A wonderful Wicklow weekend

It’s been in business nearly 100 years, so it’s no surprise Cleo Murphy enjoyed old-school, Irish hospitality at the Glenview Hotel.

PLUSH but not posh, elegant but not exclusive, the Glenview Hotel is Irish hospitality of the old school. There are thick carpets, big comfy chairs in autumnal reds and golds, with a glittering chandelier in the lobby.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

You know immediately on your arrival this is going to be a good place to simply hang out with whoever you’re spending your weekend break — spouse, friends, children, or parents.

There is a full car park and the sound of happy voices coming from the bar and the restaurant as I check in, late in the evening.

It’s obvious that this was once an old hotel, which has many extensions, including the leisure centre.

Later I discover it dates back to 1914 when it was a hunting lodge with a few extra guest rooms. It has been adapting to the needs of its guests for close to 100 years now. There are currently 70 bedrooms, including two suites.

THE ROOM

The plush furniture is evident again in my suite, this time in rich aubergine. The view, when I pull back the curtains next morning, is of lush greenery sweeping down the hills to where traffic on the N11 snakes southward through the Glen of the Downs. The elevated Glenview is mere seconds off Junction 9 on the N11 making it wonderfully accessible from all routes.

The continuous flow of traffic far below my window is oddly comforting. I pull an armchair around to the window and spend part of the afternoon with my feet up gazing aimlessly at the movement below — a la Paul Simon watching the cars on the New Jersey highway.

THE FOOD

The Woodlands Restaurant is on the upper floor with a view similar to my room, but more garden and less N11. The garden is filled with cordylines and bamboo, berries and hydrangeas, ponds and benches. Panoramic windows take in this tropical delight in the foregrounds and the sweeping greenery beyond, so you’re off to a good start before you even begin perusing the menu.

The menu includes a number of signature dishes, including the crab starter and the Hereford beef main course. Chef Sandeep Pandey has managed to inject just the right amount of exotic influence into a menu of Irish produce in a distinctly Irish hotel, without confusing the issue.

The Dunany Crab starter comes in two guises — part traditional Irish with spaghetti-shaped cucumber and part spicy in a batter shell with mango chutney and lime crostini. Both are delicious.

The melt-in-your-mouth Hereford beef is sensibly left well alone and accompanied appropriately with fresh veg — baby carrots, baby courgettes and asparagus, along with sliced potatoes.

For something a little bit different, the chef has included a spinach and walnut potato cake, which is very tasty but really the main ingredients affirm once again that good Irish produce cooked simply and correctly is unbeatable.

Other interesting options with an foreign twist are jumbo prawns marinated in lime and chilli; Morrocan-style chicken with couscous; and salmon with wasabi and sesame crust.

Yet, while the additions may be exotic, the basic produce is sourced as locally as possible — salmon from Killary, fish of the day from the Kish Fish company and lamb from the hills of Wicklow.

The Woodlands is a very stylish dining experience in the evening, with the light fading over the hills. Breakfast is also served in the Woodlands and on a bright day it’s a sunny, friendly experience. Mid-day food and a more casual evening menu are served in the Conservatory bar overlooking the garden on the lower floor. The carvery lunch there is reported to be very popular with the Wicklow locals, who come up to the hotel regularly.

THE AMENITIES

Let’s start with the natural amenities. Wicklow is full of wonderful walks but on this particular weekend I have no desire to switch on the ignition so I opt for the Glenview’s own woodland walk which starts right at the end of the carpark.

You are immediately enveloped in greenery and walking along a well-chipped path which children and the elderly could easily manage for the first 10 minutes or so to the bridge over a gushing stream. There is nothing as refreshing and restorative as a few minutes looking over a bridge in a forest, letting the sounds of falling water wash over you.

From here on it’s the domain of the sure-footed with muddy boots as the earthy track ascends the wooded hillside. The track emerges at the side of a field and a flat pathway leads you back to the hotel.

If you need a longer stretch, just do it in reverse. You might be lucky enough to encounter a family of deer on the upper edge of the woodland but there are no promises.

After the trek comes a visit to the leisure centre complete with sauna, steam room and Jacuzzi alongside an 18m swimming pool where a lap swimmer can get in a few decent lengths. The shower area is a little tired and the cold shower was not working during my visit, but otherwise no complaints.

There is a kids’ pool because the Glenview is nothing if not family-friendly but the gem of the leisure centre is the outdoor hot tub with deep penetrating jets. Fifteen minutes here could almost persuade you that you don’t even need a massage — but that would be a mistake.

The Haven treatment centre, located near the bedrooms, may be small but the quality is second to none. The 30-minute massage at the hands of Caitriona Merrigan is worth 90 minutes elsewhere.

The beauty menu includes Dermalogica products but Caitriona has devised her own recipe for sugar scrub, which is now being produced locally in Wicklow and comes in a marvellous, reusable glass jar. It is a glorious mix of almond oil, sugar and fragrance, which leaves you both scrubbed and oiled. Be sure to take a pot home.

There is a also gymnasium and the sounds of high-energy exertion emanating from it would suggest that, if you’re a gym bunny, you’ll be well catered for. Given that the Glenview leisure centre is used by the local community, you may also find exercise classes coinciding with your stay. At the very least, there is room from pilates, yoga or whatever you’re practicing yourself.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Two nights at the Glenview with one evening meal is €109 per person sharing and two children under 12 are complimentary. See the website at www.glenviewhotel.com

ANYTHING TO ADD

This year the Glenview Hotel welcomed a new general manager in Kerryman Brian McNamara and a new sales manager in Vivienne Nyhan. There is a sense that ideas are percolating and more activity weekends are on the way, as well as ongoing refurbishments.

The ease of access to this hotel from M50 to N11 cannot be overemphasised. It’s also ideal for exploring Wicklow. The local tourism organisations have put together an excellent walking guide which offers suggestions and advice with a little bit of history and heritage thrown in. Even the names of Wicklow’s towns and villages are evocative — Avoca, Avondale, Glendalough, Enniskerry, Roundwood. It’s a great county for a weekend break.

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

Irish Examiner live news app for smartphones lets you quickly access breaking news, sport, business, entertainment and weather. appstoregoogle play
Irish Examiner ePaper app gives you the entire newspaper delivered to your phone or tablet for as little as 55c a day. epaper
Home

More From The Irish Examiner