Kinnitty Castle is just outside the village of Kinnitty in Co. Offaly. There has been a castle on this site for almost 1000 years, which to be fair is something I wouldn’t get to write every day. The present castle dates from the 1650’s, and its present re-incarnation as a luxury hotel is pretty special indeed.
Getting there from Dublin is fairly easy, just take the N7/M7 as far as the Roscrea exit and follow the signs from there for Kinnitty. A friend from the area advised me to take the Mountrath route, which is slightly longer, and involves driving over the Slieve Bloom Mountains along narrow tracks, but which provides what is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular vistas in Ireland when you reach the top. The entire centre of the country is stretched out before you, and with the winter sun providing shading and texture, it was a breath taking sight. If you are planning on arriving in daylight, it is worth the extra effort.
The castle sits at the foot of the mountains just outside the village of Kinnitty, a sweeping drive through trees stops as the castle looms into sight. Kinnitty Castle is tall, built of solid grey granite, with lots of chimneys, mullioned windows and towers. Inside, it is very olde world, with scarlet carpet leading up staircases blackened with time, suits of armour dotted around and a lot of dark wood and rough plasterwork. In the pantheon of Irish Castles, Kinnitty is more Hogwarths than Downton Abbey, and our bathroom in a turret brings this home, while an enormous sleigh bed with large carved corners and an old and comfy chaise longue all add to the charm.
Dinner is in the Sli Dali restaurant, where tables are well spaced and all have lighted candles, adding to a romatic feel. We have the restaurant pretty much to ourselves, apart from two other couples, as although the hotel is full, all the other guests are part of a wedding party, and are having a buffet dinner downstairs in the bar.
Tonight there was a tasting menu, with seven courses, to which we added two glasses of Pinot Grigio and two Shiraz, to complement our courses. We started with a delicate fish and smoked salmon rilette on mixed seed bread and saffron aioli, small and perfectly formed, followed by a demi tasse of butternut squash soup with rosemary and a sea salt foccacia.
Next up was a very good wild mushroom and parmesan risotto; followed by a fish course, a small baked filet of hake on a bed of fennel flavoured rosti, roast cauliflower and white wine cream. The main course, so to speak, was a delicious breast of pheasant, with a Ballantine leg. This exhibited great winter flavours, and came with a really tangy braised red cabbage puree and cranberry jam. At this stage Dee was struggling, but I persevered through the warm chocolate brownie- chocolaty – and a cheese plate, where in fairness I was in the gluttony end of eating.
We finished over our wine and some coffees and admired our lovely surroundings, and chatted about dinner. The dishes we ate are all on the A la Carte as well, and there is a set menu available nightly. Kinnitty Castle is an experience as much as anything, so take my advice, go the whole hog, indulge in the tasting menu, enjoy the wine and the surroundings and fall into the massive four poster afterwards.