Issuu on Google+

Andrew Harper’s H JULY 2012

UNSPOILED

IRELAND { candid reviews by a writer who tr avels incognito and always pays his own way }


editor’s letter JULY 2012 — Prior to my recent trip to Ireland, I wasn’t sure quite what to

expect. Given the serial economic catastrophes of the past four years and Europe’s continuing financial woes, would the Irish be in a state of collective depression? Even though the declining value of the euro makes the continent an increasingly attractive proposition for American travelers, no one wants to spend a vacation enveloped in gloom. I need not have worried. True, there is a national mood of rueful self-reflection, but the Irish are a stoical and ultimately irrepressible bunch. Although my trips invariably produce a fund of memories, there is usually a single moment that stands out. On this occasion, it was my arrival at Ballyfin, a majestic Regency mansion that is now a superb country house hotel, thanks to the determination and deep pockets of its American owner, Fred Krehbiel. Although Ballyfin proved to be in a class of its own, with peerless food and service to complement an idyllic setting and great architectural beauty, I was lucky enough to discover several other hotels of considerable charm. So often in Ireland, it is the instinctive and unfeigned hospitality of your hosts that is the crucial part of the experience. The baths may be a little old-fashioned, but the company is delightful and the Dublin Bay prawns are delicious. Of course, the weather is reliably unreliable, but even if it rains all day, there are good books to be read and a glass of whiskey to be enjoyed by the fireside.

COVER We enjoyed these Rosguill Peninsula beaches on an idyllic spring day, Donegal, Ireland O PP OSITE PAG E Our carriage ride on the grounds of Ballyfin, Mountrath, Ireland PHOTOS © ANDREW HARPER


contents

JULY 2012

{click on title to read}

44 48 64 70

Irish Discoveries Dining in Dublin Northwest Golfing Nirvana Tweed, China and Whiskey { online exclusive } Follow In My Footsteps { online exclusive } 1

78

Tranquil Napa Retreat

88

Summer Reading

2

3

4

92 Member News O PP OSITE PAG E

clockwise from top left Dramatic fountain at Ballyfin, Mountrath, Ireland; seaside green

at Connemara Golf Links, northwest Ireland; deck of a Bay Forest Lodge at Calistoga Ranch, Napa Valley, California; waterfall on the scenic Donegal coastline, northwest Ireland

DONEGAL COASTLINE: © ANDREW HARPER

6

CONNEMARA GOLF LINKS: © LC LAMBRECHT / GOLFSTOCK.NET


6 48

70 78


UNSPOILED

Ireland


Slieve League cliffs, Donegal, Ireland Š ANDREW HARPER


IRELAND

r ecen t ly, w e v isit ed a pa rt of ir el a n d that we have scarcely touched before: the wildly beautiful northwest. It proved to be a region of rugged mountains, windswept moorlands and dramatic sea cliffs, with Atlantic swells breaking on vast golden beaches. As sectarian conflict seems to be receding into history, we also took the opportunity to cross over into Northern Ireland. I particularly enjoyed the variety of lodgings we found, from intimate country house hotels to a grand castle and a once-derelict mansion that has been spectacularly restored. As on our last visit, the food was excellent, with talented chefs taking full advantage of pasture-raised lamb and beef, superb seafood, and vegetables untouched by chemical sprays. And in addition to the pleasure of sightseeing and hiking, we found time to play some of the region’s wonderful golf courses. Alas, Ireland is a very different countr y from the one I last

8

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

encountered in the spring of 2008. Before that year was out, the Celtic Tiger had fallen victim to a bursting real estate bubble and overextended banks. The effects have been tough, with unemployment at more than 14 percent. Still, as travelers, we enjoyed many of the benefits of the boom years, most notably the excellent roads that now make getting around so easy. (Don’t worry; there is still no shortage of picturesque country lanes.) Arriving in Dublin, we picked up our car and set out along a major highway much like those

HIDEAWAY REPORT / JULY 2012


North Atlantic Ocean

MALIN HEAD ROSGUILL PENINSULA

FANAD PENINSULA

HR

HR S

S

BELLEEK

DRUMCLIFF

SLIEVE LEAGUE CLIFFS

3

BELFAST

HR

DONEGAL

OLD BUSHMILLS DISTILLERY

UPPERLANDS 1¾ HRS 5

ARDARA S

SILVER STRAND BEACH

GIANT’S CAUSEWAY

4

RATHMULLAN GLENVEAGH NATIONAL PARK

SCOTLAND

6

SLIGO 2

NORTHERN IRELAND

GLASLOUGH 2H

BOYLE

RS

3H

KELLS

RS

IRELAND

Irish Sea

GALWAY MOUNTRATH SHANNON

DUBLIN

S

HR

1 KILKENNY

CASHEL

WEXFORD KILLARNEY

WATERFORD CORK

0

TRAVEL ASSISTANCE  / (800) 375-4685

0

20 20

40 KM

40 MI

1 Ballyfin  2 Coopershill 3 Lough Eske Castle  4 Rathmullan House  5 Ardtara 6 Castle Leslie  Estate RETURN TO

CONTENTS

9


Regency splendor at Ballyfin PHOTOS © ANDREW HARPER

Entrance to Ballyfin.

10

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

© ANDREW HARPER

HIDEAWAY REPORT / JULY 2012


at home. But before long, it took us to less harried byways and peaceful scenery. We headed into the country’s Midlands region, a place of neat towns and rolling fields filled with grazing sheep and horses. In the town of Mountrath, County Laois, 60 miles southwest of the capital, we found ourselves tracing a stone wall that marked the perimeter of a great estate. Having announced ourselves at imposing iron gates via an intercom, we followed a meandering road through fields and past a time-honored church to the front of Ballyfin, perhaps the finest Regency house in all of Ireland. There, awaiting us, was a row of five members of the

TRAVEL ASSISTANCE  / (800) 375-4685

staff, providing a scene to stir the souls of Downton devotees. In the front hall, we found an antique mosaic brought from Italy during the house’s construction in 1822. This served as prelude to the magnificent public rooms, each with its own startling architectural riches. Time and again, we found ourselves gazing at the incredibly detailed plasterwork, attempting to trace its intricate motifs highlighted with hand-applied gilt. Throughout the mansion, the columns are embellished with scagliola, a trompe l’oeil art that requires a mix of plaster and various dyes, which is then painted and polished, a process far more costly than actual marble. The parquet floors are among the finest we have ever seen, while sumptuous fabrics and rugs are complemented by fine mahogany furniture, French chandeliers,

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

11


Lavishly decorated public areas at Ballyfin PHOTOS Š ANDREW HARPER


14

Details of our room at Ballyfin

PHOTOS © ANDREW HARPER RETURN TO

CONTENTS

HIDEAWAY REPORT / JULY 2012


TRAVEL ASSISTANCE  / (800) 375-4685

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

15


IRELAND

mirrors by Thomas Chippendale and a collection of Irish art from the 18th century to the present. This grandeur exists today thanks to the unstinting dedication of American businessman Fred Krehbiel and his We soon fell into Irish wife, Kay. The the seductive couple had long rhythm of country been in search of house life: large a fading country house to restore as breakfasts a top-flight hotel over which we and chanced upon lingered with The Irish Times, Ballyfin in 2002. followed by walks Originally built by the Coote family on the 614-acre and designed by property. the celebrated architects Sir Richard and William Morrison, the house was sold to the Patrician Brothers in the 1920s, when the emerging movement for Irish independence made it prudent for large Protestant landowners to leave. The Brothers, a teaching order, turned the home

16

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

into a school, helping to keep its rooms in relatively good repair. But eventually, the school declined and the deterioration accelerated in the early 21st century. Sparing no expense, the Krehbiels completely restored the house, a Herculean effort that took almost nine years. Today, the 15 guest rooms reflect their passion for detail. The walls of our bedroom were hung with 17th-century Flemish tapestries, yet despite the opulence, we felt cloistered in a cozy private world. We soon fell into the seductive rhythm of country house life: large breakfasts over which we lingered with The Irish Times, followed by walks on the 614-acre property — especially around the lake to the walled garden where much of the produce for the kitchen is grown, and a hike up to an old tower from which seven counties are visible on a clear day. Otherwise, we swam in the pretty indoor pool or sat

HIDEAWAY REPORT / JULY 2012


Click on the photo below to view more images of our stay at Ballyfin.

reading in leisurely anticipation of afternoon tea. Under the direction of Fred Cordonnier, who has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants throughout Europe, including Pat r ick Guilbaud in Dublin, Ballyfin’s kitchen turns out reliably exceptional cuisine. Although

TRAVEL ASSISTANCE  / (800) 375-4685

everything that we tried was excellent, I would particularly cite the West Cork diver scallops with eel, peas and wild garlic; and the beef filet accompanied by oxtail, morels and veal sweetbreads. With a view of an illuminated cascade, the constant attentions of the aptly named food and beverage director

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

17


IRELAND

Frederic Poivre, and a delightful wine list — which begins with a selection from Bordeaux châteaux founded by the so-called “Wild Geese,” Irishmen who fled to France in the 17th century — Ballyfin provides a dining experience that few hotels can match. The staff’s effusive greeting at the beginning of our stay served as a fore­t aste of the friendly and attentive service to come. I particularly recall a whispered inquiry as to whether I would care for tea while reading in the 5,000volume library; the encyclopedic know­ledge of the house and its holdings displayed by the everpresent butler, Declan; and an errant button on my jacket being reattached in little more than five minutes before dinner. One evening over drinks, a gentleman from Dublin marveled at the resurrection of Ballyfin: “It is truly a great gift to the nation that the Krehbiels have given us.”

18

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

And a considerable gift to American travelers, as well. BALLYFIN 98 Deluxe Room, $1,225; State Room, $1,445; Suite, $1,760. Ballyfin, County Laois. Tel. (353) 5787-55866. ballyfin.com  BOOK ONLINE

From the soft landscape of the Irish Midlands, we journeyed into the rugged northwest, an area famously beloved by the great poet W.B. Yeats. Just south of Sligo Town, we ventured onto a winding road, crossed the River Unshin via an old stone bridge and came to the impressive Georgian façade of Coopershill. Built in 1774, it has been home to eight generations of the O’Hara family, the current occupant being Simon, a young

Walks at Coopershill are led by Alice, an ever-obliging cocker spaniel.

HIDEAWAY REPORT / JULY 2012


Exterior of Coopershill House ASSISTANCE PHOTOS TRAVEL © ANDREW HARPER  / (800) 375-4685

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

19


IRELAND

man who is the exemplification of Irish hospitality. Coopershill cannot be compared to Ballyfin. Rather, it is a house that has long been a family home. The staircase leading to the bedrooms is flanked by testaments to the O’Hara past — armaments, portraits, game trophies — which give visitors a vivid sense of Coopershill history. Of the eight accommodations, six are on the second floor and two are on the third. They vary in size — “Venetian,” the largest, was the original master bedroom — and are appointed with a pleasing mix of antique furniture. By Simon’s own admission, the baths are in need of updating. I concur, but they are not in disrepair. It is just that they do not meet the most exacting contemporary standards. The ground-floor public rooms are lovely, with high ceilings and handsome plasterwork. The ever-beckoning drawing room with its blazing fire is a nightly

20

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

gathering spot, a place for tales of the day exchanged in a congenial spirit fostered by Simon’s tireless hospitality. The dining room is enhanced by polished wood tables set with silver and Irish crystal, the sight of which made me forswear my long-held conviction that wine should only be served in plain stemware! Chef Christina McCauley scours the local producers and markets in pursuit of a “farmto-fork” menu. The results are exceptional, and I am still nostalgic

HIDEAWAY REPORT / JULY 2012


Our room at Coopershill PHOTOS © ANDREW HARPER

TRAVEL ASSISTANCE  / (800) 375-4685

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

21


Silver Strand beach, southwest County Donegal © ANDREW HARPER

22

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

HIDEAWAY REPORT / JULY 2012


Sieve League Cliffs, Donegal, Ireland © ANDREW HARPER

TRAVEL ASSISTANCE  / (800) 375-4685

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

23


IRELAND

for her carrot and tarragon soup and one of the best racks of lamb I have ever eaten. Walks on the I am still nostalgic for her carrot and property are led by Alice, an evertarragon soup obliging cocker and one of the best racks of lamb spa niel. Ot her I have ever eaten. diversions include tennis and croquet. Simon is a font of local information and will loan you maps and provide detailed instructions. Coopershill is not one of Ireland’s grandest houses, but it is one of the most comfortable and welcoming imaginable. COOPERSHILL 87 Classic Room, $250; Superior Room, $275. Riverstown, County Sligo. Tel. (353) 7191-65108. coopershill.com

The rack of lamb at Coopershill

24

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

From Sligo, we continued farther north into County Donegal, the land gradually taking on a wilder aspect. Considered the most remote of Ireland’s counties, Donegal is a stronghold of traditional culture. Music is still part of everyday life, tweed is still woven by hand, and Gaelic is the first language on all the signposts. Donegal Town is located an hour’s drive north of Sligo, and there we stayed at the Lough Eske Castle, tucked into the woods beside a large lake. The castle is an impressive building, recently saved from ruin by Solis, a hotel group that is part of the high-end Capella brand. The 1868 façade has been completely restored and the interior redone in an Edwardian style, with leaded glass windows, overstuffed couches and plush carpets and drapes. The 96 rooms and suites are divided among the castle itself, converted stables and a new garden wing. Situated directly across from

HIDEAWAY REPORT / JULY 2012


Sitting area at Lough Eske Castle

© ANDREW HARPER

an indoor pool and spa, the Garden Suites are spacious — more than 900 square feet — and come with custom-made dark oak furniture, ample sitting areas in front of gas

TRAVEL ASSISTANCE  / (800) 375-4685

fireplaces, and large baths with soaking tubs and separate walk-in showers. Although their style may be bland and contemporary, they are undeniably comfortable.

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

25


The impressive 1868 Lough Eske Castle has been completely restored. © ANDREW HARPER

26

RETURN TO Entrance to Lough Eske Castle CONTENTS

© ANDREW HARPER

HIDEAWAY REPORT / JULY 2012


ASSISTANCE  / (800)Castle 375-4685 SuiteTRAVEL bath at Lough Eske

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

27


IRELAND

The short stroll to the castle for dinner was particularly memorable, as the building’s crenellations and tower are dramatically floodlit. The clubby Galler y Bar has a list of more tha n Although their 60 whiskies, while Cedars Grill offers a style may be menu dominated by bland and contemporary, Irish produce, with choices such as the they are excellent hot smoked undeniably salmon with a fennel comfortable. purée and slivers of glazed beets, and the fine sirloin of Irish beef. While Lough Eske lacks the warmth and intimacy of a classic country house hotel, with its impressive castle centerpiece and convenient modern rooms it provides an excellent base from which to explore the rugged beauty of Donegal. LOUGH ESKE CASTLE 89 Deluxe Room, $260; Junior Suite, $355; Garden Suite, $420. Donegal Town, County Donegal. Tel. (353) 7497-25100. solislougheskecastle.com  BOOK ONLINE

28

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

Leaving Lough Eske, we pushed deeper into northern Donegal to the Fanad Peninsula. This forms the western shore of Lough Swilly, a glacial fjord that in 1607 provided an escape route for the last Irish chieftains, the Earls of Tyrone and Tyrconnell, who eluded the British in what is memorialized as the “Flight of the Earls.” The earls embarked from the small town of Rathmullan, home to our goal, Rathmullan House. Dating from the 1760s, this is an imposing white building with three bays, set amid parkland bordering the sea. In 1961, a young couple, Bob and Robin Wheeler, fell under the house’s spell and progressively transformed it into a hotel, adding the distinctive dining pavilion in 1969, an indoor pool and bedroom wing in the 1990s, and a new two-story Regency wing in 2004, bringing the total to 32 rooms. Our Superior Room charmed us from the start, its most appealing

HIDEAWAY REPORT / JULY 2012


Click on the photo below to view more images of our visit to County Donegal, Ireland.

feature being a semicircular window with double doors leading out to a small patio. With an eclect ic mi x of a nt iques, a comfortable couch and a gas fireplace, it seemed both elegant and homey. The large bath was equipped with an authentic clawfoot tub and a walk-in shower.

TRAVEL ASSISTANCE  / (800) 375-4685

Downstairs, the public rooms embody a lived-in comfort, with worn (but not worn out) couches and chairs, plaster moldings and large fireplaces. The dining room — actually a series of interlocking hexagons with ceilings tented in dark-blue cloth — is spectacular. Both the “Classic” and “House”

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

29


Rathmullan House, overlooking Lough Swilly from the Fanad Peninsula, County Donegal

© ANDREW HARPER

30

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

HIDEAWAY REPORT / JULY 2012


© ANDREW HARPER

TRAVEL ASSISTANCE  / (800) 375-4685

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

31


Our room at Rathmullan House, with its lovely patio PHOTOS © ANDREW HARPER

32

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

HIDEAWAY REPORT / JULY 2012


Click on the photo below to view more images of our stay at Rathmullan House.

menus are full of enticing dishes made from local ingredients and produce from the hotel’s walled garden. I particularly relished the diver scallops from nearby Mulroy Bay, which were served with squid-ink gnocchi in a clam broth; and a pork loin accompanied by black pudding and applesauce.

TRAVEL ASSISTANCE  / (800) 375-4685

Aside from the pleasures of strolling through the grounds and along the beach, Rathmullan has the indoor pool, two tennis courts and croquet. The staff can also arrange golf, fishing and horseback riding. RATHMULLAN HOUSE 91 Superior Double Room, $290. Rathmullan, County Donegal. Tel. (353) 7491-58188. rathmullanhouse.com  BOOK ONLINE

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

33


IRELAND

With The Troubles apparently consigned to history, it seemed high time to visit Northern Ireland, so we headed east across a wide-open border. The only noticeable changes were the British-style road signs, and speed limits in miles rather than kilometers per hour. Just north of the town of Maghera in County Londonderry, the village of Upperlands was once home to the Clark family, wealthy linenmakers who lived at Ardtara, a 19th-century manor house hidden down a winding lane on eight idyllic acres. Hearing our car pull up, the indispensable Valerie Ferson appeared at the front door to greet us, and ignoring protestations, gathered up our heaviest luggage before shepherding us into the front hall to register. Ardtara has nine bedrooms, with high ceilings, decorative moldings, antique furniture and working gas fireplaces. They are charming and comfortable in every way.

34

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

Baths are tiled in marble and have combined shower/tubs. The most desirable accommodations are the Garden Rooms (#2, #3 and #4) with views over the front lawn. Room #8 has the largest bath, with its own fireplace, while #5 should be avoided, as it has only one window and no view. Wood paneling and a distinctive frieze make the dining room an exceptionally congenial place for dinner. The tables are placed far enough apart for private

HIDEAWAY REPORT / JULY 2012


Ardtara, Northern Ireland PHOTOS © ANDREW HARPER

TRAVEL ASSISTANCE  / (800) 375-4685

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

35


IRELAND

conversation, and the room has a pleasant buzz. Chef Julian Davidson begins the meal with amuses bouches, among which our favorite was the tiny eggs Benedict, made with a quail egg and served in a glass. This was followed by a flavorful ham-hock terrine with pickled carrot jam and a mustard aioli, and a succulent dry-aged sirloin with caramelized onion mashed potatoes and veal jus. From Ardtara, it is an easy drive to the Giant’s Causeway, a remarkable area of about 40,000 hexagonal basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption, as well as the picturesque Glens of Antrim (fine hiking country) and the walled city of Londonderry (just plain “Derry” to Irish republicans). Valerie, or the equally engaging Geraldine McKillen, is also happy to arrange golf, as well as tours of The Old Bushmills Distillery. ARDTARA 88 Garden Room, $190. 8 Gorteade Road, Upperlands, County Londonderry. Tel. (44) 28796-44490. ardtara.com

36

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

HIDEAWAY REPORT / JULY 2012


Northern Atlantic and the Giant’s Causeway © ANDREW HARPER

TRAVEL ASSISTANCE  / (800) 375-4685

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

37


IRELAND

Heading south back to Dublin, we stopped in County Monaghan to stay at Castle Leslie Estate. Driving down the main — and only — street in the village of Glaslough, you come to its wrought-iron gates. Pass through, and you enter a world little changed since the 19th century. The Leslies have made this 1,000-acre estate their home since the late 1660s, although the actual castle, a splendid example of baronial architecture, was built in the 1800s. In 1991, it passed from Desmond Leslie to his five children, and his daughter, Samantha, took on the challenge of reviving the estate. Today, it is a thriving business under the governance of a family trust. (Not that I put much stock in such matters, but Paul McCartney chose the hotel for his wedding to his former wife, Heather Mills. And it reminded me of another favored site for celebrity weddings, Skibo Castle, once Andrew Carnegie’s Scottish Highland home.) Driving up to the castle gives you a fine view of the impressive granite and red stone exterior. The interior, however, will really capture your imagination. The paneled drawing room, with views of the adjacent lake, is filled with photographs and family memorabilia,

38

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

Castle Leslie Estate © ANDREW HARPER

HIDEAWAY REPORT / JULY 2012


TRAVEL ASSISTANCE  / (800) 375-4685

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

39


Scenes from Castle Leslie Estate PHOTOS © ANDREW HARPER

40

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

HIDEAWAY REPORT / JULY 2012


TRAVEL ASSISTANCE  / (800) 375-4685

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

41


IRELAND

Click on the photo below to view more images of our stay at Castle Leslie Estate.

including Winston Churchill’s christening gown. (He was a cousin through marriage.) However, my favorite room was the atmospheric library, with its huge fireplace and deep couches, where I spent one rainy morning reading contentedly. Many of the 20 guest rooms still contain the personal effects

42

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

of their former occupants. In consequence, they impart a sense of what life was really like when the castle was a family home. We were in “Seymour’s Room,” named for the third of Sir John and Leonie Leslie’s four sons, who lived at Castle Leslie in the early 20th century. His enduring enthusiasm

HIDEAWAY REPORT / JULY 2012


for chinoiserie is still evident in the bamboo chairs and bamboo embellishments on the armoire. Although the accommodations have enormous character and appeal, the baths are a little Many of the old-fashioned. All guest rooms have massive canoestill contain like tubs, and some the personal have showers as well, effects of but it pays to ask their former detailed questions occupants. when ma k ing a reservation. Rather than staying in the castle itself, you can opt for one of the 29 rooms in the expanded and refurbished Lodge, just a short walk away near the front gate. These rooms contain fully modern baths and are more contemporary in style, with period accents. The Lodge is also home to the pub-like Conor’s Bar, a lively gathering spot, as well as the property’s main restaurant, Snaffles. Oak beams, a handcarved ceiling, polished wooden f loors, dark

TRAVEL ASSISTANCE  / (800) 375-4685

wood wine cabinets and an open kitchen all combine to form a distinctive backdrop for creative Irish cuisine. We particularly enjoyed a rich, creamy risotto with lobster in a Parmesan-brandy sauce, and local pork served two ways — a glazed rib chop and rolled filet — accompanied by a parmentier of sauerkraut, black pudding and potato, all in a tangy cider sauce. Castle Leslie has a fine equestrian center and offers hiking, fishing and clay pigeon shooting, as well as a full menu of spa treatments in the so-called “Victorian Treatment Rooms.” Overall, I found the hotel to be a wonderful mix of architectural splendor and homey authenticity. But next time, I will book one of the four Master Bedrooms in the main castle building. AH CASTLE LESLIE ESTATE 92 Lodge Classic Bedroom, $205; Castle Heritage Bedroom, $250; Castle Master Bedroom, $300. Glaslough, Count y Monaghan. Tel. (3 5 3) 47-8 810 0. castleleslie.com  BOOK ONLINE

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

43


DUBLIN DINING

44

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

HIDEAWAY REPORT / JULY 2012


At The Winding Stair, you can’t go wrong with the smoked fish plate, a choice that will vary seasonally but which will always come with Dillisk (seaweed) bread, crème fraiche and capers. © ANDREW HARPER

TRAVEL ASSISTANCE  / (800) 375-4685

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

45


1

2

The caliber of Dublin’s restaurants has increased markedly in recent years, and you need never worry about finding a good meal in Ireland’s capital. Except, that is, on Sunday and Monday nights, when most of the city’s top establishments are closed. (Even two-star Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud at The Merrion hotel is dark, an inconvenience that I forcefully deplored to the concierge.) I cannot tell you why, as no one I’ve asked has offered a convincing explanation. However, here are three places I recommend that are open.

46

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

1 

A short walk from the inter­section of the main shopping thoroughfares, Grafton and Nassau streets, Pichet is a lively spot that gives a modern Irish twist to fare rooted in the French bistro tradition. Chef Stephen Gibson has a knack for taking common ingredients and doing uncommon things with them. For example: a hen’s egg, coated, quickly fried just enough to cook the white and part of the yolk, served on fresh asparagus (in season, otherwise, on a disc of black pudding) with frisée and baby leeks in a caper-bacon vinaigrette with mustard aioli. Gibson is particularly good with fish, so look for the sea bream with a tomato confit, white beans, fried calamari and braised fennel. 14/15 Trinity Street. Tel. 677-1060.

HIDEAWAY REPORT / JULY 2012


3

2 

I am very fond of The Winding Stair for its loft-like situation overlooking the River Liffey. The first floor is occupied by an associated bookshop, which sells a wide range of both new and secondhand books. Upstairs, the restaurant demonstrates an unwavering commitment to the best Irish produce. I particularly recommend this place for an early evening meal. You can’t go wrong with the smoked fish plate, a choice that will vary seasonally but which will always come with Dillisk (seaweed) bread, crème fraiche and capers. Equally good is the pork filet wrapped in bacon with potato-thyme dumplings and apple sour cream. 40 Ormond Quay. Tel. 872-7320.

TRAVEL ASSISTANCE  / (800) 375-4685

3 

Yo u w i l l n e e d c a re f u l instruc­tions to get to One Pico, which is hidden in an out-of-the-way alley near St. Stephen’s Green. Chef-owner Eamonn O’Reilly has earned his stellar reputation by creating dishes such as a starter of rich langoustine risotto with peas and sorrel in a truffle bisque. His presentation of lamb is just as satisfying, with perfectly roasted loin and rack, as well as a little pithivier (puff pastry pie) of minced braised shoulder with an artichoke, zucchini and basil purée. This was the best meal of our Dublin stay. 5-6 Molesworth Place, Schoolhouse Lane. Tel. 676-0300. AH

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

47


NORTHWEST IRELAND:

GOLFING

48

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

HIDEAWAY REPORT / JULY 2012


Second green, Connemara Golf Links

NIRVANA GOLF PHOTOGRAPHY © LC LAMBRECHT / VISIT GOLFSTOCK.NET TRAVEL ASSISTANCE  / (800) 375-4685

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

49


IRELAND

As I’ve discovered on numerous trips to Ireland, the country offers a glimpse of paradise for golfers. The southwest, for example, has classic links courses such as Ballybunion and Waterville, which have long drawn connoisseurs of the royal and ancient game. And superb layouts such as Portmarnock are within easy driving distance of Dublin’s historic pubs and literary haunts. But no region of the Emerald Isle has brought me more golfing pleasure than the remote northwest. The area offers a wealth of quality courses, routed in and around grassy sand dunes, along tidal estuaries and by the roiling Atlantic. These are quaint and quiet tracks with names such as Carne and Connemara, Enniscrone and Rosses Point, where elevated tee boxes provide sweeping vistas, and greens are tucked into devilish nooks, guarded by gaping pot bunkers. The architects of these and other layouts, such as the revered Old Tom Morris in the late 19th century and the prolific Irishman Eddie Hackett nearly 100 years later, were true minimalists, working with the terrain that nature provided. Their tracks give golfers plenty of challenge and fun, as well as a sense of the game as it was played centuries ago. And the clubs that were formed around them are as unassuming as they are congenial, places where bankers and bakers, farmers and financiers gather to enjoy the sport together.

50

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

HIDEAWAY REPORT / JULY 2012


North Atlantic Ocean

SCOTLAND Rosapenna

RATHMULLAN Narin & Portnoo

Donegal (Murvagh)

DONEGAL

Rosses Point

Carne

NORTHERN BELFAST IRELAND

Enniscrone

SLIGO

ISLE OF MAN

Irish Sea

Connemara Golf Links

GALWAY

Portmarnock

IRELAND

DUBLIN

Lahinch

SHANNON Ballybunion

Tralee

WATERFORD

WEXFORD

KILLARNEY CORK

Waterville

0

Old Head

TRAVEL ASSISTANCE  / (800) 375-4685

0

20 20

40 MI

WALES

40 KM

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

51


IRELAND

What all this means is that golf in Ireland’s northwest is a true throwback. But there are other ways in which time has stood still. Visitors sense this as they drive narrow country lanes bordered by mossy stone walls and green leas in which black-faced sheep and Black Angus cattle graze peacefully. They see it in the sleepy farming and fishing villages that dot the shoreline, with names such as Donegal Golf Narin and Portnoo. And they absorb it in the cozy pubs that serve pints of Guinness and Smithwick’s and bowls of Club boasts brilliant green seafood chowder, as local fiddlers play reels. It is the Ireland of “The Quiet Man,” a place so evocative of easier, less hectic complexes times that men and women from the rest of the country that force head there regularly for respites. golfers to A fine place to begin a golf tour of the region is the hit precise Connemara Golf Links, a bit west of Galway and just down the road from castle ruins at Ballyconneely. Hackett approaches. built the oceanside links on the end of a treeless peninsula some 40 years ago. Due north is Carne. Also laid out by Hackett, it is bordered by farmland on one side and Blacksod Bay on the other. The course’s signature features are the monstrous dunes that tower 200 feet in some places. These offer panoramas as breathtaking as the hills a golfer has to climb. And there are also some of the most dramatic tee boxes a player will ever see. It���s golf at its most fun — and also its most aerobic! Nearby is marvelous Enniscrone, another Hackett creation (with some input by British architect Donald Steel) that takes golfers on an unforgettable ride through the dunes and along the seashore. The sounds of crashing waves and squawking gulls meet their ears along the way, as does the rumble of the ever-present wind. Occasionally, they catch sight of seals bobbing in the estuary that flanks one side of

52

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

HIDEAWAY REPORT / JULY 2012


Fifth hole, “Valley Rosapenna of Tears,” © LAMBRECHT Donegal PHOTOGRAPHY Golf Club

TRAVEL ASSISTANCE  / (800) 375-4685

© LC LAMBRECHT / GOLFSTOCK.NET RETURN TO

CONTENTS


54

© LC LAMBRECHT / GOLFSTOCK.NET RETURN TO

CONTENTS

HIDEAWAY REPORT / JULY 2012


Thirteenth hole, “The Burrows,” Enniscrone

TRAVEL ASSISTANCE  / (800) 375-4685

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

55


IRELAND

the course, waiting for Atlantic salmon coming in to spawn. Some Irish golfing friends insist that the stretch of holes from No. 12 to No. 16 at Enniscrone is among the best Ireland has to offer, and I cannot disagree. Another renowned designer from yesteryear, Harry Colt, laid out Rosses Point, also known as County Sligo. A highlight is the tee for the par-5 fifth. Perched on top of a cliff, it gives golfers the sensation that their drives hang in the air for a near eternity. A second exhilarating shot is on the par-3 13th, high atop another dune, the Atlantic Ocean to the right and a spacious green cut on a flat below. It is the Narin & sort of serene place where a golfer could happily halt his Portnoo is not round on a lazy summer afternoon and park himself for a only designed spell, hitting iron after iron to see just how close to the hole he could get. with great A list of must-plays in the northwest has to include deftness Donegal Golf Club, also known as Murvagh. It boasts but also brilliant green complexes that force golfers to hit precise possesses a approaches. As for the layout at Narin & Portnoo, it is true sense of not only designed with great deftness but also possesses the wild, with a true sense of the wild, with hares the size of small dogs hares the size racing across fairways on occasion. The hills surrounding of small dogs the course to the east and south are covered with swathes racing across of gorse, brilliant yellow in full spring bloom. Then there is Rosapenna, at the very top of Ireland, with fairways on its two tracks. One was built in the early 1890s by Old Tom occasion. Morris, the Christopher Wren of the golf world, and the other a century later by noted golf writer, designer and raconteur Pat Ruddy. These give players everything they could desire in seaside links and embody the isolated beauty and beguiling ethos that make northwest Ireland such a compelling place. AH

56

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

HIDEAWAY REPORT / JULY 2012


Fourteenth hole, “Sweeney’s Bank,” Narin & Portnoo

TRAVEL ASSISTANCE  / (800) 375-4685

57

© LC LAMBRECHT / GOLFSTOCK.NET RETURN TO

CONTENTS


58

© LC LAMBRECHT / GOLFSTOCK.NET RETURN TO

CONTENTS

HIDEAWAY REPORT / JULY 2012


Seventeenth fairway and green, Carne

TRAVEL ASSISTANCE  / (800) 375-4685

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

59


60

© LC LAMBRECHT / GOLFSTOCK.NET RETURN TO

CONTENTS

HIDEAWAY REPORT / JULY 2012


Eleventh green, Rosses Point

TRAVEL ASSISTANCE  / (800) 375-4685

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

61


62

© LC LAMBRECHT / GOLFSTOCK.NET RETURN TO

CONTENTS

HIDEAWAY REPORT / JULY 2012


Sixth green, Rosapenna

TRAVEL ASSISTANCE  / (800) 375-4685

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

63


Legendary products

Ireland of

In the course of my recent journey, I was able to see firsthand how three famous Irish products are made: gorgeous Donegal tweed, delicate Belleek porcelain, and a fine whiskey, Bushmills.

64

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

HIDEAWAY REPORT / JULY 2012


Handmade Donegal tweed inside Eddie Doherty’s shop in Ardara © ANDREW HARPER

TRAVEL ASSISTANCE  / (800) 375-4685

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

65


PRODUCTS OF IRELAND

1) tweed THE CL ASSIC DONEGAL T WEED IS A

herringbone with different colors of wool woven into the pattern to give it slight highlights and accents. Long ago, I bought my first jacket from a New York men’s store called J. Press — still, to my mind, the finest purveyor of traditional men’s clothing in the city — so I was particularly keen to see how this

Eddie Doherty at his loom © ANDREW HARPER

If you can’t make it to Ardara, you can shop for Doherty’s products online, but alas, it’s not the same as seeing him at his loom!

66

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

beautiful fabric is made and perhaps to augment the Harper wardrobe. Unlike the weavers of Harris, the celebrated tweed from Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, the craftspeople of Donegal have not organized a supporting confederation, and the sad fact is that they are slowly dying out. Those who carry on are based around the small town of Ardara, in the western part of Donegal. My research led me to the modest main street storefront of Eddie Doherty, a man who can spin a tale as sure as he can a fine piece of cloth. “I’ve been doing this for near 50 years,” he told me. “People say, ‘Oh Eddie, isn’t it time to knock off?’ But then what would I do?” And he does a lot. The shop is full of vests, scarves, hats, caps and throws, all made on the loom in the back, which Doherty was glad to demonstrate. In addition to classic Donegal, he also weaves a cloth with a design that to my mind evokes the fields and bogs I saw on drives throughout the countryside — deep greens with hints of brown and blue scattered with flecks of orange. Duly impressed with the sheer quantity and variety of products, I

HIDEAWAY REPORT / JULY 2012


Bushmills Distillery in Northern Ireland © ANDREW HARPER

asked him if he made all of it himself. “Oh yes, indeed,” he answered with a twinkle in his eye. “Winters here are quiet and long. This fills the time.” I left with a bill of goods that included a vest, hat, and a beautiful scarf. Total cost of these one-of-akind artisanally made items: $208. If you can’t make it to Ardara, you can shop for Doherty’s products online, but alas, it’s not the same as seeing him at his loom!

2) whiskey AT TENTIVE READERS WILL BE AWARE

of my fondness for a wee dram of single malt scotch, but I’m also a devotee of good Irish whiskey. As the Irish like to point out, they invented

TRAVEL ASSISTANCE  / (800) 375-4685

the stuff and the Scots came along and made it their own. But the Irish have been playing a smart game of catch-up, and over the past few years, the range of Irish offerings has grown in number and in quality. Having visited the Jameson Distillery on my last visit to Ireland in 2008, I was keen to see Bushmills, which is up in the north part of County Antrim in Northern Ireland, very close to the Giant’s Causeway. Believed to be the oldest licensed distillery in the world, Bushmills (or, more properly, “Old Bushmills”) has a line of distinguished bottlings that wins medals in spirits competitions all over the world. The most important distinction between Irish and Scottish whiskies is that the Irish distill the spirit three

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

67


PRODUCTS OF IRELAND

times, the Scots twice. The Irish believe that the third time is the charm, removing remaining impurities that can detract from the whiskey’s character. The most Cer tainly, I generally important find that Irish whiskies distinction are smoother. For these between Irish reasons, I prefer Irish and Scottish whiskey as a pre-dinner drink with a dash of water whiskies is and one cube of ice. that the Irish distill the spirit Single malt scotch is for after dinner, neat, with a three times, little water as well. the Scots So, Bushmills. The twice. The Irish distillery turns out five believe that iterations that are widely the third time available. B ushmills is the charm … Original is a blended whiskey (a combination of single malt and grain whiskey) that is smooth, pleasant and better for a dash of soda water. Next is my favorite, Black Bush, a superb blended whiskey, darker in color and intensity, but with the hallmark smoothness. Three single malts round out the range, a 10-year, a 16year and a 21-year. The standout for

68

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

me is the 16 (my personal theory is that whiskies hit a real sweet spot between 16 and 18 years). As is true of many other whiskies, the 16 is matured in a combination of Oloroso sherry and bourbon barrels, but it is finished in Port barrels, which I believe gives it an added depth. The Bushmills tour is admirably thorough. Some one-off bottlings are only available there, and it took real discipline on my part not to buy them. But with TSA regulations requiring you to pack bottles in your checked luggage, it’s not worth the risk, as I once learned the hard way. What you buy in the airport shops can be carried on board, and happily, Bushmills is widely distributed here at home.

3) china I USED TO THINK OF BELLEEK AS THE

twee stuff you might pick up as a last-minute gift at duty-free on the way home from Ireland: shamrockadorned cats or mugs labeled “Himself” and “Herself.” Much of

HIDEAWAY REPORT / JULY 2012


Belleek baskets and lamp

this regrettable merchandise is indeed part of the portfolio, but none of it does justice to the superb artistry that is also very much a part of Belleek, and that I was lucky to see firsthand during a visit to the factory just over the border from County Donegal, in Northern Ireland’s County Fermanagh. I arrived on a day when tours weren’t available, but an excellent introductory video augmented the displays. And the shop had the widest selection of Belleek anywhere in the world, with several pieces sold exclusively on the property. Celebrating its 155th anniversary this year, Belleek enjoyed success early in its history with its delicate Parian ware, (named after the white marble found on the Greek island of Paros). The firm’s reputation spread when Queen Victoria ordered a complete service of its Echinus ware based on sea urchin shells, and Belleek followed with other nautically inspired patterns such as Neptune, Limpet and Tridacna. While most of today’s production is appealing everyday ware, Belleek still

TRAVEL ASSISTANCE  / (800) 375-4685

crafts works that embody the highest levels of artistry and craftsmanship. Any piece that fails a rigorous inspection process is destroyed — there are no seconds. Belleek has a number of everyday lines. The classic Parian, still made by hand, remains eggshell thin and translucent when held to the light. While I was in Ireland, the company released its newest pattern, Aran, which is based on the nubby texture of the famous fishermen’s sweaters. Two good places to look for Belleek in Dublin are the House of Ireland (37/38 Nassau Street) and Kilkenny (6-15 Nassau Street). AH

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

69


This Irish lamb greeted us on our hike to the Carrowkeel burial site CONTENTS

70

RETURN TO

© ANDREW HARPER

HIDEAWAY REPORT / JULY 2012


Follow In My Footsteps

Ireland

Driving Tour This journey from Dublin through the north of the Irish republic and part of Northern Ireland includes a variety of properties, from charming country hotels to one of the grandest houses in the British Isles. The route also takes you through some lovely countryside and puts you within easy driving distance of some memorable sights. It is probably a tour best suited to those on their second or third visits to Ireland.

TRAVEL ASSISTANCE  / (800) 375-4685

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

71


FOLLOW IN MY FOOTSTEPS DAYS 1-2 Ballyfin and Kilkenny IT IS AN EASY 90-MINUTE DRIVE FROM

Dublin to Ballyfin. Setting out from Dublin Airport, you take the M50 ring road and look for the signs directing you to Limerick via the M7. Along the way, you will pass the Irish National Stud and the wonder ful Horse Museum. Nearby is The Curragh Racecourse, which hosts all five classic races in the Irish calendar: the Irish Derby Stakes, the Irish Oaks, the Irish 1,000 Guineas, the Irish 2,000 Guineas and the St. Leger. From Ballyfin, it is a quick 50minute drive to Kilkenny, a small city of some 22,000 inhabitants built on both banks of the River Nore and count y town of the eponymous County Kilkenny. The

Kilkenny Castle

72

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

city contains historic buildings such as Kilkenny Castle and St. Canice’s Cathedral and is renowned for its cultural life, with craft and design workshops and the Watergate Theatre, as well as numerous public gardens and museums. From Ballyfin, it is also less than an hour’s drive to the Rock of Cashel, reputed to be the site of the conversion of the King of Munster by St. Patrick in the fifth century. The Rock was the seat of the kings of Munster for several hundred years prior to the Norman invasion. The picturesque complex holds one of the most remarkable collections of Celtic art to be found anywhere in Europe. Few remnants of the early structures survive; the majority of buildings on the site date from the 12th and 13th centuries. During the rest of our stay at Ballyfin, we recuperated from the transatlantic flight, enjoyed the estate’s tranquil atmosphere, walked, read by the fire and relished every lingering second.

HIDEAWAY REPORT / JULY 2012


DAYS 3-4 Coopershill and notable burial sites AFTER A FORTIFYING BREAKFAST, WE

headed out from Ballyfin, driving northwest through the towns of Longford and Carrick-on-Shannon, passing through Counties Westmeath and Long ford and into County Roscommon. Along the way, we saw the gentle hills in many shades of green that are among the visual glories of Ireland. After Carrick-on-Shannon, the landscape takes on a more rugged character, particularly as you pass the town of Boyle and enter County Sligo. (The 40-mile Arigna Scenic Drive is a loop, beginning and ending in Boyle.) Shortly after Castlebaldwin, look for a sign for a left turn to Riverstown and then follow the narrow country lane to the signpost for Coopershill. Coopershill is ideally situated for visiting two Neolithic burial sites, Carrowkeel and Carrowmore. Using the detailed directions from Simon O’Hara at Coopershill, I would go to Carrowkeel first. Getting to it requires some hiking, but you will see haunting burial mounds untouched for thousands of years. Carbon

TRAVEL ASSISTANCE  / (800) 375-4685

Carrowmore

© ANDREW HARPER

dating places the construction of the tombs at around 3,400 B.C. Set on high ground above Lough Arrow, Carrowkeel is one of the four largest passage tomb cemeteries in Ireland (the other three are Brú na Bóinne, Lough Crew and Carrowmore). From Carrowkeel, head back to the N4 to the turnoff for the R292 and follow the signs to Carrowmore. A more developed site, it has a small visitor’s center and requires no hiking. While the focal point is the huge stone burial mound, I found the stone circles across the road from the visitor’s center much more intriguing. This makes for a full day, and we were delighted to find afternoon tea waiting for us on our return to Coopershill.

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

73


FOLLOW IN MY FOOTSTEPS DAYS 5-6 Drumcliff, Belleek Factory and Lough Eske Castle HE ADING NORTH AGAIN ON THE N4

toward Donegal, we made two stops before reaching Donegal Town. The first, just north of Sligo at Drumcliff, was at the burial site of the poet W.B. Yeats. It was well worth pausing to see the pretty little church and the brooding brow of Ben Bulben, the mountain he loved. Continuing on the N15, we diverted to the N3 at Ballyshannon to visit the factory and visitor’s center of the famous Slieve League cliffs

74

RETURN TO

CONTENTS © ANDREW HARPER

Belleek china company in County Fermanagh. We backtracked into Donegal Town where, down the hill past the Craft Village, is an excellent tourist center offering detailed local maps. From here, we proceeded out of town to our next destination, Lough Eske Castle hotel. This was the ideal location from which to make a foray into western Donegal. Our first stop was in the town of Ardara in search of handmade Donegal tweed. The importance of Ardara as a center for the tweed industry dates to the turn of the century. For more information on the history of Donegal tweed, visit the Ardara Heritage Centre, located on the town’s main street. From Ardara, we headed to Carrick, where we took a sharp turn onto a narrow and winding road to the Slieve League cliffs, which fall 1,972 feet into the Atlantic. We then continued to Malin Beg, distinguished by the unexpectedly beautiful Silver Strand beach.

HIDEAWAY REPORT / JULY 2012


DAYS 7-8 Glenveagh National Park and Rathmullan House OUR PLAN HAD BEEN TO GET UP EARLY,

leave Lough Eske and further explore the west around the colorfully named Bloody Foreland — the evening sun here lights the rocks to a deep red — but the weather turned bad (as one person said to us in an appealing bit of Irish sophistry, “Oh well, if you didn’t have a bit of weather, you’d not have had your money’s worth.”). Instead, we headed to wonderful Glenveagh National Park. Here, we enjoyed the splendid gardens, a live performance of some terrific Irish music, some clog dancing and a tour of the castle, whose last owner was a jovial American who deeded it to Ireland. From the park, we proceeded north to Rathmullan House. The hotel provides an excellent base for touring. The next day, we chose the following itinerary to the Rosguill Peninsula. Once past the town of Carrigart, look for the route marked Atlantic Drive. This will take you on a tour around the peninsula

TRAVEL ASSISTANCE  / (800) 375-4685

Glenveagh Castle

© ANDREW HARPER

that affords stunning views. Head back to Carrigart and take the R245 to the Fanad Peninsula. Follow the signs to Fanad Head, where there is a splendid lighthouse. You will have to backtrack to the town of Portsalon on Lough Swilly, with its spectacular Ballymastocker beach, a wonderful place to stroll.

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

75


Giant’s Causeway

© ANDREW HARPER

DAYS 9-10 Malin Head and Ardtara ALTHOUGH IT TOOK US AN HOUR OUT

of our way, we were determined to see Malin Head on Inishowen Peninsula, the northernmost point in Ireland. This meant heading from Rathmullan to Letterkenny and Buncrana. (In summer, there is a ferry from Rathmullan to Buncrana, a real time-saver). The view was superb. We then backtracked to Strabane and proceeded to Upperlands, where we stayed at Ardtara. It’s a pleasant drive up north from Ardtara to two recommended stops, The Old Bushmills Distillery  — which received a license from James I in 1608 — and the Giant’s Causeway. A geologic oddity, the

76

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

latter is a series of thousands of hexagonal basalt columns that scientists believe were formed some 65 million years ago by volcanic eruptions and the subsequent cooling of the lava. However, I prefer the folkloric explanation — that an Irish giant named Finn McCool wanted to battle a Scottish rival, Benandonner, so he built the causeway to Scotland. On seeing Benandonner, McCool took fright and asked his wife to hide him. She disguised him as a baby and tucked him into a large cradle. Benandonner, seeing so large a “baby,” assumed that the father must far outsize him and fled.

HIDEAWAY REPORT / JULY 2012


DAYS 11-12 Glaslough and Castle Leslie Estate FROM ARDTARA, WE MADE THE PAINLESS

journey on the A29 to Dungannon, and from there to the little town of Glaslough and Castle Leslie Estate. On the drive south to Dublin Airport, it is possible to make a short detour to Kells, an attractive market town in the Blackwater River valley. The famous illuminated manuscript of the Gospels, the Book of Kells (now in Dublin’s Trinity College Library), was created by Celtic monks at the Abbey of Kells at the end of the eighth century. From Kells, it is just 17 miles southeast to the Hill of Tara. There stands the Lia Fáil, the Stone

TRAVEL Estate ASSISTANCE  / (800)HARPER 375-4685 Castle Leslie © ANDREW

of Destiny, which served as the coronation stone for the High Kings of Ireland. AH PRICE — Based on a party of two traveling together, and subject to the availability of room type, the cost of this 12-night trip is an estimated US$10,580. The tour includes two nights (full Irish breakfast included) at each of the six hotels: Ballyfin, State Room, outdoor pursuits and gourmet dinner included; Coopershill, Superior Room; Lough Eske Castle, Junior Suite; Rathmullan House, Superior Room; Ardtara, Garden Room; Castle Leslie Estate, Castle Master Bedroom. Also included in the price is a full-size car (Audi A6 or similar), with automatic transmission, air-conditioning and GPS. The rate does not include entrance fees to museums and castles or sightseeing. International airfares are extra. Should you wish to find out more about this itinerary, consultants in our Travel Office would be more than delighted to assist you. Tel. (800) 3754685 or email reservations@AndrewHarper.com

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

77


Fine Cuisine and Understated Style at a Serene Napa Hideaway­

78

Calistoga Ranch

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

HIDEAWAY REPORT  / JULY 2012


Idyllic setting of Calistoga Ranch

TRAVEL ASSISTANCE  / (800) 375-4685

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

79


NAPA VALLEY

THE SECOND AUBERGE RESORTS PROPERTY IN

the Napa Valley — the Auberge du Soleil debuted in 1985 — Calistoga Ranch is implausibly constructed on what was once a trailer campground. Rather than undertake an arduous new commercial zoning process, the developers kept the old building codes and drove in a series of modular units. Fortunately, the results are conspicuously different from an RV park! The resort comprises 48 cedarclad guest lodges sequestered in a wooded canyon at the northern edge of the Napa Valley, just off the Silverado Trail. (A further 23 fractionally owned residences occupy the southeast section of the property). While a wide swath of activities is available, from hot air ballooning to wineblending classes, the resor t seems primarily intended to host couples who seek to be alone amid idyllic surroundings. The stone-and-wood guest lodges blend seamlessly with shady stands

80

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

HIDEAWAY REPORT / JULY 2012


TRAVEL ASSISTANCE  / (800) 375-4685

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

81


Our Bay Forest Lodge at Calistoga Ranch PHOTOS © ANDREW HARPER


All of the lodges have outdoor shower areas, their screens draped with hanging wildflowers.


NAPA VALLEY

of moss-covered live oaks. Owing to the original size restrictions, the units are connected by decks that are designed as outdoor living spaces, with fireplaces, comfortable lounge chairs and dining tables. In the one- and two-bedroom lodges, for example, guests must walk

Calistoga is famously a spa destination; its natural hot springs have been popular since the Gold Rush days. across the decks to go between the bedrooms and the living rooms. On a recent cool spring evening in a Bay Forest Lodge, I found this to be quite refreshing and agreeable, but then, I didn’t have to do it in a gale! All of the lodges have outdoor shower areas, their screens

84

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

draped with hanging wildflowers. There are no grand public spaces at Calistoga Ranch. Visitors can stroll or be shuttled in golf carts between a pool area and private Cabernet vineyard at one end of the property and a lakeview restaurant and spa at the other. Other guest sightings are scarce. Calistoga is famously a spa destination; its natural hot springs have been popular since the Gold Rush days, and the town’s name is a conflation of California and Saratoga Springs (of which it was intended to be a Western imitation). The small spa complex at the resort has a natural mineral pool, an outdoor Jacuzzi and a fetching outdoor relaxation area. T he Lakehou se, under t he direction chef Christian Ojeda (formerly at Fleur de Lys, and Joël Robuchon in Las Vegas), has a superb three-course dinner tasting menu. A bright, citrusy starter of roasted golden beets was followed by creamy ricotta and yam agnolotti

HIDEAWAY REPORT / JULY 2012


Click on the photo below to view more images of our stay at Calistoga Ranch.

and a perfectly roasted Niman Ranch pork tenderloin enlivened with an aromatic mole sauce. (Room service meals were also of restaurant quality.) There is a gym by the pool, stocked with all the latest cardio machines, but I skipped it in favor of a hike. Two trailheads on the property climb to opposing ridges;

TRAVEL ASSISTANCE  / (800) 375-4685

both switchback through lowlying coastal redwood trees to peaceful copses of twisted, redbarked manzanita. From a lookout point on a Palisades ridge, you can watch the morning mist tumble down the Mayacamas range across the valley. Wine-tasting excursions from Calistoga Ranch are enhanced

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

85


NAPA VALLEY

by the property’s small, gleaming fleet of late-model Mercedes-Benz automobiles, which are available for guests to use at their discretion. One late afternoon, I found myself zipping along the Silverado Trail in an S350 convertible with the top down, a concierge-annotated winery map at my side. Calistoga Ranch is priced between its sister properties Auberge du Soleil and Solage. Given that it is not inexpensive, I was slightly underwhelmed by the interior décor, which was functional and rather bland. And the individual rooms are somewhat small, owing to the zoning restrictions. I was also surprised to learn that the spa frowns on guests showing up to use the facilities without any scheduled treatments. These criticisms aside, I commend the resort for its flawless service, excellent food and ineffably tranquil setting. AH CALISTOGA RANCH 92 One Bedroom Bay Forest Lodge, from $895; Two Bedroom Meadow Lodge, from $2,100. 580 Lommel Road, Calistoga. Tel. (707) 254-2800. calistogaranch.com  BOOK ONLINE

86

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

Vineyard in Calistoga, northern Napa Valley

HIDEAWAY REPORT / JULY 2012


Wine-tasting excursions from Calistoga Ranch are enhanced by the property’s small, gleaming fleet of late-model Mercedes-Benz automobiles, which are available for guests to use at their discretion.

TRAVEL ASSISTANCE  / (800) 375-4685

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

87


I have long thought that one of the most

important truisms about travel is that the more you read about a place

in advance, the more you gain from the experience when you arrive. But even if you have no trip in prospect, armchair travel is a delight. So, if you have some time to spare this summer, here are a few suggestions for your poolside chaise.

88

BOOK PHOTOS © SUMMER MITCHELL RETURN TO

CONTENTS

HIDEAWAY REPORT / JULY 2012


Summer

Reading

YES, CHEF : A MEMOIR By Marcus Samuelsson, Random House

Ethiopian-born Swedish chef Marcus Samuelsson in the atrium dining room of his Harlem restaurant, Red Rooster, New York, 2010. © ANTHONY BARBOZA/GETTY IMAGES

TRAVEL ASSISTANCE  / (800) 375-4685

There is no shortage of chef memoirs, but this one (released on June 26) promises to be more entertaining than most. Samuelsson first describes his background in Ethiopia. After the death of his mother, he was adopted by a family in Sweden, where he developed his passion for cook ing. His culinary education took him to Switzerland and France, and eventually to New York’s famous Scandinavian restaurant, Aquavit. There, he became the youngest executive chef to be awarded three stars by The New York Times. His new Harlem restaurant, Red Rooster, continues to collect accolades, as well as the patronage of President Obama.

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

89


SUMMER READING THE STATUES THAT WALKED

By Terry Hunt and Carl Lipo, Free Press

SEEKING SICILY

By John Keahey, Dunne/St. Martin’s This plunge into the history, culture and cuisine of Sicily came out shortly after my trip there, and reading it inspired an almost irresistible urge to return. Keahey uses great Sicilian writers as an entry point to this enigmatic island. But this is no dry literary exercise; Keahey throws himself into local festivals, consumes countless enviable meals and climbs rickety scaffolding to view the demolition of Giuseppe di Lampedusa’s palazzo. When he veers into nostalgia, he changes course soon enough, reminding us that no Sicilian misses the impassable roads and crushing poverty that marred the island’s past.

90

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

Easter Island has fascinated the world for centuries, its giant, enigmatic moai standing mute around the coast. Many current theories about the collapse of the Rapa Nui culture suggest that the island was wantonly deforested for slash-and-burn farming, as well as to provide logs on which to roll giant statues into place. The authors believe that rats, not people, were the most likely cause of the trees’ destruction, and that the immense weight of the statues would have crushed any trunks employed to move them. Intriguingly, they d i s c o v er t h a t there might be some truth to the legend that the massive statues “walked” to their current locations.

HIDEAWAY REPORT / JULY 2012


John Kennedy, 22, with his father, Ambassador Joseph Patrick Kennedy, going to Paris on March 10, 1939. © PHOTO BY RDA/GETTY IMAGES

CHINA IN TEN WORDS

By Yu Hua, Pantheon Books Relatively unknown in the United States, Yu Hua is one of China’s most respected novelists. Never­ theless, he elected not to publish this part memoir, part cultural critique in his homeland. Each of the 10 chapters turns on a single significant word. Yu’s first-person accounts of the Cultural Revolution are riveting, but his revelations of present-day corruption are equally compelling. His book provides profound insight into the workings of contemporary China.

TRAVEL ASSISTANCE  / (800) 375-4685

JACK 1939

By Francine Mathews, Riverhead This promising spy novel (to be released on July 5) imagines a young Jack Kennedy in Europe, just before the outbreak of World War II. Nazi money has been flowing into the United States as Hitler tries to buy the upcoming election. When President Roosevelt learns that Kennedy, the son of his ambassador to Britain, plans on traveling to Europe to research his senior thesis, he enlists him to follow the money. For those of us who delight in history, European travel and James Bond, this sounds like a uniquely winning combination. AH

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

91


MEMBER NEWS

Member Benefits We usually use this space to alert you, our Andrew Harper members, to a new benefit or underutilized benefits worth highlighting. But this month, we want to ask you about your membership. We would like to know which membership benefits you value the most. Is it the incognito reviews published in the Hideaway Report? The planning services of our Travel Office? Or perhaps the extra amenities and privileges offered by our Alliance hotels? Just as important, we want to know whether there are benefits you would like that we don’t currently include in your membership. We are constantly working to improve your Andrew Harper membership, and your opinions are a vital part of that process. Please contact our Membership Office at (866) 831-4314 or Membership@AndrewHarper.com to share your thoughts with us. And not just this month — feel free to contact us any time the mood strikes. We always welcome your opinions and ideas.

Reader Survey This month, we will conduct our annual survey of members’ favorite hotels, with the much-anticipated results to be published in the September Hideaway Report. Hoteliers from Antigua to Zambia await your verdicts with bated breath! As in previous years, the survey will be completed online, so expect an email from me shortly. Thank you in advance for your participation.

92

RETURN TO

CONTENTS

HIDEAWAY REPORT / JULY 2012


TRAVEL ASSISTANCE  / (800) 375-4685

93

RETURN TO Vancouver Celebration of Light, English Bay,

CONTENTS


I would like to hear your comments. Please send an email to aharper@andrewharper.com RETURN TO

CONTENTS Andrew Harper Hotel and Resort Ratings

98 - 100 95 - 97 92 - 94 90 - 9 1 85 - 89 50 - 84

A truly great hotel/resort, among the finest of its kind in the world An exceptional hotel/resort of great individuality and distinction An outstanding hotel/resort of genuine sophistication A fine hotel/resort of considerable merit A commendable hotel/resort, providing high levels of comfort and service A hotel/resort that did not meet the Andrew Harper standard

The hibiscus symbol denotes a hotel that is exceptionally charming but does not offer all the amenities customarily expected at an Andrew Harper-recommended property

f

Ratings are entirely subjective and are clearly not infallible. Based on a stay of not less than 24 hours and seldom more than three days, each reflects only a general impression. It is one informed, however, by millions of miles of travel and more than 30 years of experience. Rates provided are published nightly room rates and are subject to change.

Call the Andrew Harper Travel Office for the best available rates and personalized travel assistance, (800) 375-4685. The Hideaway Report® is a privately published newsletter for the sophisticated traveler, 85% of our executive members holding the title of CEO/President/Owner/Partner. Issued monthly since June 1979. ISSN 2167-3624. For information, visit AndrewHarper.com or contact the Andrew Harper Membership Office, P.O. Box 684368, Austin, TX 78768 USA. Tel. (866) 831-4314 or (512) 904-7342. Fax (512) 904-7350. Copyright 2012 Andrew Harper, LLC. All rights reserved. Quotation, reproduction or transmission by any means is prohibited without written permission from the publisher. EDITOR-IN-CHIEF ANDREW HARPER   ART DIRECTOR KRISTINA MITCHELL   ILLUSTRATOR MELISSA COLSON


Last Look

A PEACOCK DISPLAYING HIS PLUMAGE AT COOPERSHILL, NEAR SLIGO, IRELAND © ANDREW HARPER

© ANDREW HARPER


Hideaway Report July 2012