David O’Mahony runs out of superlatives after a stay in one of Waterford’s finest hotels.
It’s hard to sum up Faithlegg House Hotel in a word. Not because there aren’t plenty, but because I want to do it justice. Elegant. Refined. Welcoming. Well that’s three anyway.
I lived in Waterford briefly what seems like a million years ago but this was my first time staying in the county for pure leisure. After this experience I do not intend for it to be the last.
As a couple’s retreat goes it’s hard to eclipse. My wife and I had one of the suites, comprising of a rather spacious bedroom and a comfortable sitting room.
Being welcomed by two delicious cupcakes and finding a Nespresso machine in the room meant we were off to a great start. My bloodstream is more caffeine than haemoglobin, ask my wife.
About two hours from Cork City, and two and a bit from Dublin depending where you start from, the four-star Faithlegg hotel is an oasis of quiet. Near enough to Waterford City to be accessible and yet far from anything approaching serious traffic or urban hubbub, it’s a great place to spend time away with your other half.
Faithlegg began life as a mansion in the 18th century and the main building still retains much of that impressiveness and grandeur. Set on 200 acres and looking out onto formal gardens on one side and the hotel’s 18-hole golf course to the other, there is a sense of gentility befitting a couple’s escape from the children or everyday life.
The spa selection is quite impressive — even to a spa novice such as myself — and actually has a specific selection for men, which is something rather different. Overstressed and over-tired, you’d think I’d be drawn to an anti-stress massage, but, ironically, I’d be too tense for one.
However, there is a range of natural therapies so, looking for an option that wouldn’t be too physical, I went for an hour of reiki in calm, quiet surroundings. I came out wondering where the hour had gone and with a sense of wellbeing I hadn’t felt in a long time (and am still chasing again), with tension gone from places I didn’t even know I had it. Who gets tense in the soles of their feet and behind their knees? Me, apparently.
My wife, on the other hand, went for one of her personal favourites, a hot stone massage. Not into spa therapy? Take a dip in the 17m pool, burn off some work-related stress in the gym, or sweat it out in the sauna. There’s probably at least one option to suit you, if not two or three.
Dining wise, it’s up there with the best of them. The hotel’s Roseville Rooms restaurant was awarded 2 AA rosettes for culinary excellence in 2015, and it has understandably been lauded for the quality of its dishes. The high ceilings create an extra sense of airiness even at busy times, and the decor befits a venue formed by amalgamating two of the mansion’s reception rooms (enhanced by a conservatory).
For dinner I had the handmade pasta with roast squash and Bluebell Falls goat cheese, while my wife opted for the fillet of beef (a veritable slab) with fondant potato and mushroom fricasse — I don’t think there was a peep of complaint from us. But book ahead though as it’s very popular.
The less formal option is the Aylward Lounge, which offers a varied bar menu that’s set apart from any other bar menu I’ve come across (duck confit sandwich and pasta featuring venison ragout, for example). We went there on night one and it was possibly the most comfortable bar I’ve ever been in.
I would be a reasonably adventurous person while dining out but I can’t resist a classic done well, and the club sandwich with handcut chips was certainly done well. And because I also can’t resist good local or signature dishes I very much enjoyed Faithlegg’s “Truly Waterford dessert”, which was apple and Muldoon’s whiskey panna cotta, Flahavans oats and local honey biscotti.
As if the on-site dining wasn’t enough, the hotel also sells a selection of homemade breads and preserves, along with cordials. The brown bread is wonderful and I now have a hankering for elderflower cordial, which I’d never heard of but now can’t get enough of.
Whether you’re into golf, food, fine cuisine, or simply want a haven that you can use as a base for exploring the South-East, Faithlegg has something for you. I can’t wait to go back.
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