With a coastal location and country club vibe, Penny McCormick finds it hard to leave this airy hotel on the so-called Velvet Strand in Co Dublin …
Once the home of the Jameson whiskey dynasty (the property dates back 172 years), with royal connections to Edward VII (who was a frequent visitor), the 160-acre beachfront property comprises 131 rooms and its own 18-hole championship golf course designed by German golf legend Bernhard Langer and American architect Stan Eby. Though only a short 20 minute drive from Dublin, close to Malahide, it’s a world away from the stresses and noise of city life which makes even the shortest of breaks here seem even longer. Fresh air, inspiring views, uninterrupted coastline, comforting amenities and top notch food are the ingredients of a perfect mini-break, in which Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links excels.
The hotel underwent an extensive €11 million refurbishment recently updating bedrooms, increasing the spa, golf facilities, conferencing and banqueting areas. Comfort is a priority in all 131 rooms decorated in coastal colours and accents by designer Ciara Ni Laoi. My corner suite overlooked Ireland’s Eye, the hotel’s large private garden, and the first tee on the golf course. I particularly liked the ample sofa for reading/reclining on and looking out at the landscape. The spacious marble bathroom (with The Irish Handmade Soap Company amenities) and generous kingsize bed perhaps reflect the design tastes of the current owners – a US real estate group. I noted there were many American golfers visiting when I stayed. Room rates are dependent on season and availability and can start from €129 midweek to €250 at peak periods, though there are ongoing offers throughout the year.
There are plenty of dining options to choose from – one of the most serene is The Seaview restaurant, for a special occasion treat. The view from the panoramic bay windows, overlooking Island’s Eye, sets the tone for a relaxing evening with exemplary service. Executive chef, Thomas Haughton’s table d’hote menus, at €45 per person, include lots of extra treats and the cuisine is a fusion of French and Irish flavours. I particularly liked the armchair-style seating and slightly lower tables – it’s surprising how a small change in ergonomics can impact on a dining experience.
References to the Jameson dynasty are dotted throughout the hotel. Replica portraits of John and Margaret Jameson by artist Sir Henry Raeburn (the originals are on display at the National Gallery) hang in the hotel bar. An oak-panelled hideaway with original fireplaces and ceilings, the Jameson Bar is a more casual dining experience, with wing-back, leather armchairs and a menu highlighting classic comfort food and seafood delights. I particularly liked the potted crab and salmon with avocado and soda bread as a lunchtime snack. Also on offer is “Afternoon Tea by the Sea”; at €38 per person.
The design of the boutique spa reinforces the tranquility of the surroundings, and is expertly overseen by head therapist Ashleigh O’Connor. A range of new treatments by the Hungarian brand Eminence Organic Skin Care complements other treatments by Elemis. Eminence is a phytoceutical brand (favoured by celebrities such as Jennifer Lawrence and Victoria Beckham) which transform the skin in much the same way as cosmeceutical brands but without the harsh side effects. (A must-have product is the Citrus Exfoliating Wash). I tried the Eminence Mangosteen Gentle Resurfacing Peel, which comprises LED and an exfoliation peel for an effective deep cleansing and rejuvenating treatment. Currently on offer is a “Summer Glowing” package – chose four treatments from an extensive menu of options including facials, manicures, exfoliation and body treatments for €99. There are other half day and full day packages available which can be booked by calling The Spa team on 01 866 6564.
As for the golf facilities, the 18-hole Links course has been described as “everything a course should be” with its rolling fairway and unforgiving rough, and it has hosted numerous amateur and professional events including the Ladies Irish Open. As a former student of St Andrews university (the home of golf), I was reminded of my student days, especially walking the rugged peninsula.
WHAT TO PACK: Refined relaxation is how I would describe the dress code. Though primarily a golf resort I didn’t see an Argyle sweater the entire weekend – a stylish wedding which was taking place discreetly in one of the many function rooms. Given its location beside the beach, walking shoes and a towel or blanket would be my recommendation. I enjoyed long walks (the beach is five miles long) after a hearty breakfast and then reading on the beach in a sheltered spot. Do investigate the hotel’s Secret Garden where you’ll find a plaque given to John Jameson and Henrietta Haig (of the whiskey dynasty below ) by Edward VII, who was a frequent visitor to Portmarnock. The plaque celebrating their marriage inspires the hotel motto – “Lux Amor Pax”. Love Light Peace. I can’t think of a better way to sum up my stay.
Need to Know: Portmarnock Hotel and Golf Links, Strand Road, Portmarnock, Co Dublin; www.portmarnock.com
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