I always enjoy the trip to Westport as I love the place. As usual on the way there recently, Diane talked a lot, chattering merrily away virtually uninterrupted all the way to Co Mayo.
She outlined the entire plot of the Mrs Brown movie, which she had just seen, before telling me about a trailer that had been shown for the new Planet of the Apes film, which she was dying to see, even though she knew it would scare her.
And it seems she has a strange phobia, as well as the run of the mill ones like mice and spiders. Diane, I learned, is terrified of weapon-wielding monkeys on horseback. I bet not one other person has ever suffered from that one.
To give my ears a break, I took out my battery shaver and began to rub it across my face. Diane caught on, and laughed: “Are you trying to get a respite from my talking?”
Then she decided to talk about why she talks so much. She was excited at the prospect of spending a weekend in Westport. And there was another reason for the non-stop chatter.
“It’s the only time I get your undivided attention when you’re not working at a laptop or watching TV - or both.”
But Diane is very funny when on form and the journey passed quickly.
We’d stayed at the Castle Court and its sister hotel, the Westport Plaza on a few previous occasions and both were always busy with a really pleasant type of clientelle.
The staff have always been fantastic and the craic never less than 90. Food was never a let-down either. So I had high hopes for the Westport Coast Hotel, and I wasn’t disappointed.
As Hotel Inspector fan Diane pointed out on arrival, now chatting in her best Alex Polizzi accent, the owners “know how to do hotels”.
With 85 completely refurbished rooms and a variety of spacious family suites the former Carlton Hotel has been carefully restored. The Waterfront Restaurant (please do visit this if you enjoy quality meals) is situated on the top floor and offers magnificent views of Croagh Patrick, Clew Bay and Westport Harbour.
The views, like everything else about the hotel, were wonderful. It’s not just the location, not just the quality and attention to detail, not just the decor. It is all these things, yes, but there’s something really special about this chain of hotels. It’s the staff - they will all go out of their way to make sure you enjoy your stay - without exception.
We soon found a lovely spot to enjoy a quiet drink and watch the sun set on the west coast. We found a lovely bar with a beer garden, which sold a range of Irish-brewed beers, with weird and wonderful names. I intended to try them all over the weekend, but I didn’t get round to sampling even one. Next time, for sure.
I also discovered a new (to me anyway) type of massage. I spent a luxurious 55 minutes or so in the hotel’s Ayurvedic Centre and Spa. Ayurveda is an ancient system of Indian health which originated in the state of Kerala, south India, some 5,000 years ago. The spa offers Ayurveda with a fully-qualified professional team from Kerala.
I’ll be making a point of booking a treatment there anytime I’m anywhere near Westport in future. By the way, you don’t have to be a guest to enjoy the Ayurveda experience.
There were quite a number of families along the harbour and little wonder; there is a wide range of activities and attractions. Just a short walk along the shore road is Westport House, so the hotel is perfectly placed for a family break.
We paid a visit to Westport House last year, and what a place that proved to be. It was as fascinating as it was beautiful, and I can say without fear of contradiction that this just has to be one of the most impressive stately homes anywhere in Ireland.
The Westport Coast Hotel is offering its guests exclusive discounts with some of the most popular activity providers in Westport, which is quickly becoming Ireland’s adventure playground. Some of the theme areas are truly spectacular, like the Adventure Island Sky Challenge Activity “A Theme Park in the Sky” which is the first of its kind in Ireland.
If you do take the little ones to avail of special offers at the hotel, you will still be able to make time for yourselves. The fully supervised Buzz Club runs every week throughout July and August in its sister hotel, the Castlecourt Hotel with complimentary transport to and from the camp. The Teen Club is also available for the older kids up to 16 years of age. The choice of activities is jam packed, while Bumbles crèche is ideal for the little ones aged 2-5 years, providing complimentary childcare to residents.
Elsewhere there are cycle hire stores galore, and on our first day a pony and trap pulled up outside the refurbished hotel, and began taking visitors around the town on a sightseeing expedition.
It just seemed to fit in. I always think Westport, despite being a relatively new town, has wonderful, old-fashioned charm and its cead mile failte rivals anywhere on the emerald isle. Everyone, even the visitors who flock there, is extremely friendly. It’s unique in the way it blends the old and the new, the young and the old.
Scanning through brochures, I found the Golden Years offers for the hotel especially fascinating, not to mention terrific value, now that I’ve turned 54 and have witnessed so many people enjoy themselves on these visits. People who are 55 and over are eligible.
As we left Westport I said to Diane: “Next April I’ll be 55 and eligible for Golden Years offers and entering the autumn of my life. Why don’t you pretend you’re 55 too?”
For once, she was speechless.