If there was a Hall of Fame for Irish hotels, Harvey’s Point would be one of its first inductees.
Since opening just over 30 years ago, the beloved Donegal has grown into one of the country’s most beloved stays – a blend of genuine hospitality and well-oiled machine that has brought a generation of guests back for find out more.
Think those gigantic rooms, the view over Lough Eske, Christmas stays and cabaret nights, or the perfect judgment of Deirdre McGlone and the irresistible welcome from Ambassador Noel Cunningham. Harvey’s has always been more of a feeling than a phrase – “a real hotel run by real people” as one of the slogans goes.
Now a new chapter has started. Deirdre and her husband Marc Gysling sold the hotel in 2019, leaving many wondering if Harvey’s would be the same. Two years later, a bedroom renovation is underway, adding 17 new “balcony rooms”.
I thought it was time to check it out.
Arrival and location
It feels like Harvey’s has been around forever, but 1989 is the date on the entry pillars. After a long drive there is a soft sound of silence as I cut the engine between the Bluestacks and Lough Eske.
“A little piece of Switzerland hidden in the Donegal Hills,” was Jody Gysling’s opinion when he first bought the Harvey Brothers’ old cottage in the 1980s. It’s still like that.
You don’t have to worry about the reception. I miss Deirdre, of course (which hotel wouldn’t), but one of the staff that greets me is his sister, Eilís. I had asked about the local walks in advance and found a pending brochure along with handwritten notes. My case is taken, I am escorted back to my room, and there is a phone call shortly after to make sure I have settled correctly.
It’s a five-star welcome at a four-star establishment, and the little touches continue to add – from fresh milk and cookies in my room to dinner chats, free activities like mid-week wine tastings and cooking demonstrations, and water and fruit offered to guests upon departure. The best hotels don’t just meet expectations. They overtake them. 9/10
Service and style
The new owner is Thomas Röggla, an Austrian investor who has listed Aghadoe Heights, Farnham Estate and Mount Wolseley among his collection of hotels in VMR. In addition to the bedroom refurbishment, a new hallway connects the lobby and lakeside suites, and the reading room behind the reception has been transformed into a resident-style bar with a large baby, banquettes and views. magnificent. The wine, whiskey and cocktails here are “all premium,” GM Niall Coffey tells me.
The upgrades follow a redesign of the bar and terrace a few years ago, which mixed a sleek octagonal bar and mosaic tiles with the turf fires and musicians serenading. But Harvey’s may have some work to do to appeal to younger visitors. Bars, subtle Scottish rugs, and contemporary-style balcony rooms work well, but there’s no pool or spa, and while loyal guests love Sunday buffets, hot tubs, and packages Tommy Fleming or Phil Coulter, others may find these features cheesy.
But Harvey isn’t broke, so they should be careful what they fix. Regulars love it, Christmas is sold out, and despite Covid and the change of ownership, most of the executives have stayed. It’s a great business. 8/10
You will forgive beginners for thinking they have been improved. The rooms are really so big – with standard rooms a whopping 75m2. These are being renovated, but the big news is the addition of 17 new “balcony rooms”, with private balconies overlooking the lake or the mountains.
Recurring visitors are warned – these are half the size of the executive rooms at 35m2. But they do have king-size beds, gorgeous rainfall showers, double sinks, seamless Wi-Fi, and touches like retro-style bluetooth radios, fresh milk in the mini-bar, and a pair of armchairs. turned towards the window. When I open the curtains in the morning, there is a beautiful orange sunrise rising over the lake.
The muted gray and burgundy tones strike me as understated and modern, if a bit generic. I also note that they still use mini-toilets and the check-out is at 11:30 am. 8/10
Beg, borrow or steal from one of the tables by the picture windows overlooking Lough Eske, especially for the morning light at breakfast. The large restaurant, bar, and terrace are the heart of the hotel, with an open kitchen surrounded by buffet display areas and an omelet station for breakfast.
In the evening, an old-fashioned menu reveals the choices over a four-course dinner (€ 59 pp), interspersed with breads, appetizers and sorbets. A starter of perfectly cooked scallops with roasted cauliflower and hazelnut dukkah brings a nice palette of textures; a recommended glass of New Zealand Saint Clair Sauvignon is deliciously crisp; and I order a sea trout fillet with a samphire and celeriac puree from a winter list of main courses that also includes game, guinea fowl and boxty.
I am not a dessert lover, but the waitress is familiar with the menu and recommends the “Lemon Curd” as a light and “deconstructed” lemon meringue. It’s pretty and it’s a treat. 7/10
Midweek stays are a bonus: free cooking demonstrations and wine tastings on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and a guided walk with Noel Cunningham on Wednesdays.
A new hiking trail will be added to the terrain in 2022. The hotel’s hiking guide also maps four local trails, ranging from 1.5 km to 14 km, around Lough Eske and the Bluestacks.
The bottom line
If your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room, Harvey’s should be a happy bunny. Like Kelly’s, Parknasilla, or Park Kenmare, the mere mention of this one gives patrons a sparkle. My stay has been short, but standards haven’t slipped since its sale, upgrades are being considered and bookings at the start of 2022 are strong. It’s not the trendiest hotel in the area, but so what? Ireland is lucky to have it.
Two nights in a B&B with dinner from € 258 / € 318 pp (mid-week / weekend) in a Balcony Room. Pól was a guest of the hotel. harveyspoint.com