Whether for a romantic retreat, active, outdoor adventures, gourmet getaway, relaxing Spa break or planning your Wedding, Lough Eske Castle, County Donegal is the destination for all manner of travel trips and family celebrations.
Surrounded by 43 acres of woodland, on the lakeside with the dramatic Bluestack Mountains as a stunning backdrop, this is a five star Country House hotel and Spa, voted the World’s Best Luxury Country House, (four times) and in the Top 10 of best places to stay in Ireland. On the site of a 15th century Castle, the original turreted mansion, built in the 1850s, was recently refurbished with a 40 million Euro investment to restore, develop and create this luxury leisure Resort.
There are nearly one hundred guestrooms, from traditional luxury Suites in the mansion with 4 poster beds, clawfoot baths and fine antiques; the Tower Suite on three levels is beautifully furnished, giving fabulous views over the Lough Eske and Estate.
Modern-styled, comfortable Garden and Courtyard Rooms (within the former Stables) are dog friendly for a homely hideaway, and there’s ideal accommodation for families with children..
Dinner in the elegant Cedars Restaurant showcases modern, gourmet Irish cuisine with superb, seasonal produce from land and sea. This north west coastline is famous for its oysters, sample local honey and the chefs go foraging for wild, natural ingredients.
For a more casual meal, a menu of hearty gastropub food is served in the Lobby Lounge.
Father Frank Browne (1880-1960) is renowned for his extraordinary collection of photographs due to an unexpected change of travel plans. Browne, a young Irish Jesuist priest, boarded the Titanic in Southampton on 10 April 1912, settling into his first class cabin at the start of the maiden voyage to New York.
But within a day or so, he received a telegram from his superiors with the message, “get off that ship” and was obliged to disembark at Cobh, Ireland. Following the tragic sinking of the Titanic, his unique black and white images taken on board were published on front pages of newspapers around the world and preserved today as a valuable archive. An avid traveller and prolific photographer all his life, his visionary eye through the lens is compared with Henri Cartier Bresson and Robert Doisneau.
Today, a selection of his vintage images taken on board The Titanic are displayed in the Father Browne Bar. Relax here with a dram or two and raise a glass in tribute to a remarkable man who, having obeyed orders, unwittingly saved his life.
The smart, sophisticated spot for cocktails is the Gallery Bar, within what was the former Ballroom. The drinks menu is extensive with a fine list of Irish Whiskey, Bourbon, beers, wines, champagne and all favourite tipples.
In the former conservatory is the CARA Organic Beauty Spa, with a thermal suite with indoor and outdoor relaxation areas, infinity pool, sauna, jacuzzi and eight treatment rooms. Experience indulgent, therapeutic pampering with soothing beauty brands, espa and Anne Semonin for facials and massages.
Lough Eske Castle is a prime destination for bespoke weddings, perfectly tailored for each couple. International visitors, especially from North America, have enjoyed planning memorable three or four day events. Whether a grand occasion for 280 guests in the glamorous ballroom or an intimate family party, the wedding planners will create your special celebration.
But let’s wind back .. first comes the Engagement and what could more romantic than a Helicopter trip and a picnic in this glorious countryside as part of a relaxing stay with fine wining and dining.
And of course (Irish) Oysters and champagne is the classic aphrodisiac. 14th February is Valentine’s Day and as 2020 is a Leap Year – ladies, you are free this year to pop the question.!
What to see and do nearby? Donegal is on the West Atlantic Way, the longest coastal route in the world. Visit the tallest sea cliffs in Europe at Sliabh Liag and explore Glenveagh Castle set within a National Park, nicknamed the “Coolest Places on the Planet”.
Outdoor sports galore: hiking, biking horseback riding, hill walking, fishing on the lake and golf. Donegal Town is just ten minutes drive away, a place to browse around and shop for Artisan arts and crafts – especially Donegal tweed – to take home a slice of Irish cultural heritage.
‘The Journey not the arrival matters,’ said T. S. Eliot. The best way to travel to Lough Eske Castle is to fly into Donegal Airport, the second most scenic in the world with stunning panoramic views along the coast.
This is the start of your cultural, culinary and romantic adventure and experience a true taste of Irish hospitality. Cead Mile Failte – 1000 welcomes – as they say.
Perhaps plan a tour around Ireland, visiting Belfast and Dublin or explore the West Atlantic Way from Country Cork to County Donegal.
Find out more and book your visit to Lough Eske Castle here:
Reviews by happy guests:
“Lough Eske was our third stop on our four castle tour of Ireland, a trip my husband and I took for our honeymoon. Donegal Seafood Chowder, Guinness Stew, comforting, home food experience. Overall, Lough Eske was exceptional.”
“Staff and Facilities 5*. Spa, Sauna and Jacuzzi, amazing!”
“We spent Christmas at Castle Eske in one of the garden suites with our two little dogs Ruby and Bella – our third visit to the Castle. All I can say is that we had the most wonderful time”.
In a wide bay on Loch Broom, the charming, white washed village of Ullapool in Wester Ross, was established in 1788 by the British Fishing Society with a settlement of just seven houses. It soon developed as a thriving herring port and in the 1970s, became the base for a fleet of Russian “Klondykers”, factory ships to process and transport tons of mackerel back home.
Those original seven crofts and the wild scenic beauty around Ullapool were the inspiration behind the name of a new Scottish Gin created, curated and produced by the Highland Liquor Company. Their logo brilliantly captures, in just a quick caricature, the waves of the loch, the town and rugged hills all around.
This gin has been five years in the planning, development, testing and tasting by the owners Helen Chalmers and Robert Hicks and their spirited team. It was a challenging period of experimentation, trial and error with no less than 96 separate combinations before they selected their final unique recipe for Seven Crofts Dry Gin.
Seven Crofts is composed, not surprisingly,of a seven key botanicals – juniper, pink peppercorns, angelica root, coriander seeds, cubeb berries, cardamom, fresh lemon peel.
A few usual suspects in the ingredients, but two distinctively different spices here. Cubeb berries are from Indonesia and so often called Java Pepper, tasting like allspice with a trace of nutmeg. In gin, cubeb gives an aromatic pepperiness with pine and floral notes.
Cardamom is native to Southeast Asia and Guatemala, one of the most expensive spices, along with vanilla and saffron, and when used as a botanical in gin, it adds a grassy, grapefruit aroma.
This handcrafted small batch Gin is produced in twin copper stills named Little Ella and Little Ruthie, where Ben Thomson in charge of the fine art of Distillation. The Botanicals and grain spirit are heated over open flames and condensed using pure Highland water to release the full fragrance, flavour and character. Then its’s time to wait patiently, as the gin is allowed to mature slowly before bottling.
The bottle and label design by D8 in Glasgow was inspired by old traditional Genever bottles. The glass reflects the watery shimmer and soft pine green of the loch and landscape; its tall, slender shape is attractive to look at, comfortable to hold. This elegant and timeless style has been picked for the Top 10 Spirits Artwork and Bottle Design in the World.
I then added a few cubes of ice, a good splash Fevertree Tonic, a slice of orange and zest of the peel. The rich blend of botanicals is certainly complex presenting a spicy, smoky, almost salty, taste, cut through with the sweeter citrus tones of lemon peel and orange garnish.
What the experts say:
Nose: Rich, round aromatic notes of juniper, pepper with a noticeable hint of ripe plum
Taste: Opulent notes of perfumed forest fruit and a suggestion of woodland. The juniper is assertive with spicy hints of coriander and pink pepper and a long, warm finish.
Finish: A fresh, clean G&T with balanced and elegant yet distinctive flavours of juniper, pepper, orchard fruit and a poised, spicy finish.
The Perfect Serve: Serve in a straight glass with lots of ice, a good quality tonic (1 part gin to 2 parts tonic) and garnished with a slice of orange.
Seven Crofts Gin, with its aromatic fragrance, is also perfect in a range of classic Cocktails. Who can resist a Martini? Simple but so sophisticated.
8 cl Seven Crofts Gin (ice cold)
A tbsp Extra Dry Vermouth
Stir together in a chilled Cocktail glass – the classic method.
(or alternatively add ingredients with ice in a Shaker, then strain into the glass).
Garnish with a twist of lemon peel or an olive as preferred.
It is believed that Her Majesty the Queen is partial to a Zaza, a variation of a Martini with Dubononet, the French fortified wine with herbs, spices and quinine. Its spicy, fruity taste would blend well with Seven Crofts.
Named after a 1915 silent movie based on a French play about a cabaret singer, this is one of my favourite apertifs, which hits the spot with the kick of gin given a smooth, mellow fruity flavour.
6cl Seven Crofts Gin
6cl Dubonnet Red
Dash of Aromatic bitters (optional)
Shake the ingredients together with ice and strain into a Martini glass and add a twist of orange.
The Negroni is the ultimate Italian cocktail invented by Count Camillo Negroni at the Caffè Casoni bar in Florence in 1919. Seductively crimson red, bittersweet and perfectly refreshing. Fashionable for 100 years.
2.5 or 3 cl Seven Crofts Gin
2.5 or 3 cl Campari
2.5 or 3 cl Sweet Vermouth
Stir or shake up three ingredients with very cold ice until blended. Strain into a tumbler over a large ice block and garnish with a twist or slice of lemon or orange.
Although only launched in 2019, Seven Crofts has already been selected by Buyers and Bars across the world including Nauticus, Edinburgh, The Savoy, London, Michael Caine’s Lympstone Manor and sipped from New York City to Singapore
Ullapool is located on the ever popular North Coast 500 – Scotland’s equivalent to Route 66 – and offers the great escape to explore the area with its majestic scenery, cosy pubs, freshest seafood, from crate to plate, Music Festivals, fishing heritage, outdoor adventures, hill climbing, wildlife, boat and ferry trips.
What could be a better destination to experience the distinctive taste of Seven Crofts Gin, its birthplace: the essence of Highland loch and landscape encapsulated -artistically distilled – in a green bottle. Cheers!
BE Together at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay ’19: a welcome handshake across the seas to bring in the New Year
Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Festival is on the essential bucket list as compiled by Patricia Shultz in her book, “1,000 Places to See Before You Die.” Also selected by Discovery Channel as one of the Top 25 World Travel Experiences.
The origin for the word “Hogmanay” is from the early 17th century, perhaps from “hoguinané,” Norman French meaning “last day of the year” or “New Year’s gift”.
Up until 27 years ago, Hogmany celebrations on 31st December in Edinburgh was a small, local celebration for city residents and perhaps a few visitors, which took place around the Tron Kirk on the Royal Mile.
In 1993, the first organised Hogmanay Party on Princes Street ended with dazzling fireworks at midnight set off from the Castle. The popularity grew and on 31st December, 1996, a crowd of 400,000 revellers broke the Guinness Book of Records for the largest Street Party in the world.
To ensure safety the following year, Princes Street was closed off for a restricted number of 100,000 ticket holders as part of a four day Festival to celebrate New Year. Since then, Edinburgh has shown the world how to party as the Home of Hogmanay.
The Winter Festival season begins in mid-November when the city sparkles with Christmas spirit around the Markets, Fairground rides, theatre, music and entertainment for all ages.
The Hogmanay Festival has changed over the years, and I do miss the wonderful The Night Afore Fiesta, 30th December, a fabulous, free, family friendly event, (George Street or Royal Mile): giant giraffe puppets, a parade of elephants, Macbeth on stilts, musicians, crazy Spanish hair-dressers. This magical style of entertainment is now incorporated into the Street Party on the 31st.
The Festival kicked off on the evening of 30th December for the annual Torchlight procession when 12,000 torch-bearers, accompanied by the skirl of the Pipes and beat of the drums, set off to march from various starting points around the Old Town to Holyrood Park.
The pattern of Torches spread out in Holyrood Park displayed an image of two people shaking hands. Magical.!
For Clubbers, there was also late night music and dancing at Symphonic Ibiza, with live orchestra and DJ sounds, to get into party mood.
A diverse range of music, whatever your taste, was on offer on Hogmany, 31st December: a classic concert by candelight at St. Giles Cathedral, as well as the rousing Jazz from Ronnie’s Scott’s Big Band featuring a performance by singer Lianne Carrol.
Families with young children were not forgotten either, with a special Bairns Afore show in the late afternoon with music, comedy and fireworks in Princes Street Gardens.
The highlight of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay as always was the Johnnie Walker Street Party when a sell out crowd of 75,000 ticket holders gathered in the pedestrianised area around the city centre.
With a nod to Rio, it’s Carnival Time with a glittering, glamorous parade of giant puppets, dancers, fire throwers and jugglers to entertain the crowds.
Live music stages all around the central party zone featuring a colourful line up of singers and bands including Marc Almond, Idlewild, The Snuts, Rudimental DJ, Arielle Free and the Mac Twins. If you fancy a Hogmany Highland Fling, you could also book a ticket for the outdoor Ceilidh, traditional Scottish country dances, jigs and reels to keep you warm in the cold night air.
The Concert in the Gardens welcomed an international star, the Grammy and Oscar Award winner, Mark Ronson, who played a rousing round up of hits, with a guest appearance from Daniel Merriweather. At Midnight, Ronson’s music soundtrack accompanied the brilliant blast of fireworks – an amazing eight minute display – set off from the Castle, which could be seen for miles around.
For those with the stamina, you could dance the night away at the After-Party till the wee sma’ hours of the morning.
The Loony Dook is a well established tradition (running since 1986), on the first of the day of the year, when brave souls take a refreshing (freezing!), dip in the Firth of Forth at South Queensferry. With a crowd of spectatators watching the action, on 1st January 2019, 1,100 people, many in Fancy Dress, took the plunge – with £1 from the ticket price goes to the RNLI. Over the Festival, £42,500 was raised to support community, social and health charities.
With so many international visitors travelling to Scotland for New Year, it’s important that the Festival offers a taste of Scottish culture and cuisine. On 1st January, 2016, Scot:Lands was a brilliantly curated tour around city churches and pop up theatres, with performers from across Scotland showcasing poetry, music and film, complemented by a feast of regional food and drink from the Borders to Orkney.
This year, the renowned singer and musician Eddi Reader and her Band gave an early evening concert. The intimate space of the McEwan Hall, with bar drinks on offer created a casual Cabaret ambience. With entertaining stories along the way, it was a seamless blend of pop songs, folk tunes and bluesy numbers from Elvis to Edith Piaf, from Rabbie Burns to Eddi’s award winning smash hits, “Fairground Attraction” and “Perfect.” With a foot-tapping, jazzy beat, this was the perfect cool, Celtic heart-warming Gig to kick start 2020.
An estimated 180,000 visitors attended the Hogmanay Festival travelling to Scotland from 87 countries including Argentina, Australia, Bermuda, Brazil, China, Croatia, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, India, Ireland, Japan, Kenya, Latvia, Malaysia, Mexico, Nepal, New Zealand, Panama, Peru, Portugal, Singapore, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, USA and Vietnam. After the midnight moment, revellers were offered a complimentary Johnnie Walker Cocktail. Slainte Mhath!
Thousands more watched the whole show from across the globe – USA, Italy, Canada, West Africa, Sweden, Australia and UK via the first ever live stream of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay to capture the atmosphere.
“What a fantastic night! Tonight Edinburgh overwhelmingly celebrated a togetherness of Edinburgh people and visitors, showing to the world the true spirit of Scotland. We thank the many people who worked together to make tonight the best ever Hogmanay.” Charlie Wood and Ed Bartlam, directors of Underbelly, producers of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay.
A fantastic night for these party goers too!
I’m an Edinburgh resident and it was my first time at the Street Party. One of the best night’s of my life.
Edinburgh you are amazing!! Thanks for a great few days
Thank you Edinburgh – absolutely amazing
What an unforgettable experience. Thank you Edinburgh
Fan bloody tastic.
Where, when, how can I get tickets for 2020?
If you fancy joining the Party in December this year, Underbelly has just put a limited number of Street Party tickets for Edinburgh’s Hogmanay ’20 on sale at an early bird rate £20.50 + £1.00 booking fee.
Read all about Edinburgh’s Christmas:
Edinburgh’s Christmas 2019: Market stalls, Fairground fun & Festive foodie feasts at this cool Winter Festival
“Life is not measured
by the number of breaths we take,
but by the places and moments
that take our breath away”
So begins Patricia Schultz’ travel book, “1,000 Places to See Before you Die.” Not surprisingly Edinburgh’s Hogmanay is one of those 1,000 breathtaking places across our planet.
Hogmanay, (New Year’s Eve) in Scotland’s Capital is part of the Winter Festivals season which kicks off in mid November, a perfect time to visit for Festive entertainment, a foodie feast, music and culture for all ages.
As a lifelong Edinburgh resident, I’ve experienced the classic, cool Christmas and New Year celebrations over the decades, and often think I should become jaded by the annual arrival of Christmas Trees, glittering fairy lights and the Funfair taking over Princes Street Gardens.
But no. Whenever the Big Wheel starts turning beside the Scott Monument, with the scent of mulled wine wafting in the air, I am thrown into the magical mood as Edinburgh begins to sparkle.
Created and staged by Underbelly, the Live Entertainment Company, since 2013, Edinburgh’s Christmas 2019 was launched on Light Up Night with a family friendly gathering on the Royal Mile, with a stunning flying visit by Father Christmas on his sleigh.
The lights on the Christmas Tree (a gift from the people of Hordaland, Norway) at the top of the Mound were switched on and the countdown to 25th December and New Year celebrations had begun.
Edinburgh’s Christmas was open every day, except Christmas Day, from 10am to 10pm, from 16th November 2019 until Saturday 4th January, 2020.
In East Princes Street Gardens presents a wonderful Carnival of Fairground rides such as the Star Flyer, whizzing up to a rather scary 60 metres or take an exciting whirl on the Forth 1 Big Wheel. These sky-high Rides are located on either side of the iconic Scott Monument – so you can take an energetic trek up the spiral staircase of 288 steps inside the tower to a height of 200 feet 6 inches (61.11 metres) for panoramic views over the city.
The wee ones will have fun on the Carousel and Santa Train, then play hide and seek in the maze of Christmas Trees: 25p from the price of each ticket for the Santa Land Maze supports the Greenspace Trust Tree Time, a local initiative, to fund the planting of new trees in Edinburgh.
The pedestrianised Castle Street was home to Santa’s Grotto, while parents can slide down the adult-sized Helter Skelter before time for hot chocolate or mulled wine.
A colourful programme too of free events such as the Scottish Norwegian Advent Concert at St. Giles Cathedral, the Nativity concert on the Mound and Carol singers around town. It’s the time of year for Good Deeds, with free tickets and donations provided to local charities, community & youth groups, schools and Food Banks through fund-raising Carol concerts and events over Edinburgh’s Christmas.
As many visitors have posted on social media, a disappointing omission at Edinburgh’s Christmas 2019 was the Ice Rink which has always enticed a happy crowd, day and night.
Skating is the essence of a traditional, romantic Christmas. Ice Rinks are a major seasonal attraction across the UK – London, Swansea, York et al – and, of course, at Rockefeller Centre, New York City, as witnessed in many Festive, feel-good movies. Let’s hope we can don our skating boots again to add the ICE-ing on the cake at Christmas 2020.
Browse around the traditional Market of wooden chalets – bigger than ever in 2019 with 163 stalls – for gifts, jewellery, craftwork, chocolates, French cheese, gloves, socks, hats, Loch Ness Leather, a family Highland business showcasing handmade products. Authentic Monster leather!?
A fine taste of British and European food and drink: Gluhwein, Greek Grill House, Salmon roasting over an open fire, Yorkshire Puddings, Rekorderlig Cider Lodge serving hot & cold cider cocktails and Swedish food.
After a good walk around, you could head over to The Johnnie Walker Bothy Bar to warm up and sample a dram or two, whisky cocktails and hot toddies.
Christmas entertainment too around the city theatres: The smash hit musical, The Lion King at the Playhouse (running until 29th March), the fabulous 5 star Pantomime, Goldlocks and the Three Bears at the King’s Theatre (until 19th January), The Christmas Carol at the Lyceum and Scottish Ballet staged the premiere of The Snow Queen at the Festival Theatre.
In previous years, the Spiegeltent popped up for the Festival season in St. Andrew’s Square or Festival Square: Storytellling and shows for Kids, and Limbo, a spectacular dare-devil Acrobatic extravaganza – such a special ambience in the vintage Spiegeltent, a Big Top Circus had come to town. (Please bring it back!).
Visit Edinburgh during the Festive season for a truly enchanting time in the crisp, cool winter air – and it might snow! Inspirational shopping for unique gifts, cashmere and tweed, cosy cafes, quaint old pubs, hearty food, gourmet restaurants, whisky galore, ghost tours, Harry Potter, art galleries, museums, City of Literature walks, explore the Royal Mile from Castle to Palace, climb Arthur’s Seat – as well as the Festival fun for all ages.
The extended Christmas Market in East Princes Street Gardens on various levels, with improved accessibility for all, has been a sparkling success.
A total of 2,631,154 people passed through Edinburgh’s Christmas, 4.85% more than 2018. Just under 650,000 tickets were sold for the special Festive events, attractions and Fairground rides. There was an impressive 23.9% rise in the number of Edinburgh Residents with an EH postcode, taking the advantage of a 20% discount.
And this is what visitors thought about their experience of Edinburgh’s Christmas 2019:
It’s simply the best Christmas Market and even tops Bryant Park in NYC ! Please bring back the ice rink, that’s a huge attraction and not quite the same without it
Couldn’t believe how big it was. Plenty of stalls to browse and Carnival rides for the kids. Loads to eat and drink. Definitely worth a visit
A fantastic place to visit and in my view it’s the best Christmas Market in the UK.
Why not plan to visit Edinburgh’s magical Winter Festivals in 2020.?