Simply stupendous stopovers on the Wild Atlantic Way

Simply stupendous stopovers on the Wild Atlantic Way

The top ten luxury stays on Ireland's western coastal route

The Wild Atlantic Way follows a coastline from Kinsale in Co. Cork to the Inishowen Peninsula in Co. Donegal. The route provides ample information on what’s available locally in terms of attractions and amenities.

It also boasts some of he finest hotels in Europe.

Aghadoe Heights

Aghadoe Heights, Co. Kerry

Two words: Penthouse Suite. We have been lucky enough to have rested overnight at Aghadoe Heights’ premiere room, but we have also stayed in other rooms around the hotel, and we can say with certainty that no matter what you pay you will be treated like the very important person you are. This aside, after or before you head outside into and onto the great wild west Atlantic Way, you can choose to either lounge in the hotel’s spa (divine, frankly), dine in the Lake Room restaurant, or absorb the panoramic view of Killarney’s lakes and mountains with a Brandy Alexander in your hand.

Glenlo Abbey Hotel (image courtesy of Tourism Ireland)

Glenlo Abbey, Bushypark, Co. Galway

‘Luxury, history, majesty…’ it states proudly on the Home page of Glenlo Abbey’s website, and they’re not wrong. While there is a morsel of overstatement here and there (‘majestically rising from the still waters of Lough Corrib…’), there’s no doubting the class and style on display and offer. There are more than several USPs, including the hotel’s recent addition of superior rooms, which provide an even better choice of accommodation options, the hotel grounds, which includes the astonishing 18th century Abbey, and the Pullman Restaurant, which for many is irresistible (it comprises two original carriages from the Orient Express, skilfully refurbished and set on the hotel grounds.

Actons Hotel, Kinsale, Co. Cork

It is a harbourside haven and has been for almost 80 years, but Actons Hotel is more than just a pretty face, so to speak. Anyone that has visited Kinsale knows how pretty it is, and what a reputation it has to uphold as the ‘Gourmet Capital of Ireland’. Over the years, Actons has ensured it reflects the town’s innate charm and character - the hotel was established in 1946 by sisters Sidney and Sheila Acton and has been on the receiving end of two refurbishments in the past ten years. Styled as a contemporary boutique hotel, there are over 75 rooms, an acclaimed restaurant (Fisher Street), and that most important add-on for people travelling around the Wild Atlantic Way, in and out of small town narrow, winding streets: a complimentary car park.

Hayfield Manor, Cork

You know you’re in safe and highly competent hands when a five-star hotel has been in the same family for generations. Take a bow, the Scally clan, which oversees three hotel properties (including the Killarney Royal and the Great Southern Killarney) in a way that makes a difference to the customer: attention to detail, a truly luxury experience from arrival to departure, and an environment that benefits anyone who cares for a soothing hotel experience. From the restaurant (Perrot’s Garden Bistro) to the hotel grounds (which are over 150 years old, and which hosts a weeping willow tree with its own Preservation Order), Hayfield Manor is wall to wall quality.

Lough Eske Castle

Lough Eske, Donegal

A bona fide castle that has been in the ‘entertaining guests’ business since 1861, Lough Eske has been weighed down by awards, the most recent being placed in Condé Nast's Top Ten Luxury Hotels in Ireland 2023 list (continuing the hotel’s five consecutive years run). After your journey, prepare to be revived and restored in the reassuring company of style, sophistication, and any one of its 5-star rooms and suites.

Ballynahinch Castle, Recess, Connemara

We have always thought that the location name of this Olde Worlde property is perfect: Recess, of course, can also mean ‘retreat’, ‘vacation’, ‘respite’, ‘nook’ or ‘alcove’. And so it proves. The impressive structure is virtually enveloped by mountains and forests overlooking the Owenmore River, so there is an abundance of outdoor activities to spend a day enjoying – walks in Connemara National Park and Kylemore Abbey, and beaches at Roundstone, Ballyconneely, and Renvyle. Back at base, meanwhile, there are two dining options: fine dining at the Owenmore Restaurant, and casual dining at the Fisherman’s Pub & Ranji Room. The views from the former overlook the river it’s named after, while the latter’s vibe generates a more relaxed way to engage with the world. One more thing: the castle’s walled garden is one of the best restored ones we have ever seen and must be strolled around whether or not you’re a paying guest.

Casey’s of Baltimore Hotel, Co. Cork

We have all been there: five-star hotels that need to be pulled up by their metaphorical socks, four-star hotels that cruise to a barely noticeable level of competency, and (as is more often the case) three-star hotels that show more professionalism and customer care than you could hope for. Casey’s is one such three-star (indeed, it nabbed the Georgina Campbell 3-Star Hotel of 2023 Award) that you sense goes further than most. You can’t miss it as you come towards the town -  looking over the appropriately named Roaring Water Bay, the hotel’s red and green frontage is an eye-catcher. Step inside, and you’ll quickly grasp the sense of further visually appealing (and common sense) ambition here. The restaurant’s seafood bias is understandable (they  have their own fish farm from which mussels are sourced), while their on-site nano-brewery provides thirst-quenching satisfaction.

Castle Grove Country House Hotel, Co. Donegal

Castle Grove Country House what, I think I hear some of you ask. Stay with us and all will be revealed... Castle Grove is a listed 17th century Georgian house with 15 ensuite bedrooms, all of which feature rare antiques, elegant fabrics, and the kind of toiletries that you might wish to return home with (whisper that, by the way – we’ll say nothing if you don’t). Located six miles north of Letterkenny, on the shores of Lough Swilly, Castle Grove has its own 250-acre private estate (which dates back to 1656) with gardens originally designed by the English landscape architect Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. Potential minus points include no elevator in the building (mobility impaired prospective clientele be advised), while the definite plus points include the kitchen’s age-old culinary skills of pickling, salting, and curing. The walled garden, meanwhile, is such a source of organic ingredients that the hotel has the merit of being a certified member of the Donegal Food Coast initiative.

Park, Kenmare

Park Kenmare, Co. Kerry

Once synonymous with brothers John and Francis Brennan, Park Kenmare is now under the new ownership of multi-millionaire entrepreneur Bryan Meehan and reopens its doors this year to new beginnings while maintaining decades-old quality and standards. There is always something to do here on a stopover from your Wild Atlantic Way route: the heritage town of Kenmare is about three minutes’ walk from the hotel reception, but if you’d rather stay put, there is a velvety private cinema, an opulent spa, a decent gym, and the recent impressive addition of a new restaurant - Landline, located in the Sean Scully Room (and named after the Irish artist’s 2017 painting, Landline Edge). Recent awards include Gold Medal Awards 2023 (Bronze) Ireland’s Front of House Team, and Gold Medal Awards 2023 (Silver) Ireland’s Five Star Fine Dining Hotel Restaurant. You know what to do, right?

Mount Falcon, Ballina, Co. Mayo

A roaring fire as a welcoming gift? Mature woodland covering 100 acres? Suites, deluxe, and superior rooms in the original estate house (dating from 1876), and elegant lodges on the estate itself? These are questions that don’t really need to be answered, of course, and (here’s another one for you) why would anyone even try when there is something for anyone with the Wild Atlantic Way on their minds? Alongside the plush accommodation, we have a 2AA Rosette restaurant, a soothing leisure centre and spa, and various nooks and crannies to mull over things. Outside, there is (naturally) falconry, clay pigeon shooting, archery, two miles of private fishing, and woodland trails.