Hotel review

Hotel Reviews – All Aboard for a Galway Getaway to Five Star Glenlo Abbey

Did you know that you can dine in the horse-drawn carriages of the first Orient Express in Galway? For romantic souls, train enthusiasts, or anyone looking for an evening with a tasty side of the theater, the Pullman Restaurant may be reason enough to book a stay at the five-star Glenlo Abbey.

But there are plenty of other things besides. A pA home until the 1980s, the 73-bed Blue Book hotel has benefited for several years from owners John and Marie Lally. Paying more than 10 million euros since 2019, they have added 25 rooms, upgraded interiors with Dublin’s Millimeter Design and added the new Palmers Bar & Kitchen and Glo Boutique Spa during the pandemic.

Glenlo treated the Covid lockdowns as an opportunity to evolve, as well as a challenge – and we were eager to get on board.

Arrival & location

After navigating Galway’s notorious traffic, this grand old house is a welcome relief in view of the N59. The 138-acre estate is approximately 2.5 miles from the town, with its grounds and nine-hole golf course stretching out towards Lough Corrib. There is a refreshing sense of space and a hint of Connemara scenery on its doorstep.

As we walked through the cast iron doors we were greeted by a doorman in a top hat and tailcoat, our luggage was taken away and, although several parties checked in, the staff still found time to respond. correctly to questions and give us a short, friendly visit. It made us feel taken care of.

The house dates from 1740 and the main entrance has an imposing limestone staircase. People with reduced mobility should call ahead for accessibility and alternative routes around the building. 8/10

Service & style

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The abbey – the private church was never consecrated

The abbey – the private church was never consecrated

Glenlo’s reception rooms are a maze of old-world luxury, and subtle upgrades breathe new life into its lounges. I snuck into a creamy pre-dinner pint by the window, surrounded by antique furniture, duck egg green wallpaper, and a serenaded pianist. The abbey itself was built in 1790 as a small church but was never consecrated – you can sit inside with a drink or afternoon tea (this would also be a perfect space for small marriages; above). Connection corridors can feel cramped, however, especially at peak times like breakfast.

Service and staff are spread across Ireland, but a solid background has shone here. The staff felt more laid back and personable than the more formal five-star hotels, from the receptionist rescheduling bike rides to the staff member delivering popcorn at the small cinema.

Watching a private film screening was a highlight for us. Other activities include fabulous falconry experiences (€ 75 / € 50 pp), golf (€ 50 for guests) and resort bikes for a ride in the grounds of the estate (free). The new Glo Spa is a neat, but small, addition with four treatment rooms, compact locker rooms, and Elemis products. 7.5 / 10

The rooms

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One of the newly refurbished rooms at the Glenlo Abbey Hotel


One of the newly refurbished rooms at the Glenlo Abbey Hotel

One of the newly refurbished rooms at the Glenlo Abbey Hotel

From classic to superior, including suites, all rooms have been renovated by Millimeter. The brief was to merge classic and contemporary elements, and we could see this in a space mixing rich notes like damask wallpapers, golden mirrors and brass lamps with fresh orchids, a bed the size of a modern pool and air conditioning and lighting that gave us control of mood and tones.

I love massively thick towels in a hotel, and they were bouncing off the rails here – with a huge, powerful shower and Handmade Soap Company products. However, the bare bedroom walls and the plain tiling in the bathroom made me want a touch of art, and our tub was too small to be useful. We could not help but notice that the noise is also circulating in the corridors. 7.5 / 10

Food drink

The Pullman is Glenlo’s X factor, a two AA rosette restaurant in vintage railroad cars that performed in Murder on the Orient Express (1974). The staff delves into the theatricality of it all, issuing tickets when you board (“Enjoy your trip!”), And there are lace curtains, brass luggage racks, and audio from a train playing to light, lounge music while you eat. The tables are tight, but it absolutely exudes the atmosphere.

Dinner costs € 72 for three courses with canapes, breads and petit fours, and it’s good to see Irish ingredients like McGeough beef, Sliabh Aughty honey and Ballyhoura mushrooms infusing the menu. For me, the dishes haven’t quite hit the heights they did under Alan McArdle several years ago, and an error with a gluten-free order at one point made us nervous, but quickly went downhill. processed. But it’s definitely worth booking a night and bonus points for a kids’ menu that goes beyond the simple checkbox.

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A waiter in the kitchen passes by Palmer's


A waiter in the kitchen passes by Palmer’s

A waiter in the kitchen passes by Palmer’s

Palmer’s Bar & Kitchen is the new casual option, with an outdoor patio. Several large flat-screen TVs give the impression of a sports bar here, but the sparkling bar and leather cabanas add a bit of luxury. A simmered lamb shank (€ 21.50) and a spicy and spicy chicken bap (€ 17) were a treat at our table, with a nice recommendation of Rioja wine as well.

We had breakfast in the River Room, where a la carte options include the choice of a small or large hot breakfast – an idea that should be the norm in hotels. 7/10

Insider tip

Request a room on the Pullman side for a view of the wagons and Lough Corrib. Afternoon tea (35 €) is an option to discover the hotel without bills for the night.

Local 101

The Galway Christmas Market runs from November 12 to December 22, with its Ferris Wheel, merry-go-round and wooden chalets.

The bottom line

Blending contemporary elegance with the character and luxury of an 18th century home is not easy, but year after year Glenlo Abbey keeps getting better and better. It looks like a little sister to Ireland’s biggest and most famous five-star hotel, but has taken an international step by joining the exclusive portfolio of Small Luxury Hotels of the World. Eleven luxury and independent lodges should open their doors in 2023. All aboard!

Rates

A Christmas market package costs from € 240 per person, including the B&B, an escort to the market and a private film. Pól was a guest of the hotel.


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