YOU’RE getting older, with more time on your hands. So, why not exploit some of the midweek bargains that Ireland’s hotels are offering the greying population?
Take Lough Allen Hotel and Spa outside Drumshanbo in County Leitrim, for example. Resting in regal fashion on the shores of the lake after which it is named, it has plenty to offer the old … and young!
Our two-night package included breakfast and a half-hour treatment each in the tranquil Oshadi Spa.
We had full access to the 15-metre pool, its sauna and steam rooms, the basic but nevertheless satisfying gym, a bar with a veranda overlooking the lake, the adjacent hot tub that was never out of use, and access to complimentary maps outlining short and longer walks in the shadow of the impressive Sliabh an Iarann and Arigna mountains.
Between us, we parted with €150 for the pleasure – reader, we were not complaining.
I took the train to Carrick-on-Shannon. The day was lovely and the landscape on form: dewy, green and gentle on the eye.
The two-hour journey allowed me to shuck off the city tempo and start relaxing ahead of my arrival.
While wandering around waiting for my lift, I was surprised and educated by a plaque in Carrick: “Surgeon Major, Thomas Heazle Parke – first Irish man to cross Africa with HM Stanley. Co-discoverer of the Mountains of the Moon” – another sharp reminder that sleepy towns nestling beside lazy rivers can be the source of great history.
We arrived at the lodge and checked into a large, airy and comfy room. Guests on the other side of the corridor had views of the low lake’s water lapping. We wanted that! Next time …
A quick dip in the pool, a sauna and a truly sociable half hour in the hot tub (it was quite hard to leave the conversation of total strangers), and we had geared up sufficiently for dinner.
Drumshanbo had few eateries on offer, so we settled for the Lough Allen bar menu.
But, why oh why does pub grub have to be so generic, and so fry-oriented?
Nevertheless, this menu had a hidden gem: lamb shank, slow-roasted with root veg and replete with red wine jus. I’m not a lamb fan, but this converted me.
On the first night, I had the dressed-up fish and chips – pretty standard fare.
However, the following night was the lamb shank – and talk about melt-in-the-mouth … My friend had this dish two nights running (they were out of shank by the time we left).
Breakfast was standard and plentiful – fruit and croissants, or the Ulster fry; with refills no problem.
On our one full day, we took a walk, saving the Arigna Mines tour for the return visit. The weather was so beautiful that a long trek was an absolute must.
We took our photocopied map from reception and drove out for a much needed three-and-a-half hour hike.
On our return, we found ourselves on the road to Lough Rynn Castle, so we stopped off to revive ourselves on designer nuts, craft beer and the bookish ambience of the John McGahern Reading Room.
Then, back at the hotel we swam, sauna-ed, hit the steam room, languished in the hot tub and finally – ate lamb shank!
Our last morning involved the spa treatment.
There was no stinting on attention, even though it was only the half-hour treatment. While we didn’t look any younger leaving, our stay in Lough Allen was rejuvenating – and above all, very good value. We will be back …