A blissful retreat

IT WAS a first time visit to Co Offaly for my wife and I as we arrived in Tullamore.

It was a typical sunny/showery afternoon, so with a break in the clouds after checking in we explored the streets of the midland town, along the banks of its canal and river; the Tullamore Dew visitor centre (closed at the time) and a walk through the beautiful town park and the best kids’ playground ever.

It didn’t take long, just as well - a shower fell as we returned to our bedroom. However, my wife put it succinctly over dinner in the hotel that evening: “The hotel is the only show in town.”

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Tullamore is easily accessible from most parts of the country with the motorway network, south from the M6 and north of the M7; from Cork take a left at Portlaoise, through Mountmellick on the N80.

Tullamore isn’t a large town so it was a doddle to locate the hotel from the hotel’s website (‘left at the Post Office’).

The four-star Bridge House Hotel was redeveloped almost ten years ago. It’s original entrance on Main St is still there, but the new reception area is at the side of the hotel facing the town’s shopping centre and it is a much grander affair.

The imposing palatial façade accentuates its four-star credentials and the reception area is dominated by a double staircase rising to a first-floor mezzanine.

The friendly receptionist offered a warm greeting, informing us on check-in of our dining arrangements for the evening and spa appointments for the following morning.

THE ROOM

Having requested an upgrade we were allocated room 220 at the end of the corridor. The executive room certainly lived up to its billing — very spacious at twice the size of the standard room.

It was well furnished with queen-sized bed, a lounge area with a pair of sumptuous lounge armchairs and a plasma TV.

The room also featured a massive balcony area and even though the view was of the shopping centre car park, it added a welcome extra sense of space.

It was one of the nicest rooms I’ve had in a hotel for quite some time, It was well lit from the windows on both external walls, it was quiet and the perfect place to chill out and relax. Who needed a view?

THE FOOD

Dinner was at the Bridge House Hotel’s Italian restaurant on the first night of our stay; Balcone Italiano is on the mezzanine floor over the reception area and was busy with families and casual diners alike. It’s a pleasant place to be — bright and cheery with colourful furnishings and decor.

Waiting staff were friendly and attentive and served up a little bruschetta-style antipasti treats while we perused the extensive and reasonably priced menu. We opted for the charcuterie board (€7.50) and garlic mushrooms (€4.95) and both were of a superb standard; for mains we opted for a simple pepperoni pizza (€13.50) and ravioli with spinach and ricotta (€13.95) which were bang on the mark for taste, freshness and quality. I would have no hesitation in recommending this midland Italian for quality and price.

Breakfast was served in the main dining room of the hotel; a small buffet of fruit, juices, pastries and breads was complemented with a breakfast menu offering everything from the full Irish to porridge. The full Irish was a great start to the day, with expertly cooked quality ingredients.

On our second day we ventured out for lunch. There didn’t appear to be much of a choice in the town so I made inquiries in a wholefood shop for “a good place to get a nice lunch”. The lady in the shop pointed across the street to the Bridge House Hotel and said “that’s about the best place in Tullamore”.

So we had a light lunch in the bar at the front of the hotel, and again we were impressed with the quality of the food and the price point it was coming in at, very reasonable indeed.

Dinner that night was in the Charleville restaurant in the hotel; this time we both opted for a simple fish and chips (€15.95); it was exquisite for such a simple dish, perfectly light batter, two pieces of succulently fresh fish and perfect chips with a fresh salad. Served by really friendly staff, this was the perfect end to a two-night stay.

RELAXATION

With nothing else on the agenda for our two-day break, we had booked treatments in the Sanctuary Spa. My wife chose the head massage while I opted for the full body massage. Therapist Katriona asked what pressure would I like and I was happy to request a ‘full-on’ with a ‘powerful pummelling’.

It was bliss, for almost 45 minutes she pounded and kneaded any last remaining bit of tension out of my body, following a stint in the relaxation room afterwards, I returned to room 220 for more chilling out — I couldn’t have been in a better place.

ANYTHING TO ADD

The Bridge House Hotel ticked all the boxes for a self-contained break; as well as the Spa, there are fantastic leisure facilities, including pool, sauna, steam room, gym and an outdoor Hydrotherapy pool.

It was probably the first time we had all of our meals in the same hotel, but the number of comfortable lounge areas, bars and restaurants, made this an easy option especially in terms of choice and price. In Tullamore, it is “the only show in town”.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Family fun activities at the Bridge House Hotel include kids camps and more in the local area, including horse riding, cinema and bowling.

Three-night breaks for two adults and two under 12 from €289, including dinner one night for mum and dad, kids camp for the little ones, VIP kids check-in, kids DVD options and use of the Leisure Club throughout your stay, including 20m swimming pool, sauna, steam room, gym and outdoor hydrotherapy pool.

The Bridge House Hotel is also treating Fridays, Aug 10 and 31st as special days with rates pitched from €44.50 per person sharing. For further information visit www.bridgehouse.com or Locall 1850-312312 or tel: 057-9325600


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