Steeped in history going back as far as 1832 Abbeyglen Castle is everything you would imagine a castle to be. After lying derelict for many years - home to nothing more than cattle and sheep - the building was taken over in the 1960’s when it operated as the Glenowen House Hotel for a number of years before being taken over in 1969 by its current owners, The Hughes family.
Abbeyglen is an imposing ivy clad castle in the hills overlooking the town of Clifden. You enter through a large gated entrance, down the driveway to be greeted by the castle directly in front of you and fabulous rolling hills to your left, with water feature, tennis courts and trails to follow either on foot or horse back.
Once inside you are greeted with welcoming and knowledgeable staff and not to forget Gilbert, the friendly parrot who talks to everybody on their way past. The dining room is on the first floor and is open to visitors as well as guests of the hotel. In typical old fashion, there is everything you would imagine a castle should have from exposed stone work to original beams, the room is full of old artifacts, large ornate mirrors decorate the walls and huge crystal chandeliers light up the entire space. There is a piano in full swing, belting out some great old numbers. All the tables are fully set and there are large candelabra adorning each. Owners and managers, Father and son, Paul & Brian Hughes, are working the room in a meticulous fashion chatting with and making all their guests feel extremely welcome.
There is a choice of a set dinner menu at €49.00 or the a la carte. Both menus are short but offer a good selection. All dishes on the set menu come from the a la carte where starters range from €6.50 for a soup of the day - minestrone the evening we visited - to €10.95 for half a dozen oysters. The choice of mains range from €19.95 to €39.00 for fresh, local lobster either served grilled or Thermidor.
To start I chose deep fried calamari coated in citrus batter with a Marie Rose sauce on the side while my other half chose Slyne Head seafood chowder made from locally caught salmon and cod. The calamari wee tender and light, while Fred’s Chowder had plenty of fish, and was creamy and rich. For main course I ordered confit of duck served on a bed of colcannon potato mash with an orange sauce while Fred had roast sirloin of Hereford beef accompanied by a rich red wine and mushroom sauce and homemade Yorkshire pudding. A selection of roast potatoes with mashed carrot & parsnip and shredded cabbage were also brought. Both of these were well made, the duck confit was as it should be, while the beef was perfectly cooked and the Yorkshire pudding was a retro treat.
There was an extensive wine list to browse through, starting with Fergusons Finest Wines running between €29-49. Both house wines are of French origin, Domaine de la Ferrandiere and priced at €24.00. Their connoisseur’s choice offers a red Chateau L’Annociation, St. Emillion Grand Cru for €52.00 or a white Sancerre, Phillippe Raimbault for €39.00. A list of organic wines and a handful of half bottles completes. We chose a bottle of Chilean Crucero Sauvignon Blanc for €25.00. This was a juicy, fruity wine and we really enjoyed it.
After whiling away the hours soaking up the atmosphere, enjoying the lively atmosphere the pianist was conjuring up with his lively tunes, I decided I had to visit the dessert table. There was everything laid out from homemade apple pie, a rhubarb crumble, banoffi pie, a selection of cheese cakes, profiteroles and a large bowl of fruit salad. There was also a selection of creams, custards and chocolate sauce to choose from. I had a couple of profiteroles and a slice of lemon tart with chocolate sauce and cream while Fred enjoyed the apple pie, and a couple of liqueur coffees finished us off, literally.
When Brian came over to tell us the craic was actually just about to begin in the bar downstairs we thought it would be rude not to pop in. He wasn’t joking, the pianist who has been upstairs was now on a grand piano in the bar and anybody was welcome to sing; I didn’t dare but only because the standard had been set so high.