Lough Eske Castle Takes Donegal Right Into the Heart of Dublin

Donegal’s Lough Eske Castle hotel held a special event for press in Magee of South Anne Street, Dublin 2 – giving the Irish capital a taste of what is on offer in the northern county.

Speaking at last night’s event, general manager of the hotel Donal Cox told Travel Ireland Magazine: “It’s always great to come to the main capital to say were one of the best in the country and it’s worth your while coming up to see us.” Indeed, the night involved a sampling of the various gorgeous Donegal products on offer at Lough Eske, while the castle’s owners informed journalists of new developments at the five-star establishment.

Canapes on offer included Donegal honey cured salmon, Donegal loin of lamb, Donegal crab tacos, as well as pistachio, chocolate and donegal honey cones and calamansi tarts styled in the county’s colours. These were prepared by Lough Eske’s new head chef Richard McKee, formerly of Castle Leslie, Lough Erne Resort and Redcastle Hotel.

Speaking to Travel Ireland Magazine, McKee said it’s been a joy creating new food options for guests at the hotel: “Myself and my brother Andrew McKee – Sous Chef at Lough Eske – are hoping to bring a more modern cuisine style while at the same time keeping the food as natural and locally sourced as possible. Being able to create food and give people pleasure, its a nice feeling.”

Also on offer were products from Donegal distillery Sliabh Liag. This included their Silkie Whiskey which, although sourced from other distilleries across Ireland, gets its name from the mythical silkie (or ‘selkie’) seals around Donegal’s coast. Marketing Manager for Sliabh Liag, Deirdre Byrne told Travel Ireland: “They are seals which come on shore in the moonlit night and turn into beautiful women. That’s why we stock the whiskey in such a tall elegant bottle.”

Accompanying the Silkie Whiskey, was Sliabh Liag’s An Dúlamán Irish Maritime Gin. Distilled on the site located just 40 minutes from Lough Eske, Byrne said: “It’s hyper local, made with Donegal harvested sea weed. Even the bottle is all labelled and wax sealed by hand at the distillery.” Guests of the hotel have the option of visiting Sliabh Liag to see how the gin is processed.

The event was hosted at Magee’s central Dublin location as the Donegal tailors have joined forces with Lough Eske to deliver a ‘made to measure’ tailoring service for those staying at the castle. Chairman of Magee, Lynn Temple told journalists: “We are working closely with the hotel to improve the sartorial elegance of their guests who so wish it.”

Other developments at the castle include an updating to the hotel’s interiors as well as the introduction of a new ‘cellar bar’. This is on-top of Lough Eske’s already impressive 97 bedroom establishment, complete with a restuarant and ballroom catering for 300 guests (perfect for wedding and conferences, Donal Cox assures Travel Ireland) as well as a spa.

The spa has facilities including a pool, saunas, steam rooms, sanariums, tropical experience showers, heated benches and jacuzzis. Designed to relax guests, read about the hotel’s new ‘Sleep Retreat Package’ here.

The hotel’s five star facilities are all the more impressive given its building was only restored this century by Harcourt Developments (also behind Belfast’s Titanic Quarter). This was after a fire in 1939 nearly burned the castle to the ground – leaving only the front facade.

“The place was utterly derelict and there were trees growing out of it,” remembers Conal Harvey, Director of Harcourt Developments. “It has turned out quite magnificently. Even the stone that has been used to bring the castle back to its original form was from a local quarry. Therefore you wouldn’t know where the original stone was and where we’ve done the refurbishing.”

Harvey also points out while in the past only a limited view would have access to the castle, now Lough Eske is available to everyone: “Since opening in 2007, we have welcomed over half a million visitors to the hotel and have contributed 60 million to the local economy. In the context of Donegal, that’s important.”

Byrne of Sliabh Liag says the hotel has had a great impact on businesses in the county: “In five star hotels, bartenders recommend and educate the customers on the brands they drink. That’s hugely important to us. I know we definitely have had people come visit us for a tour at the gin distillery who were staying at Lough Eske and that’s where they found out about us.”

Wrapping up his speech, Cox told attendees to savour their drinks but said: “To really enjoy them, you have to go up there. It tastes far better in Donegal.”

For more information about Lough Eske, see here.

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