One Sunday at the end of June, one of the Sunday newspapers (I think it was the Guardian) ran an article on staying at a castle in Ireland, and gave a number of websites to view some of them. Now this really appealed to me, and as we hadn’t yet booked a summer holiday, I decided to have a look at a few of them. A number were completely out of our price range, being over £100.00 per night just for bed and breakfast, but a couple of them seemed worth a second look, including the one we finally decided on: Cregg Castle, near the village of Corrandulla, about 8 miles outside Galway. This was not the largest castle on offer by any means, having just 14 guest bedrooms, but right from the start, this one seemed to draw us towards it. It had a much more informal feel about it from its website, and the emails we received in reply to our enquiries were friendly as well as informative. We had to make up our minds pretty quickly, as there were only 2 rooms left for the dates we wanted. A small, en-suite double (we were informed this was not suitable for the very tall!!) and a much larger double room, with a private bathroom next door. We decided on the larger room, even though I am only 4 ft 11 inches tall. We duly sent off our deposit, and received a receipt by email. Now all that needed doing was to book the flights, hire a car..and wait! OUR ITINERARY We are flying out to Dublin, and picking up a hire car there. We are then (or hubby is) driving across country to Corrandulla so that we get to see some of the lovely countryside, and will also have the use of the car whilst there. We are booked into the castle for 4 nights B&B, and are then driving back to Killiney (south Dublin) for a further 6 nights at Glenaire Lodge (see my previous op on same). Some friends of ours are taking a week off to show us round, and who knows? I might even run into the Mad Cabbie!!! THE WEB SITE The website for the castle was informati ve without being too cluttered. It gave us an insight to the ambiance of the castle, and a picture gallery displayed some of the amenities within the castle and grounds. There was a three-page section on the history of the castle and surrounding area, a useful map, with directions of how to find it (which I have duly printed off) and several links to other useful sites about the area generally. At the time of writing this first bit of the op, we have yet to visit the castle, but hopefully, by the time I finish it, I will be able to tell you a lot more about it. WHERE IS IT? Cregg Castle was built by the Kirwin Family in 1648. It is situated 9 miles north of Galway City near the village of Corrandulla. It is quiet and secluded, on 165 acres of wood and farmland, and yet only 15 minutes drive away from Galway shopping and nightlife, and ideally situated for touring Connemara, Clare, Mayo and Galway. There are four pubs in the near vicinity, which provide evening meals if you do not wish to eat at the castle. It is advisable though, to have your own transport, and wellington boots if you like walking in the wet times! According to the map, if you take the N17 from Galway City, just past the junction with the N18 at Claregalway, you turn left at Terry Brennan’s Central Tavern. Cregg Castle is situated on the left, just before you reach the village of Corrandulla. We will be driving across from Dublin, so we will join the N17 via the N18 at Claregalway. At least, that’s the theory! I’m the navigator!! You can fly to Shannon or Knock airports if preferred, but would still need to hire a car. WHAT IS IT LIKE? (according to the website) “There is no category in which to place Cregg Castle. It is neither a hotel, nor an ordinary guesthouse. There is no bar, but wine is available and guests are welcome to bring their own drinks. The atmosphere is friendly and informal. You will experience livin g in a 17th century castle yet feel completely at home. You can make coffee or tea at any hour of the day or night free of charge. You can walk in the woods, and explore the yards. Children love the birds and animals. No shooting is allowed. Full Irish breakfast, including our own free-range eggs and homemade brown bread is served until lunchtime around the antique dining table which seats 18 people.” I have lifted the above paragraph from the website. I think it was the total informality that sold me on this place. Pictures from their gallery also bring out this friendly, informal tone. As I’m writing this I can hardly wait! “You can sit at the huge log and turf fire in the "Great Hall" and share a coffee or drink with the other guests. The relaxed atmosphere encourages people to get to know each other, and conversation often goes on into the night. Irish music is played, and frequently the proprietors have a few tunes in the evenings. If you bring your own instrument with you, you can play with them and other guests. Many groups of musicians have stayed at Cregg, and joined in the evening jollities. The "Great Hall" is 36 x 24 x 20 ft high with wonderful acoustics.” Now this is my idea of a good night on holiday! Joining in with others in an impromptu musical get together is something I love. We had it on the Isles of Scilly, with the Scillonians in their club, and we were lucky enough in Jersey to be staying at the same hotel as the Cwmbran Male Choir, who practiced every night in the bar! So this bit really appeals! “It is the relaxed atmosphere, the music, the chat and the historic building which make Cregg Castle a memorable experience. This is a little more than ordinary guest houses, but considerably less than the average hotel. Home cooked evening meals (limited menu) are available if ordered before mid-day. Amid the noise and bustle of this world, Cregg Castle is a haven of peace, tranquillity and friendships.” Now does this not strike you as just what is needed after a long hard term’s work? I’m not interested in nightlife and boozing on holiday. Bring on the peace and tranquillity! SO WHAT WAS IT REALLY LIKE? Here begins the second part of this op. The first half was written before I went, and consists of what I expected it to be like. From here on, these are my opinions of what it really was like, and how it compared to my expectations FINDING THE CASTLE To begin with, the route and map given were spot on. We had no trouble at all finding the castle, although you have to be looking out for it, as the entrance is just round the corner from a sharp bend. A long, narrow road leads you through the grounds, and you suddenly turn a corner, and there it is. The outside is beautiful, covered in old creepers and vines, in various shades of green, red and gold. It really is stunning. There is ample car parking space in the grounds, and just as their website says, you most definitely DO need a car! To go to Cregg Castle without a car would either cost you a small fortune in taxi fares, or you would be worn out with walking. It really is out in the wilds. THE ROOMS If you expect luxury, then forget it. The rooms are for the most part, large and comfortable, but definitely not luxurious. Our room had a four-poster bed, plus a single bed, a wonderful Conemara Marble fireplace with a fantastic antique fire screen, and equally ancient wardrobe, an antique dressing table complete with jug and water bowl, and 2 two-seater old-fashioned sofas. Floorboards creaked as you walked, which added to the ambiance somehow, and there were rugs on the floor. The bed was comfy. Our private shower room and toilet was just outside the room, and was adequate, although nothing special. Some rooms had en-suite showers and toilets, whilst others had either private facil ities just outside, or shared facilities between 2 rooms, which made it ideal for families. There was a kitchen on the second floor, where you could make tea, coffee, chocolate etc, without charge, at any time of the night or day. There was also a very large fridge where you could store beer, wine, water, etc, which was handy as the castle was not licensed. The dining room was superb. Breakfast was taken at any time from 8.00 a.m until mid-day, seated around a huge banqueting table, where 18 people could be seated comfortably. You helped yourself to fruit, juices, yoghurt etc, and then ordered anything from the cooked breakfast menu. There were baskets of homemade brown bread on the tables, plenty of toast, tea or coffee, and jars of homemade jam (no, not mine!!!) The other furniture in the room was all antique, as were several paintings on the walls. Guests chatted around the table, and some mornings we were there for an hour and a half! Next to the dining room was the great Hall. Again, this was filled with antique furniture, and ancient Chinese silks covered the walls. Each night, a peat and log fire was lit, which may seem strange in August, but in fact didn’t make us too hot! THE AMBIANCE Our hosts, Patrick and Anne-Marie played traditional Irish music every night, and anyone else who could play instruments were more than welcome to join in. Fellow guests played the piano, and one night, a girl of about 10 did some Irish dancing while Pat played the Irish pipes. If the music wasn’t playing, the guests and hosts sat around and talked. One night there were English, Irish, Swiss, French, Australian, German and American folk, all chatting away until about 3.am! Time just flew. Everyone was so friendly, you just didn’t want to leave! I don’t think I have ever stayed in a place where so many nationalities have all mixed in so well with one another. The whole atmosphere of the c astle just lent itself to this so well, and the friendliness of the hosts certainly added to this. It was absolutely great. WHAT TO DO WHILST STAYING THERE You could wander through the castle grounds and amongst the animals if you wished, but you most certainly needed wellie boots for this! It was very muddy. Boots were provided for anyone who didn’t have their own. We didn’t actually do this, but I know that people who were staying there with children had a hard time prising them away from the castle grounds! One night, Pat and Anne-Marie were going down to a local pub to join in an informal Irish music night. We offered to drive them there (about 3 miles) and it was well worth going. There were about 7 or 8 musicians, all playing different instruments, nothing rehearsed, just impromptu tunes, and it was fantastic. At 1.15 I asked Anne-Marie when the pub closed and she replied, “When people go home!” During the day, we drove around the Conemara National Park (stopping every 500 yards or so to take another picture of another amazing view) we took a boat-trip out on the Lake nearby, landing on the island where the ruins of St Patrick’s church are situated, we drove to the extreme west of the peninsula to Clifden, where we discovered some ruins of an old monastery or castle, which, to date, I have not been able to discover the name of), and did plenty of walking! We found some lovely little shops in the back of beyond, where we bought Waterford Crystal, mugs, the obligatory tea towel and many more souvenirs. We came back to the castle each night, tired, yet refreshed. PRICE We paid 60 Euros each per night for bed and Breakfast. This equates to approximately £39 each. I don’t think this is too bad at all for August, and for the simple enjoyment of staying somewhere completely different. The price in low season is 50 Euros per night per person. Children' ;s rates are set at 50% r eduction (sharing parents' room). Children of cot age are free of charge. WOULD I RECOMMEND IT? If you want luxury accommodation, and waiting on hand and foot, then forget it. Cregg Castle isn’t that sort of hotel. If, however, you would like to experience living in a 17th century castle for a few days, enjoy Irish Music, and getting to know people of all nationalities, and need a base for touring the Galway area, then this is the place to go for. We enjoyed every minute of our stay there. If we ever want to go back to that area, I would have no hesitation in booking Cregg Castle again. What it lacks in luxury, it makes up for in the friendliness, and sheer enjoyment of being in a castle. I know that we arrived as guests and left as friends. Oh, and by the way, The Mad Cabbie isn't as mad as he makes out! (sorry Ken!!!) Castle Address: CREGG CASTLE Corandulla Co. Galway Ireland. Tel.: +353-91-791434 E-mail: email@example.com Website: www.creggcastle.com
Upon a recent trip to galway I payed a visit to the newly built SAS Radisson in the docklands. I did not stay the night but I did have a look around aswell as a sandwich and a few coffees. This hotel only opened this month (april 2001) and it is not fully finished yet. It has 202 bedrooms, why they couldn't round this off to an even 200 is beyond me. The Radisson is a massive hotel and will shortly have a conference room and a fully equipped gym, among other things. Inside, there are palm trees in the lobby, and a very high ceiling, the interior has a very Frank Lloyd Wright feel to it. The restaurant can seat up to 250 people. Probably the best aspect to this hotel is the view, a spectacular view of Lock Atalia. The bar isn't exactly cosy, like the rest of Hotel is kind of 70's. The coffee is excellent at £2.60 for a cappuccino and the BLT was enjoyable at £4.75. It's always nice to get a cloth napkin instead of the paper kind and the cutlery was sort of unusual, about the thickness of a Bic pen. All in all a top class Hotel.