Ireland is how I imagine England to have been in yesteryear and I particularly love the more rural areas. So I had high hopes for The Cliff House Hotel, set as it is down on the wet and woolly south east coastline in Co Waterford, surrounded by not very much bar birds, dog-walkers and beaches. It did not disappoint.
The staff were incredibly friendly and attentive throughout my weekend stay, as you’d expect from a five star hotel. I am told that the place was fully booked, but this was only ever apparent when everyone convened to dine in the evenings at the House Restaurant, which rightly deserves its Michelin star.
My companion and I spent our time beachcombing and exploring the local pubs. On the way back from one such walk the local hunt were just finishing for the day–a beautiful sight. Thankfully, given the ever-more restrictive baggage allowance up in the air, a huge range of wellys were available to borrow, as squeezing my Chameux into the hand luggage wouldn’t have been entirely practical. And, heaven forbid, I might have had to clean them.
The star attraction is undoubtedly the food. Crisps made in-house are available for nibbling before the amuse-bouche arrives, the highlight of which is a melt-in-the-mouth beetroot macaroon. Being so coastal, the fish is superbly fresh. The smoked salmon starter is a triumph, with four different takes on what can sometimes be a very bland choice, complimented by delicious salmon eggs and pickled cucumber pieces. I would also highly recommend the scallops and haddock, but the real hero here is the local game. I was encouraged to see an apology on the menu for the possibility of shot in the meat, for it is all very much straight from the local shoot. Venison, pheasant and partridge are all cooked to perfection, and all shot within ten miles of the hotel. Just as it should be. The food is all beautifully presented, without ever being pretentious or impractical.
Even the breakfast is a wonder to behold, with an afternoon-tea style cake-stand of scones, pastries and toast, yoghurt which declares itself ?made by Alan and Valerie of Glenilen Farm’, down the road, and a traditional Irish breakfast that you just can’t fault. Sizeable without being gratuitous.
Sunday was spent in the spa–a truly relaxing massage was followed by lengths of the pool, a spell in the steam room and sauna, and an outdoor Jacuzzi. The whole spa, in fact the majority of the hotel, has floor-to-ceiling glass windows, that look out over the bay and the crashing waves below. My one grievance was that to get back from the spa, in my robe and slippers, I had to cross reception and pass guests checking-in. I didn’t mind, but perhaps others might.
The rooms are spacious, with large balconies to appreciate the misty views, and a huge bath to shake off the bracing chill of a cliff top walk. The water comes out of the tap like a miniature waterfall. This took me by surprise, but I grew to quite like it. I felt like I was giving my hands some manner of soothing treatment, rather than just washing them.
The interiors are wonderfully homely: antique tuck boxes, tartans and roaring fires are the order of the day. The whole place is impeccably smart, with service to match, without even the slightest hint of chi-chi, glamour or glitz. Just the way I like it.
One night in a Terrace Suite at The Cliff House Hotel costs from £347 a night (00 353 24 87 800; www.thecliffhousehotel.com)