I don’t spend much time in Ireland each year, in fact I’ve probably spent more time in airplanes than in Ireland over the last ten years, so when I’m home I think it’s only fair I treat my mum to the best our wee country has to offer.
I hadn’t been aware that Northern Ireland had any ‘luxury retreats’ but recently I had heard from a few friends about Lusty Beg, a resort in County Fermanagh in the West of Northern Ireland, 2 hours or so drive from Belfast or Dublin, and about 90 mins from my family home in Kilkeel. There’s nothing like it in the whole country – it’s a spa/activity retreat, on it’s own private island, accessible by their own ‘ferry’. Sounded perfect, so I signed my mum and I up immediately – two nights, three days, done.
So my Mum and I drove up midweek in the first week of January, the Irish weather was living up to expectations, freezing cold, blowing a gale and sunsetting seemingly just after lunch! We hopped on the private ferry for all of the two minutes it takes to cross onto the Lusty Beg island, just in time for a pre dinner bottle of fizz, then off to sample the on-site Irish restaurant.
We checked into the cabin, we had chosen the en-suite three-bed, it’s low season so chances of grabbing a groupon bargain, or asking for an upgrade are high, the three bed was the best cabin on site, and I was literally shocked when I went in to the room, running outside to tell me mum how amazing it was. Super Irish, log burning fire, all wooden, right on the lake with the balcony opening onto the water, unbelievable. The bottle of fizz was gone and off to dinner we went.
Entering the main bar and restaurant was another treat, I love how they have managed to merge both the luxury atmosphere yet kept the distinct Irish feel, so the restaurant and bar were just perfect. Guinness on tap, Irish music on in the background, bar stools to lounge on and of course, traditional food everywhere you look. What a perfect start to our stay.
The following day was our big day, jam packed of activities – the morning was booked up with clay-pigeon shooting and archery, where my sixty-something, parkinson-suffering mother pulled it out of the bag and smashed one of the clay pigeons from a distance, well played mum! The private instructor we had for the activities was a real hero, ex military, super patient, really knowledgable, and actually all the staff across the whole resort made me feel like I was back at home.
After exerting ourselves all morning we had a gorgeous salad overlooking the loch, quick shower and then time for some serious luxury, the island spa….
I had booked my mum and I in for the most famous treatment on the island, a scrub followed by a local seaweed bath. A weird sensation climbing into a bath tub full of orange seaweed but i’m all for new experiences. After spending most of the year traveling through West Africa, my body was grateful for all this pampering. The seaweed bath was followed up with a pedicure and facial, I’m getting quite accustomed to this metrosexual stuff. Now if they can find a way to hide these grey hairs spouting from my beard we could really be in business!!
Another wonderful evening of Guinness in the Irish Bar (although I guess I shouldn’t call it an Irish bar when it’s in Ireland?? You know what I mean), and a huge steak and mash dinner and we called it a night. Climbing into bed in the warm cabin on the loch and reading a book really couldn’t have been more relaxing.
The following morning it was time to check out, not before a hearty full irish breakfast mmmmm. We also had time to jump on the speed boat and take a tour around the whole island, even driving the boat ourselves at one point, but the instructor soon had to intervene when the donuts mum was pulling started to risk the boat tipping over, the less said about that the better! Time for a quick dip in the pool and we were soon off.
Check-out came all too soon, and we were driving back home to County Down. Experiencing Lusty Beg in Winter was amazing, and a great way to welcome the New Year. I’ve been bombarding my sister, brother-in-law and the nephew and niece with requests for a family holiday back here in the summer, so I’ll try to organise that. It has been my best every Irish travel experience, so much better than I could ever have imagined, and I’m proud Northern Ireland has something like this to offer the world. The prices, compared to a lot of the Western World, are quite honestly ridiculous. I couldn’t believe how cheap it was, but I’m not complaining. If you’re in Ireland, North or South, make time for a few days here, it’s nothing short of amazing.