Every year around the months of October and November, the Manor House Hotels & Irish Country Hotels group organises a familiarisation trip so that we as the Ireland experts are kept informed of any changes in our hotels that we can pass onto our Guests.
These trips are essential in enabling me and my colleagues to improve our knowledge of the country and to give the best advice to our Guests about their dream trips to Ireland. We were invited this year to visit hotels in the counties of Meath, Leitrim, Mayo and Roscommon. These counties are largely undiscovered in Ireland but are well worth a visit to experience their beautiful scenery and rich history.
After a one hour flight between Cork and Dublin, our group is waiting for us in Dublin airport. The first introductions done, we get on the coach and we take the direction of the M1 to the North. Less than 1h30 later, we arrive at our first stopover, the Cabra Castle Hotel in Kingscourt, Co.Cavan. Cabra Castle Hotel boasts a proud history dating as far back as 1760. It is set on 100 acres of gardens and parklands and nearby the Dun a Ri forest park. The lane going to the castle edges the 9-hole golf course and offers fantastic views on the castle’s fortification and towers. Still impressed by this entry, the staff of the hotel guides us through corridors and rooms decorated with period style and paintings. A few rooms are located within the main house but most of them surround the courtyard in the former stables and servant quarters. In these ones, you can see stones in the walls dating back the 14th century. And you could maybe glimpse the ghost of a young woman servant who is said to haunt the castle in search of her lost love…
Later we head towards the northern part of county Cavan, known as the “Lake Country” with no less than 365 lakes and as many rivers and streams! It is the perfect destination for nature lovers and fishermen of course. Cruising is also popular. You will find here the sources of the majestic River Shannon and the river Erne.
We lunch at the hotel Errigal Country House located in Cootehill. It is a modern style hotel, newly built. I would rather recommend it to travelers wishing to be in the countryside with the wide choice of outdoor activities available: walking, cycling, horse riding and any types of fishing. You can also treat yourself in the new treatment rooms of the hotel.
We spend later the afternoon in a farm, “Causey Farm Experience” located in Fordstown near the town of Kells in County Meath. With their motto “Be Irish for a Day”, the Causey family invites us to discover many Irish activities. In one of the barns where is burning a peat fire with its unique smell, we begin by an Irish dance, the “Siege of Ennis”. In rows of four people, we learn the first steps and the atmosphere becomes soon very relaxed. The energy and good mood of our hosts are communicative. We go then to the kitchen where we prepare the “Brown Soda Bread” made with buttermilk and plain flour. After cooking, we head toward the field for a “hurling” training. Hurling is a sport of gaelic origin and is very popular in Ireland. It is played with sticks and a ball on a bigger playing field than the soccer one. We conclude the experience by a lesson of “Bodhran” which is an Irish drum made with a goatskin, and finally by a last dance.
We spend our first evening at the Headfort Arms Hotel located in the heart of the town of Kells. Kells is mostly renowned for the “Book of Kells” considered as the most decorated illuminated manuscript to survive from the early medieval period. It is now shown at Trinity College in Dublin but you can see one of its copies in Kells heritage centre.
Headfort Arms Hotel, in operation for over a century, is owned by the Duff family for more than 35 years now. You will receive a warm welcome there. You can just relax at the bar of the hotel or in the Spa with its organic products, and eat a fine dinner at the restaurant “Vanilla Pod” many times awarded. I particularly appreciated the dinner and the party that followed with traditional Irish music. My room was large with a little patio, a fireplace, a flat screen TV and a very spacious bathroom. It’s the perfect location for the travelers wanting to break their journey when travelling to/from the Airport (an hour or so). It is also a good base for exploring the Boyne Valley and the passage graves of Knowth, Dowth and Newgrange.