I love nothing more that a girly break with my sister Gail, however we haven’t managed to plan an adventure since we went to see Elf the Musical in Dublin two years ago. So, for Christmas, when I spotted a Groupon deal for Arnold’s Hotel in Dunfanaghy, Donegal, I snapped it up.
We have been to Arnold’s before when I did a review for Ulster Tatler several years ago and both had such a great time we always said we would go back. With such a brilliant deal on offer, which included bed, breakfast and an evening meal, it seemed like the stars had aligned for us.
We opted for a one night stay and so on Saturday morning we left Belfast early to make the most of our adventure. The route to Dunfanaghy is very straightforward to navigate, although I have to say, in all my days I have never encountered so many roundabouts; I was practically dizzy by the time we got there! However, before my head was completely spinning, I was delighted to see Arnold’s Hotel nestled on the main road through Dunfanaghy.
Once the car was parked (there is a car park behind the hotel as well as ample street parking out the front) it was time to check in and deposit our bags. The welcome at reception was friendly and professional and as we made our way to our room, the roaring fire in the lobby immediately reminded me why I had loved the hotel so much during my first visit.
I couldn’t have been happier with our room. I love the fact that parts of the hotel have been modernised but I adored that other elements retained a traditional charm; your room key, for example, is just that, an actual key. There is something comforting about that clunk of a lock turning to admit you to your new home for the night as opposed to the common beeping of electric locks we are all now so used to when travelling. Inside, our room was spacious, cosy and homely, however my absolute favourite thing about it was the stunning view of Kilahoey Strand, a Blue Flag beach that can be accessed opposite Arnold’s Hotel.
I literally could have looked at this view all day. However, the only thing better than looking at it through the window was to layer up and soak up the surroundings first hand and so it was to the beach for us.
We hit it very lucky with the weather and although it was chilly, the sun was out making it perfect walking weather. When we went exploring the tide was completely out and so we had a bit a trek to the water’s edge but it was really nice to stretch our legs after the two and a half hour long car journey. We weren’t the only ones to take advantage of the weather, there was a mixture of folk enjoying this stunning beach, from a young family flying a kite to several people out walking their dogs.
After several photos (the scenery is that beautiful, including an exceptional view of Mount Errigal) we decided to head back and see what else the town had to offer. As it was January a few shops were closed for holidays, however we had a brilliant time looking at the unique offerings in McAuliffe’s Craft Shop. With souvenirs in the bag we decided to pop into The Oyster Bar for a pint of the black stuff – when in Ireland, and all that. The bartender poured us a perfect pint and it was lovely to sit by the window and just watch the world go by.
After we had supped up, we made our way back to the hotel to freshen up for dinner. Before our meal we thought we would enjoy an aperitif. We ordered two espresso martinis from the hotel’s Whiskey Fly Bar. As we were opting to sit in the lobby, our bartender invited us to go ahead and take a seat and offered to bring the cocktails to us when they were ready. When the cocktails arrived they looked that good that a fellow guest asked what they were so she could order one for herself.
As we finished our drinks, we made our way to the Seascapes Restaurant, which enjoys a classic and inviting decor. The waiting staff were very attentive throughout our meal, and were happy to offer recommendations, not only about the food but also what to do in the local area. The menu was extensive and we were both spoilt for choice, however after much deliberation we opted to share nachos for a starter and both selected the steaks with pepper sauce and chunky chips for main. Both dishes were wonderfully presented; the nachos, which were smothered in chilli beef and cheese packed just the right punch, whilst the steak oozed flavour and were perfectly complemented by the rich and tasty pepper sauce. We were positively fit to burst and had to say no to dessert but decided to finish our meal off with an Irish coffee each. Once again, they were excellently prepared and were the perfect conclusion to our dining experience.
As it was still early we decided to enjoy a nightcap by the fire in the lobby, which was pleasantly full with guests of the hotel, diners fron the restaurant and patrons of the Whiskey Fly Bar. After we we felt totally relaxed, not to mention spoilt, it was time for bed.
We awoke the next morning to a hint of red sky on the horizon and so it was time to fuel up with breakfast before heading out for a farewell wander on the beach. The hotel offered both a buffet of cereal, fruit, porridge and pastries as well as a hot breakfast menu. As we were both still quite full we opted for the mini Irish breakfast. It was just the right portion size and was full of flavour, the perfect start to the day. With tummies full it was time to blow the cobwebs away with a final walk down Kilahoey Strand. After a few more snap shots we headed back to the hotel to check out before hitting the road back to Belfast.
Although it has been two years since our last girly break, I can honestly say it was worth the wait. Dunfanaghy is a stunning location; as soon as you leave the car and breath in the sea air on arrival, you can instantly feel all your stresses fading away. Arnold’s Hotel is a wonderful base for a visit to this part of the world. The hotel is a family run establishment and you can tell that a lot of care goes into every aspect of Arnold’s. The staff are incredibly friendly and welcoming; the customer service couldn’t be faulted. With a traditional feel to the interior and exceptional views of the beach, as well as delicious food and drinks, a trip to Arnold’s eally does make you feel like you have escaped to another world.