This Enniskillen hotel is definitely not just another run-of-the-mill accommodation. A magnificent and imposing structure, Manor House Country Hotel sits atop a rise and greets you at the end of a sweeping drive. The friendly front desk staff welcomes you and assigns you a spacious room overlooking Lower Lough Erne.
On the desk in your room, you happily discover a small tray of delicious gourmet chocolates alongside a handwritten welcome note from General Manager John S. O’Neill. How very nice!
A glance out your floor-to-ceiling windows reveals a vista of Lower Lough Erne and the glistening yachts cozily nestled into berths at the marina there.
Bringing the focus back to your lovely room, you’ll note that the en suite bathroom has what every modern bathroom needs – a working television built into the wall at the end of the tub for those long, relaxing soaks at the end of a busy day. There’s also an alcove above the TV for a vase of flowers – this bathroom had orchids.
The ladies will appreciate that the bathroom is well stocked with Paul Costelloe soap, shampoo, conditioner, body wash and lotion. You can also enjoy the superb water pressure in the freestanding shower and, as travelers to Ireland know, good water pressure is not always a given.
Everywhere you look in the hotel’s elegant hallways, sitting or dining rooms, there’s something wonderful, like Waterford crystal chandeliers, interesting art, and refurbished antique furniture.
Manor House Country Hotel was not always a hotel; it was a private home for centuries and was only purchased for use as a hotel in 1957 by its current owners, the McKenna family. The building itself has a storied past back to the 1600s when the manor house on the Killadeas estate was known as Rockfield. Major John Irvine changed the name to Killadeas Manor House in 1835. His son, Col. J. G. Irvine, rebuilt the house in 1860 using workmen from Italy to finish the interior.
We didn’t take advantage of the hotel’s many available options, like an Olympic-size swimming pool as well as a steam room, Jacuzzi, sauna, outdoor hot tub, fitness suite, or the beauty salon, but all are available for visitors. There is also a conference and event center.
The hotel has 78 luxury rooms and suites as well as several restaurants and bars, including the charming cellar bar that is said to be one of the most popular places to eat in Fermanagh.
Dinner was served in the Belleek Restaurant at the hotel where I had a dill-cured salmon starter and a tasty chicken entrée. My friend enjoyed roast lamb. Chef Stephen Greenwood has worked at Manor House for nearly 10 years and has clearly perfected his craft. Dinner and breakfast offerings were outstanding.
We toured Manor House Hotel with John Dolan, deputy general manager, who said the hotel employs 120 staff members, most of whom are local and some of whom only work part time. The leisure business at Manor House is extremely popular, he added, saying there are more than a thousand outside members who belong to the spa. And, he noted, the hotel won the Health and Wellbeing Awareness Award for Great Britain and Northern Ireland for 2017-18; Wedding Venue of the Year for Ulster; and AA Northern Ireland Hotel of the Year for 2016/17.
The success of the hotel, according to Dolan, is “thanks to our brilliant team.” See manorhousecountryhotel.com for more information. The hotel is part of a group of luxury, boutique, manor house and owner-run Irish hotels that was rebranded this spring as Original Irish Hotels (see originalirishhotels.com for more information on the group.)
THE WAR YEARS
From 1939 to 1945, the manor house was used as an officers’ mess for the US Air Force and was headquarters for the Killadeas seaplane base. In May 1941, a pilot in a plane from Killadeas spotted the German battleship Bismarck, which was destroyed in a subsequent battle.
It is said that when the US military left the Killadeas base, numerous planes were dumped into Lower Lough Erne. Some have been recovered, but there reportedly are still many rotting on the bottom of the lough.
It’s interesting that another Northern Ireland hotel – Beech Hill Country House Hotel outside Derry – also hosted a US military camp on its grounds during World War II. US Marines were billeted in 400 Quonset huts and 30 shelters at Beech Hill from 1942 to 1944 to guard the Navy’s Operating Base Londonderry, which was the main center of operations in Europe until after the Normandy landings.
Derry - the UK’s most westerly port - made the city an obvious choice for a strategic base. From there, the Navy could help protect convoys from U-boat attacks during the Battle of the Atlantic. The base also fueled escort vessels, serviced ships from many nations, and, at one time, had more than 5,000 American personnel.
I have been a fan of Aer Lingus for a very long time. The airline’s safety record is second to none and I’ve always enjoyed flights to and from Shannon, my favorite Irish airport.
Last month when I flew to Boston, I was reminded of the late chef and TV personality Anthony Bourdain’s comment about airline food, which he said he never ate: “No one has ever felt better after eating plane food. I think people only eat it because they’re bored. I don’t eat on planes. I like to arrive hungry.”
Well, in all honesty, the pre-booked meals on Aer Lingus are pretty good, although I’m not convinced that they are worth $32.99 each. I should say, rather, that I wasn’t convinced until my last Aer Lingus flight when I decided to just eat whatever was served. I chose chicken and assumed that since the food was made in Ireland, it would be passable if not good.
Sadly, Bourdain was right. The meal was completely inedible from the repulsive macaroni salad to the entrée. Even the “deliciously light strawberry cream mousse topped with a shortcake biscuit crumble” from Couverture Desserts in Naas, Co. Kildare, was only worth one bite. It was awful.
So, I am back to pre-booked meals and can recommend the steak, which comes with creamed spinach and a starter of smoked salmon and a slice of McCambridge’s soda bread. Could do without the raspberry panna cotta, but otherwise the meal is good. (And, actually, the regular airline meal I had in June came with a slice of McCambridge’s, which was the only edible bit on the tray.)
There are lots of fun events going on in July in Ireland. Be sure to visit the local Bord Failte offices (marked with a large green shamrock) in whatever area you’re visiting for the latest updates on things to do, accommodations, places to see, and more.
Among fun activities on tap in July is the Galway International Arts Festival, which runs in Galway City from July 16-29 (see giaf.ie for details.) The festival includes visual arts, theatre, comedy, dance, street spectacles, and more.
From July 19-22, the Festival of Curiosity will be held in various locations around Dublin and offers a family program during the day and nighttime events for adults (festivalofcuriosity.ie).
Grace Jones will open the Summer Series at Dublin’s Trinity College from July 23 to July 29. The lineup includes Trinity Orchestra, pop triad Wyvern Lingo, Gavin James and Imelda May. (See mcd.ie for details.)
Enjoy Ireland whenever and wherever you travel.