit reluctant to accept at first, however, after seeing a lot of people in robes making their way across the courtyard to the spa he had to see what all the fuss was about for himself. And boy was he glad he did – he’s already requested I book him another massage as soon as possible as he enjoyed it so much!

As we didn’t have much time during our stay we didn’t take full advantage of the spa facilities such as the swimming pool and sauna, however we did take full advantage of the seating area in our room – we headed straight back there after our massage to chill out in front of the fire with the dogs. Even though the room is not inside the main hotel it has a great WiFi connection – a must for us as the husband is a gamer (so having fast WiFi when we travel is great!)

We enjoyed dinner in the beautiful surroundings of Cedars Grill – the restaurant has a casual, relaxed and elegant atmosphere and offers an extensive menu filled with fresh local produce. Dinner was an experience in itself. The food, the service, the surroundings – everything was perfection! I even got to choose which cheeses I would like on my cheeseboard from a huge cheese trolley which was brought round for me to select from.

That night we slept in a gorgeous four-poster king size bed – we had a lovely cup of tea in bed just to finish of the evening, although I would have preferred a hot chocolate, but tea and coffee were the only in-room options.

Breakfast was buffet-style and was served in Cedars Grill, on offer was an extensive choice of freshly baked goods and pastries, freshly prepared fruits, cold meats, fish and cheese. The hot selection included all the perfect ingredients of a typical full Irish cooked breakfast, which we took full advantage of. I absolutely loved the chef station where the chef cooked your eggs to order… or if you fancy you can have fresh cooked pancakes or an omelette!

After breakfast we took the dogs for a quick walk before getting ready to head home. It was a short but sweet visit this time – the next visit will definitely be longer.

Lough Eske Castle is the ideal base for exploring the rugged beauty of Ireland’s incredibly scenic North West region. It’s a chance to experience authentic Ireland away from the traditional tourist trails and be inspired by the breathtaking scenic drives along Donegal’s Wild Atlantic Way.

Walking enthusiasts can embark on the world renowned and gloablly popular International Appalachian Trial, part of which surrounds Lough Eske Castle in the form of Bluestack Mountains – this is something we are keen to do on our next stay. One of our dogs (Turf) is a keen walker and will walk for hours, whereas our newest family member (Peat) is a little more of a lapdog and we usually end up carrying him during long walks (after he has lain down in the mud and refused to move)!

Another place to enjoy in Donegal with Lough Eske as your base is Glenveagh National Park and Castle. It’s Donegal’s primary attraction. There’s also Donegal Bay, which stretches from Bundoran to Donegal Town and onto Glencolmcille – perfect for letting the dogs have their head.


You can view more information and the latest offers on the Lough Eske website. You can also speak directly to someone at the hotel by phoning the reservation line 00353 74 97 43113.