BILLED as the hotel at the crossroads, where history and tradition meet luxury and style, The Twelve is an eclectic mix of old and new, modern and traditional.
These very contradictions are what make it unique. It’s ideal for families and those looking to get away from it all but it also offers a great base for singles with a bustling nightlife only a short drive away. Nestling in the heart of Barna, a sleepy village 10 minutes’ drive from Galway city, this boutique hotel is also on the fringe of the beautiful and peaceful Connemara landscape. A retreat, complete with all mod cons. The Twelve prides itself on providing a unique and personal experience for guests. The history of The Twelve Pins dates all the way back to the 1800s and had a major impact on the design and overall feel of the hotel. Each of the 48 rooms has a design unique to the hotel and all carry the prefix 12. In fact, everything about the hotel is based on the number 12.
First impressions are pretty positive, with an attractive facade in a clever juxtaposition of old and new. On arrival staff were friendly, efficient and knowledgeable, asking about our journey and our plans for the evening without being intrusive. We were given a refreshing ice tea as a welcoming aperitif and then, just to be sociable, we opted for something a little stronger in The Pins bar to unwind after our journey. There was a good buzz about the place for an afternoon and the service was swift and friendly.
My only criticism was that the carpet on the stairs leading to the downstairs toilets was a little threadbare and shabby, which did not fit in with the rest of the luxurious ambiance. But this was only a small issue and not one that took away from the whole experience.
Our family suite — aptly called the Marvellous Suite — was certainly luxurious. It was spacious with a sumptuous feel throughout, right down to the organic toiletries in the bathroom and the gourmet nibbles in the mini bar. A little kitchenette with fridge and microwave make it ideal for families. You don’t come to a hotel to cook but it was handy for heating up a mid-afternoon snack for two peckish youngsters. The second television with DVD player meant fewer arguments while getting ready to go out.
We dined at Upstairs @ West and were suitably impressed with both the food and the service. The restaurant is elegant and yet we felt comfortable there, even with children. Our smallies are notoriously picky but two offerings of spaghetti and meatballs were devoured with little aplomb and were priced at a reasonable €8.50 each.
I had Dublin Bay prawns with a Bloody Mary dressing to start while my husband opted for the duck, one of the specials. The prawns were just a tad overcooked but the duck was cooked to perfection. There were also some beautifully warm breads, made in the hotel’s on-site bakery, to sample.
For my main dish I chose pan-fried Connemara monkfish fillet with purple sprouting broccoli, potato salad and hazelnut foam and it was very tasty. Himself plumped for the roasted lamb loin, cooked rare as he requested, and after stealing a taste, I half wished I had ordered it too. Simply delicious. Dessert was good all round. The children predictably went for a selection of ice cream but we were a little more adventurous with a sharp but superb citrus sorbet and a sort of deconstructed rhubarb crumble, which almost looked too good to eat. Almost.
The service was superb and the waiters were attentive and efficient. We were told that all foods were seasonal and, where possible, local, with a list of suppliers provided on the menu as well as what meats, fish and veg were in season. The Twelve prides itself on staying true to the region, true to the season.
We washed it all down with a delicate South African Sauvignon Blanc, which was reasonably priced at €24.
There’s no pool but there is a Le Petit Spa treatment room and I made the most of some rare me-time. The full-body massage — using the VOYA facial and body range — includes a full consultation with a very knowledgeable therapist who is well versed on the products and their health benefits. Seaweed plays an important part in all therapies. The treatments include a detox seaweed bath, seaweed oil massage (which I had and it was fabulous), VOYA herbal bag massage, ocean essence wrap and a VOYA organic seaweed leaf wrap. They range in price from €45 for the seaweed bath to €120 for the hour-and-a-half wrap. Sheer and utter luxury and highly recommended.
WHAT TO DO
Barna is a pretty village, steeped in tradition and history. It may be a little quiet for some and while there are plenty of outdoor activities, a lot of those are based on the weather. Biking, fishing, golf and mountain climbing are just a few options for the active traveller assuming the rain holds off, while the more sedate can avail of the ethereal beauty of Connemara National Park or Kylemore Abbey. If it’s too cold for the beach, there’s always a family swim at Leisureland complex in Salthill. For entertainment, The Pins offers traditional music or jazz sessions but you can always catch a taxi and head into town if your tastes are a little more up tempo.
Day or night, Galway City is a whirlwind of activity.
THE BOTTOM LINE
A family suite (sleeps four) is around €205 per night (cheaper deals mid-week, about €150). A family summer special offers 2 nights for the Marvelous Suite from €395 including 2 breakfasts and 1 dinner as well as a pizza masterclass.
Tel: 091-597000; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org