A weekend break at Harvey’s Point in Donegal

It may take a while to get to Harvey’s Point, but once ensconced, you won’t want to leave, says Elaine Loughlin.

A weekend break at Harvey’s Point in Donegal

It may take a while to get to Harvey’s Point, but once ensconced, you won’t want to leave, says Elaine Loughlin.

IT’S the little things in life that often are the most enjoyable, and with attention to detail a top priority at Harvey’s Point, a relaxing stay is a guarantee.

Harvey’s Point is a slice of solitude in the heart of the Donegal hills.

The four-star, family-run hotel has been awarded many accolades over the years, including being named Tripadvisor’s number one hotel in Ireland in 2017 for the fifth consecutive year — and it’s easy to see why.

The hotel, nestled among trees on the banks of Lough Eske, shies away from a slick modern interior and instead has a warm homely feel, but it doesn’t skimp on any of the luxuries.

In fact the little extras are what make the hotel so special.

A refreshing drink on arrival, newspapers delivered to your suite, water and fruit on offer at reception, and Paul Costello toiletries in the bathrooms are all nice touches which add to the experience.

LOCATION

Perhaps it’s because it’s tucked away in the top corner of the island, or the fact there is no train service to get there, but many often feel that Donegal is just that bit too much of a trek to bother with. However, once you arrive, it all seems worth the effort.

An improved road network means you can now get from Dublin to Harvey’s Point in under three-and-a-half hours.

Take the M3 turn off in Sligo for a lunch pit-stop or opt for the historic Lissadell House and tea rooms which lie under Benbulbin’s shadow, under an hour from the hotel. The journey from Cork City takes approximately four hours, 50 minutes.

Harvey’s Point is the ideal base from which to explore the area over several days and there is plenty to do, whether it’s a pampering massage, endless kilometers of laneway walks, lounging on a beach, boat tours, or mountain climbing.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Turning off the busy road into a warren of country roads, you could be forgiven for thinking your satnav has sent you astray, but the hotel is well signposted.

First impressions are important and this must be a rule that is drilled into staff — they always seem on hand to answer any queries with a smile.

Owner Jody Gysling found Harvey’s Point — where two brothers then lived in a small cottage — when holidaying from Switzerland. He loved the area so much he decided to stay. Six years later Jody and his brother Marc opened a small guesthouse. The hotel reflects the owners’ native land with a luxury Swiss chalet vibe — think open fires, dark wood, and marble.

Not only did Marc find a place to call home but he also found love in the Donegal hills when a young local by the name of Deirdre McGlone came to work at the guesthouse for the summer.

The couple continue to run the hotel with a loyal staff including TV3’s showbiz expert Noel Cunningham, who, as general manager, keeps everyone entertained in his sharp suits at breakfast. Guest relations manager Eamonn Gillespie is on hand to help with daytrips, general information, or just provide a friendly chat.

FOOD

Harvey’s Point may be a four-star hotel but its kitchen certainly aims to serve five-star cuisine.

The main dining room overlooking the lake offers a menu to drool and deliberate over including mains of pan-fried turbot with baby leek, mushroom and lemon; pink loin of venison, juniper berry, red cabbage, beetroot and blackberry, or, for a vegetarian option, you can opt for purple sprouting broccoli, hen’s egg, with lemon and walnut.

Like the fresh fruit and homemade cookies left in the bedrooms, there are little extras in the restaurant with an amuse-bouche and sorbet between courses.

While the four-course dinner left us stuffed, diners can go all out and opt for a seven-course tasting dinner set menu for €65 or pair it with selected wines for €95.

For those looking for a more casual dining experience, the bar, where you can also spot the swans and cygnets glide across the water, offers lunch and dinner.

Enjoy a nightcap in the octagonal bar, which boasts an impressive number of whiskeys and gins.

One piece of insider advice: Leave enough room for the massive spread at breakfast the next morning; try the honey-glazed ham, carved for you by the chef as you wait, or the cooked-to-order omelettes.

WHAT TO DO

You may not want to get out of your robe to leave your suite, but if you are feeling adventurous, there is plenty to do.

- Step directly outside the hotel and you will find quiet marked walks which make for a leisurely strolls;

- Head to nearby Donegal town, browse in craft and clothes shops dotted around the famous Diamond and if you are peckish head to the House Gastro Pub. The lunch menu includes alternatives to the usual BLT, including a roast vegetable flatbread with toasted walnuts or a Vietnamese-style pork and creamy chicken liver pate banh mi baguette;

- Take a cruise around Donegal Bay in a waterbus where you will be kept informed and entertained;

- Donegal is famous for its fantastic coastline and beaches. However, you can also head south to Mullaghmore, Co Sligo, around a 40-minute drive, to enjoy the crescent golden sand and afterwards lunch on paella in Eithna’s on the pier;

- Slightly further afield (a 90-minute drive) is the Arigna Mining Experience where you can head underground to see how tough conditions were in the old coal mine.

But if you don’t feel like leaving the hotel there are also complementary in-house activities each Tuesday and Thursday including cooking demonstrations, wine tasting, and self-guided walks, while each Saturday evening they hold a free drinks reception for all guests.

ROOMS

The hotel offers a number of choices of spacious suites. The lakeshore suites offer a secluded getaway, each having their own varanda to look out over the gardens and lake across to the Bluestack mountains.

DOWNSIDE

While the hotel does have therapy suites which offer massages and other spa treatments, it doesn’t have a swimming pool or leisure centre.

THE DAMAGE

A two night Romantic Midweek Escape package including a four-course dinner in the Lakeside Restaurant on one evening and breakfast each morning is from €269 per person sharing, valid Sunday to Thursday. The hotel is a perfect home from home to unwind and relax.

harveyspoint.com

More in this section

Lifestyle
Newsletter

The best food, health, entertainment and lifestyle content from the Irish Examiner, direct to your inbox.

Sign up