Story by Barbara Angelakis
Photography by Manos Angelakis
Country House Hotel
Foxford Road, Ballina,
County Mayo, Ireland
The winding tree-lined road ended in a clearing that had an impressive view of the grand Mount Falcon Country House Hotel. In 1872 Ulfred Knox, a young man of means, commissioned the most renowned architect of his time, James Franklin Fuller, to design a palatial home for his new bride at Mount Falcon, an estate of 2,200 acres on the west bank of the River Moy, in County Mayo. Fuller was also the architect responsible for designing the famous manor homes of Ashford Castle, Kylemore Abbey (see Ireland in Destinations) and Farmleigh House. Fuller spared no cost in the construction of these palatial mansions. They were always set in picture-perfect locations, off-times framed by mountains, surrounded by woodlands, and with rivers or lakes running through the properties. Mount Falcon is no exception, built with 15-foot high ceilings, marble fireplaces, wide pitch-pine hand shaved floorboards, cast iron freestanding bathtubs, stained glass windows, and the most luxurious amenities that were available at the close of the 19th Century.
Today Mount Falcon is a 4-star deluxe manor house hotel with 32 rooms including 2 suites and 4 deluxe rooms in the main house, with additional 3 and 4 bed-roomed self-catering suites located around the Woodlands, The Lakeside, and The Courtyard. The property is within easy traveling distance to spectacular landscapes, rugged coastline, white sand beaches, and lakes teaming with fish. Available activities include horse riding, hunting, shooting, fishing, hiking, cycling, surfing, and other water sports. However, my favorite sport is luxuriating at the spa, and the facility at Mount Falcon is recognized to be the finest in the area.
I could not wait to don the cozy bathrobe and slippers hanging in the bathroom of my beautifully appointed room, and make my way through the maze of halls connecting the original manor wing with the newly constructed swimming pool and spa on the lower level. There is an ultra-modern fully stocked with amenities changing area - a separate one for men and women - but as I was remaining overnight in the hotel I did not require the use of the facilities other then a locker to store my personal items. The 17-meter swimming pool and surrounding lounge area are enclosed by floor to ceiling walls of glass that provide a view of the brilliant broad green lawn beyond - courtesy of the daily rain showers – with a hint at the spectacular mountain landscape in the distance.
I just had time before my scheduled spa appointment to soak in the Jacuzzi adjacent to the pool for 20 minutes, and sit in the sauna for 10, to completely relax before committing my body to aesthetician Tara, for the signature treatment “Face And Body Sensation”. Elemis products are the leading British luxury spa and skincare brand, and they are exclusively used in the Mount Falcon Spa. The exhilarating treatment I choose combines hot stone body massage with an anti-ageing facial, kind of a two in one experience that leaves you feeling and looking rejuvenated. Tara was as beautiful as she was gentle and I allowed myself to sink into the experience of being totally pampered by her experienced fingers. I must admit I was slightly disoriented after the treatment and needed a few minutes to compose myself before returning to my room to dress for the evening’s festivities.
The spa offers a full range of body and beauty treatments for both men and women as well as Mums-to-be massage therapies for each stage of pregnancy. There are several anti-ageing facials such as the Tri-Enzyme Resurfacing for more radiant skin; or the Visible Brilliance to tighten and sculpt stressed skin; and Pro-Collagen Quartz Lift for anti-wrinkle therapy for a guaranteed more youthful looking appearance. Of course, there are the usual calming and purifying repair facials using Elemis products for a positively glowing complexion. There are body massages that melt away tension and ease deep aching muscles, and scrubs that clean, revitalize, and detox the skin. Many other services are available and for a complete list visit www.mountfalcon.com
That evening we enjoyed a feast at Mount Falcon’s award winning The Kitchen Restaurant. The Kitchen Restaurant is under the leadership of Head Chef Philippe Farineau, who received Best Chef awards in both 2011 and 2012. It was difficult to make a selection from the mouth-watering menu with the added plus that all the choices were locally sourced and prepared in the Irish manner. For starters I selected Chicken Liver & Foie Gras Parfait. I am very fond of the full liver and not so much the pâté, so I asked our very knowledgeable server who assured me the dish was not the pâté… but it was. Either she did not hear or did not understand my question, because I was presented with a rich, creamy substantial slice of pâté. Nevertheless, it was wonderful and much better than the usual pâté. Toasted Brioche and a Rhubarb Chutney completed the dish and were a perfect accompaniment to balance the richness of the liver combo.
Herb Crusted “Mayo” (County Mayo) Rack of Lamb was my main course choice. The locally grown lamb was tender and delicious. The meat had a natural sweetness and was more dense and less gamy than Australian or even American lamb. A really lovely earthy dish after the richness of the pâté. The meal ended for me with a simple home made ice cream that turned out to be just as good as any gelato eaten in Italy… so much for ordering a light dessert. Of course there was plenty to choose from if I wanted a heartier treat, such as the Dark Chocolate Fondant, or the Dark & While Chocolate Delice with Blood Orange Sorbet, and something called the Iced Nougat & Raspberry Symphony, all of which I was told were delicious. All in all each dish was artistically presented and brilliantly flavored and it was a memorable dinner. And, to top it off, the room in which we dined was the original brick-walled kitchen. When the house was turned into a hotel, a proper kitchen was added to the new wing, and the old kitchen became a private dining room, ergo The Kitchen Restaurant.
© June 2012 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.