Last year I took a week off work and stayed at home as I really love where I live. But it rained nearly every day….in August! This year I thought I would definitely go abroad because I really needed some sun. I tried to plan it with my sister in law, Jane, who lives back in Wales, but logistics and timing were a bit of a nightmare. So as a compromise and thinking we’d forgo the sun, Jane came to me for a long weekend and we had just over 24 hours in The Cliff House Hotel in Ardmore. And this is how it went.

The Cliff Walk

The forecast was for rain all weekend but we woke on Sunday morning to glorious sunshine so firstly the dogs got a good walk, and so did we, around the Cliff Walk in Ardmore. The stunning scenery and blue sea were the perfect start to the lovely day we had planned. Dropping the dogs back home and a quick change from walking gear to “going to a 5 star hotel” gear we headed back over the hill to Ardmore – all of a 15 minute drive from my house.

The Spa

We had booked some spa treatments – Reiki for Jane and Indian Head Massage for me. The therapists were lovely and the treatments very relaxing. We sat afterwards in the relaxation room having a herbal tea and looking out over the sea through the floor to ceiling window – relaxation was an understatement. Next was to use the infinity pool, sauna and outdoor hot tub in the spa. Three steps of quick cold dash and then sink into the warmth of the bubbling water looking out over the sea. I could have stayed in there all day but we had to leave and check in to our balcony suite.

The Room

The porter showed us to our room. Two lifts and corridors stretching along the cliff later and we were given an introduction to our room.  Jane and I spent about 20 minutes marvelling at the two flat screen televisions (yes two), sink in comfy sofas, mini library, the view and the bathroom….wow, the bathroom!! Behind tinted glass, which let the light in, was a beautiful blue tiled bathroom which was huge. I think it could also be called a wet room. It had a standalone deep bath and a walk in waterfall shower with the extra power nozzle. I could be getting the names wrong here but I’m sure you know what I mean. The water for the sink flowed through two tiles just under the mirror so it cascaded down – Jane was especially fascinated with that.

We watched the short welcome video by Adriaan Bartels, the General Manager, explaining the rooms and the hotel in general which was a great introduction to everything we needed. Everything is of Irish produce which is an excellent example of giving back to the community, which I know the Cliff House does so well. The artwork, rugs, throws and furniture; and even the toiletries and room beverages are all made in Ireland. There is free WiFi throughout the hotel which I couldn’t explain to Jane how handy that was as she only just knows how to switch on a computer. 🙂

So for a couple of hours we relaxed into the sofas.  Jane read the multitude of cook books on the shelves and made her mouth water thinking ahead to the dinner that evening.  I mostly read and tweeted – same as I do at home some Sundays but it felt so much better in luxurious comfort. And I think they knew we were coming when I spotted this book on the shelf —->

The Dinner

A couple of heavenly showers later we were done up to the nines and headed to the bar where the Deputy Manager, Siobhan Ryan, greeted us. We had met before and it was lovely to see her again – a true professional. A couple of Proseccos followed as we perused the menu and wow, what a menu. Thanks to Siobhan and Martijn Kujuiter, the amazing Executive chef, they have given me a copy of what we ordered with some brilliant pictures.

Amuse   :                            

Garden Beetroot Macaron with Knockdrinna Goats Cheese

Choux Bun, Roasted Butternut Squash Puree, Black Olive Butter

Garden Shallot “Panna Cotta” Pickeled Apple Jelly, Crunch

“Emily” Potato Crisps and Bay Leave Salt

Bread     :                               

Sea Vegetable Brioche,  Irish Soda Bread, Helvick “Blond” Beer and Corn Bread

Smoked Organic Butter, Walnuts, Sea salt, Glenilen Organic Butter

Starters :

Bantry Bay Organic Salmon   Ballotinne, Iced, Marinated, Preserved Cucumber,  Irish Garden Beetroot, Oak Smoke

West Cork Scallops   Preparations, “Dutch Salad”, Irish Caviar, Sea Spinach, Pumpkin – Roasted and Puree

Sorbet   :     Lemon Sorbet, Cucumber ”salad” Jelly,  Aearated Seasalt

Main Courses :              

McGrath’s Black Angus Beef    Fillet, Grilled, Kilbeggan Whiskey, Potato “Fondant”, King Mushroom, Stone Leeks, Herbs, Beef tea

Helvick John Dory    Fillet, “Sausage”, Garden Peas, Saffron Potato, Ink Gel, Cream , Sea Vegetable Vinaigrette

Desserts   :                           

Dark Chocolate 80%    Mousse, Olive Oil Crumbs, Semi Freddo, Maldon Sea Salt, “White” Coffee Ice cream 

Caramel 2012    Cake, Crème , Honeycomb, Apple, Organic Cream Jelly,  Popcorn Ice cream, Powder, Caramelized, Elderflower

The arrangement on the plates and mixture of tastes that blend together so well are an art amongst themselves. We were full after each course but funnily enough we still had room for more because they looked so tempting. Although the menu says three courses for €68 – which really is excellent value for a Michelin starred restaurant – you actually get five courses as you’ll see from the menu. All of it was just stunning; the service, the presentation, the tastes and the whole ambience of the restaurant was perfection. In testament to the reputation of the Cliff House the restaurant was full and also the bar where we had another couple of Proseccos before bed. As you do when on holiday 🙂

The Sleep

The crashing sea against the rocks below was only a faint murmur through the double glazing in the night. Similar to those relaxation tapes to send you to sleep – it worked perfectly for me. At 8am we were both sitting on the balcony having a cup of tea and just chilling out..…again. The sun was shining and the sea was blue – we could have been on the Amalfi Coast it was so beautiful. (Although as I got bitten to death last time I was in Sorrento and Capri I much prefer it closer to home nowadays.) With the sea swishing below Jane described it as very peaceful and healing. You could be looking forward to a walk on the beach or the Ardmore Cliff Walk or even a dip in the sea; it’s all there for the taking.

The Breakfast

When we went up for breakfast it had started to rain so we thought our luck with the sun had run out. Breakfast was a feast in itself – freshly squeezed juices, tea and coffee, fresh fruit salad and local organic yoghurt, toast and croissants, a full Irish breakfast, waffles, smoked salmon and poached egg or porridge. I think I’ve got it all – but isn’t that enough? It was lovely again and the service impeccable.

The Terrace

Because our plans for the day had changed last minute and the sun was shining again we thought we’d have a coffee on the terrace after checking out at midday. Coffee turned into a cocktail followed by wine and the next thing we knew it was 4pm and we’d been sat there reading, chatting and catching the sun – just like we do when abroad on holiday.  And our trip to the Cliff House Hotel was certainly a mini holiday in itself. From beginning to end we felt pampered by everyone. Someone has since told me that Ardmore has its own mini micro climate. I don’t know if that is true but the sun was certainly shining there that day when all around the rest of Ireland it was raining. Even going back over the hill to my home it had clouded over, like an end to the dream of our perfect holiday.

Jane and I had both worked in the hotel business for many years and we know the hard work that has to go into it but the staff at The Cliff House Hotel just make it seem effortless and everything runs so smoothly. It was fascinating just to watch how they do it. I only remember the stress of the hotel business and running around like a headless chicken trying to please everyone. The Cliff House is certainly a far cry from those old days in my youth. Reading over this piece I see the word “relaxation” used a lot so have had to edit a bit but you can obviously tell that relaxation is definitely the overall feeling at The Cliff House.

We certainly had our little piece of heaven at the Cliff House Hotel and I’d highly recommend it to everyone. Have you stayed there and have your own story to tell?