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Moy House

Lahinch, County Clare, Ireland
Ireland's stunning west coast can't claim Dublin or Cork, but it's not overrun with stag and hen parties either. Craic addict Jon Kirk avoids the madding crowds and gets that isolation 'fix' in the wilds of County Clare.

Moy House exterior

first impressions
Perched proudly on a hilltop a short drive from Lahinch, this historic 19th-Century property is as much a local landmark as the spectacular bay it overlooks. Set in the heart of a sprawling 15-acre estate on the River Moy, Moy House is a four-star luxurious getaway that ticks all the right boxes, and boasts a string of industry awards – including AA Guest Accommodation of the Year – to prove it.

Its elevated position offers unparalleled views of Lahinch Bay and the rugged coastline beyond. But this wonderful guesthouse has more than just sweeping vistas, excellent food and fabulous rooms. It's a place oozing relaxation, peace and tranquillity – rare qualities that money can't buy. Perhaps that's why Moy House is the regular haunt of A-list celebrities, visiting diplomats and other foreign dignitaries.

The building itself dates back some 200 years when it was built as the summer residence of a local landlord, Sir Augustine Fitzgerald. But you'd be right to think its appearance is unlike many traditional manor houses of that era. According to local legend, the architect's plans were "mixed up" with those for an Italian villa, giving the property its continental shape and style!

It was eventually bought by local resident and current owner Antoin O'Looney in the late 1990s, when the long, gruelling (and frighteningly expensive) process of restoring it began. But the back-breaking project – which included excavating more than 6,000 cubic feet of earth – was worth every penny. Moy House is now one of County Clare's most appealing hotels for the discerning traveller.

bedrooms
Moy House boasts nine luxurious bedrooms, named after local 'townlands' – areas once managed by the property's original owner Sir Fitzgerald.

Moy House bedroom

Accommodation here is everything you would expect from a hotel of this calibre – and much more. Rooms are outfitted to a five-star standard, mixing a blend of classic and contemporary styles. Bespoke is the key word here; each boasts an assortment of hand-carved furniture, paintings and other historic curios. Beds are king or queen-sized, with comfortable mattresses and sumptuous linen, duvets, pillows and cushions.

When it comes to mod cons, Moy House has its fair share. Rooms boast flat-screen TVs, DVD players, CD players and surround-sound speakers, and climate control. There are also direct-dial telephones and writing desks, complete with a range of complimentary stationery.

There's no wireless broadband, but guests can enjoy unlimited internet use in the hotel library.

En-suite bathrooms are magnificent and, according to one female guest, "intensely, intensely romantic". Indeed, the free-standing cast-iron baths found in most are enough to melt the heart of any jaded traveller.

All are bright, tiled throughout, and come with under floor heating (and, don't panic, a host of luxury toiletries). One even features its own well, over which (you'll be assured to hear!) has been laid a clear glass viewing platform.

But despite their exceptional interiors, it's the views outside that make guest accommodation here so special. Most, including the Deluxe Large double room, have uninterrupted vistas of Lahinch Bay and the beginnings of the Cliffs of Moher (see local attractions below) beyond.

The Signature Suite, meanwhile, has its own private conservatory overlooking the Atlantic. Elsewhere, the Romance Junior Suite boasts one of several turf burning fireplaces – perhaps explaining why this, the master bedroom of the original house, is known as the hotel's "most romantic room".

food and drink
Moy House has built a formidable reputation for its food, and rightly so – it's exquisite. Known for its mouth-watering "home from home" cooking, eating at Moy House is an intimate affair. Meals are served in the glorious conservatory restaurant, a lavish new addition to the hotel that overlooks Lahinch Bay. Don't expect to eat and leave in a hurry, though – the incredible views take time to digest.

Breakfast comprises a selection of cooked and uncooked dishes, all of which taste as good as they look. Do try the chef's homemade porridge and the traditional Irish breakfast – its black and white pudding are to die for. Wash it down with a mixed fruit smoothie and a choice of speciality teas and coffees.

Dinner costs 55 euros per person, and includes a superb array of dishes. These include slow cooked pork belly with carrot puree and a light mustard cream; fresh scallops from nearby Liscannor Bay; and white chocolate truffle cake. Ingredients are locally produced wherever possible. Wash it down with one, or several, choice tipples on the extensive wine list.

If you fancy heading out for dinner, you might try the bustling Atlantic Hotel in Lahinch for its speciality seafood cuisine. If you're still hungry for action, head to the nearby pubs for a taste of Irish hospitality – and real Irish Guinness.

service with a smile?
The hotel's welcome committee may have bad breath, but he's friendly and has been well trained...Wolf the resident German Shepherd that is! Once inside the door, expect the same warm welcome from Moy's paid staff, all of whom are helpful, polite and deeply passionate about where they work.

Staff are on hand 24/7 to ensure guests have, in the words of manager Brid O'Meara, "everything they could possibly imagine" during their stay. This includes help with organising tours, and expert advice about the surrounding region (see local attractions below).

Moy House interior

A library is packed with a range of books, while a DVD library is also available free-of-charge. The library is also home to a PC offering complimentary broadband internet around the clock.

Take a tentative step up the steep spiral staircase to the viewing tower for unsurpassed views of the region. Elsewhere, the drawing room is one of the best features of the house, and has spectacular views of Lahinch Bay along with a roaring fire. It also operates an honesty bar, where an extensive selection of fine wines and other drinks can be found. This is the perfect place to unwind after dinner, or to wind-up ahead of a night on the tiles in Lahinch.

local attractions
County Clare is packed with heart-warming (and heart-stopping) activities, and Moy House – just 50 minutes drive from Shannon Airport – makes the perfect base from which to explore.

Surfers, swimmers and body boarders should head to nearby Lahinch Bay, famed as one of Ireland's premier surfing spots for its giant waves and regular sets. It's also a great place for landlubbers looking for a short afternoon stroll or longer day hike.

Golfers may be interested to know that two of Ireland's best links courses – the Championship at Lahinch, and Doonbeg, designed by golf legend Greg Norman – are only a (fairway) away.

But it's the Cliffs of Moher that make this area of Ireland so popular. The Cliffs, a 10 minute drive from Moy, stretch for eight km along the western seaboard of County Clare. At 214m high, they are among the highest sea cliffs in Europe and offer outstanding views out to the Aran Islands, Galway Bay, and the Maum Turk Mountains in Connemara. They're also home to some of Ireland's rarest sea birds, and were designated a Refuge for Fauna in 1988. Entrance to the Cliffs is free, but charges are levied on nearby parking.

No trip to the region would be complete without seeing the Burren, a vast area of Ice Age limestone occupying almost 300 sq. kilometres. Despite its bleak, barren and windswept appearance, the Burren is home to a wide variety of flora, making it a haven for botanists. The area is also the site of some of the best preserved archaeological megalithic tombs in Ireland, some dating back nearly 6,000 years.

Moy House is now operating special weekend tours of the Burren; see will it break the bank? below) for further details.

If you get the chance, make the short drive to Bunratty Castle, another of County Clare's principle attractions near Shannon. The site of this grand castle dates back to Viking times, while the first stones are believed to be laid in around 1270.

will it break the bank?
Not at all. Think of this as a credit-crunch busting luxury break.

Prices start from 145 euros for a single room and B&B between November and December, and from 185 euros for a single with B&B from March to April. Suites start from 270 euros, including breakfast, in the low season, rising to 280 euros at peak times. Children sharing with two adults cost 70 euros including B&B. All prices include taxes. No service charge included.

* Special packages for 2009 include two nights and a three-hour guided Burren walking tour from 225 euros per person.

The Luxury Romance Package includes two nights' accommodation, gourmet candlelit dinner, handmade chocolates and Champagne on arrival, and breakfast, from 355 euros per person.

details
Moy House
Lahinch
County Clare
Ireland
Web: www.moyhouse.com

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