Scotland on Sunday, Do Not Disturb
Our family of five were having a short break taking in both sides of the Irish border and, after a hectic and fun-filled few days in the north, decided to head south for some rest and relaxation at this top-notch retreat set amid 1,300 acres of ancient forest, rolling meadows and pristine lakeland on the outskirts of Cavan Town in County Cavan, a 90-minute drive from Dublin and two hours from Belfast.
Budget or boutique?
Boutique but on a grand scale. Farnham Estate has 158 guest rooms and suites, a health spa, an 18-hole championship golf course, and from the moment you arrive at the end of the undulating driveway through immaculate grounds from where your car is valet-parked, it’s luxury all the way, but with a personal touch.
Wining and dining
The Botanica Restaurant overlooking the lawn is where guests can take breakfast, lunch and a set dinner menu from €45 per person. Executive Chef Gary Rea Stinson changes the menu regularly to celebrate Farnham’s botanical bounty and take advantage of local produce.
Starters include house smoked Corleggy cheese salad and Cavan McCarren’s ham hock terrine, mains feature the likes of 10oz sirloin steak with vine roasted tomatoes, chunky chips and green peppercorn sauce, and lemon and thyme marinated supreme of Irish chicken with squash puree, spinach and smoked bacon gravy. Sweet-toothed guests are spoiled by the likes of Farnham’s dark chocolate and hazelnut plate and Glenowen Farm ice cream. Vegans and vegetarians are well catered for too, with dishes such as smoked tofu salad with crispy vegetables and maple mustard dressing.
Afternoon tea is served from 1pm-5pm in the original main house’s Music Room and Gold Room, while occupying a subterranean space below the main lobby is the atmospheric Wine Goose Cellar Bar.
Our two superior rooms were light-filled, sleek and contemporary and benefited from lovely views over the grounds. They also came with free wifi, hair dryer, Nespresso machine, LCD TV, safe, mini-bar and turn-down service in the evening with pillow mist and handmade chocolates. The adjoining bathrooms had walk-in showers with Irish artisan Skellig Soaps. Bizarrely, there was a wooden hatch window on the wall between the bathroom and the bedroom which could be opened from either side. Other than providing a vantage point for voyeurs, I still have no idea what its function was.
Worth getting out of bed for
The Cavan Museum in Kilmore, Ballyjamesduff, is home to the World War One Trench Experience, the largest outdoor replica trench open to the public in Ireland and the UK, and is well worth a visit, while the Green Lough Geo Park on the outskirts of Cavan Town offers picnic benches, family-friendly accessible paths, insect hotels and animal footprints trails.
Elsewhere, a castle trail of original paths and walkways has been launched at Castle Saunderson Demesne at Belturbet, on the border between Cavan and Fermanagh. The castle’s history is said to be marked by fire and blood, conquest and division, and, finally, the peace, reconciliation and multi-culturalism that is reflective of Ireland itself. The only problem was that due to a woeful lack of road signage, combined with an ancient sat-nav, we couldn’t find it.
We did, however, have no problem finding the brilliant Cavan Canoe Centre, where proprietor Sean offers paddling perfection on a series of breathtaking loughs encircling the ruins Cloughoughter Castle.
Not so little, the 44,000 sq ft health spa, which bills itself a place to rest, relax and renew, was designed by Heinz Schletterer, whose previous projects include facilities at the Waldorf Astoria in New York and the Sandy Lane in Barbados. My wife enjoyed the Espa TriActive Instant Facial – no doubt the fact that the spa is off-limits to under-16s only added to the sense of serenity.
A sumptuous and sophisticated haven in a beautiful, off-the-beaten-path part of the Emerald Isle.
Rooms from €189 a night for dinner, bed and breakfast. Farnham Estate Spa and Golf Resort, Cavan, Ireland. Tel 353 (0) 49 4377700,