Mountain adventure in the lap of luxury

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Nestled in the majestic Connemara landscape of Co Galway, the Delphi Mountain Resort and Spa is rural getaway which offers something special for all. Whether seeking the thrills of outdoor adventure, the therapeutic relaxation of a spa, or the indulgence of fine dining, visitors to this secluded venue on the banks of Killary Fjord leave feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, as IAN CULLEN found out.

Enjoying the thrills and spills of outdoor adventure in idyllic Connemara was a fantastic prospect, especially since there was comforting thought of relaxing in a luxurious four star spa hotel afterwards.

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The four hour trip from Derry certainly didn’t disappoint. It turned out to be a break packed with a well balanced and rejuvenating mix of activity and relaxation.

There’s hardly a more spectacular setting than Delphi, it’s Connemara’s showpiece and an example of rural Ireland at its most stunning. The hotel is set within 400 acres of thick woodland, against a stunning backdrop of the Mweelrea and Twelve Bens mountain ranges.

The Delphi spa’s is the perfect place to unwind with its signature seaweed bath - which uses organic locally hand harvested seaweed and mountain spring water - a favourite among visitors. Then of course there’s the adventure centre which offers sea kayaking, surfing, rock climbing, abseiling and archery among its many activities.

On arrival in the welcoming reception area of the family-owned hotel, my wife and I were at once at ease with the ambience of the place. Friendly staff whisked us upstairs for a complementary cup of coffee while our accommodation - a two-room suite complete with breathtaking mountain view and spacious balcony - was prepared.

After the long drive we were ready for a good helping of the fresh air while taking in some of the sites on offer amid the beautiful landscape. We quickly decided that the best way to see as much of the area as possible while taking advantage of the clean country air was to get on our bikes and head through the mountains towards Louisburg, Co Mayo which is a little under 20 kilometres along the water’s edge and through the picturesque hills and woodland. Pleasantly surprised to find that bike hire was complimentary for hotel residents, we embarked on our journey of discovery but not before making an important detour to the spa reception. Having booked into the thermal suite for 5pm, we set off together with three hours on the clock. As we wound our way along the waters edge at the foot the rugged hills, I fell in love with the place - ‘This is the life,’ I thought to myself as I continued to out run the blood-thirsty midges.

We didn’t quite make it all the way to Louisburg given the time constraint and the desire for stint in the sauna and jacuzzi. And on the return journey panic about being late for our spa session as we encountered rush hour in rural Ireland. We rounded a bend to find around 60 sheep being driven towards us by a stick-wielding farmer followed by a string of cars, some occupied by American and European tourists. I must admit that such a scene is not unique to Connemara having experienced similar situations in Donegal on countless occasions. Nonetheless, for the tourists left trailing in the wake of the sheep it was no doubt a moment to savour.

Sufficiently exercised and aired, we’d come to the moment we’d been looking forward to throughout the trip. It was time to relax and unwind in the thermal suite which, like much of the rest of the hotel, has views to die for whatever the weather. Our tired limbs rejoiced in the jacuzzi, sauna and steam room after the cycle trek and all the activity and rejuvenation led to only one thing - a ravenous appetite.

By this stage I thought I was in heaven, mostly down to the comfort and warmth of the hotel and the beauty of the surroundings but also due to the fact that my native Donegal had just secured a place in the All-Ireland semi-final after a thrilling extra time win over a strongly fancied Kildare side. The only downside to the win was the fact that I had to listen to the match on the radio as there was no TV in our room or even in the hotel bar. But then again this break was supposed to be all about switching off and getting away from it all in the rugged seclusion of the West coast.

Dinner was all we expected from the hotel restaurant and then some. For starters I indulged in the quail dish which was truly delicious as well as filling. However, it was the sirloin steak which really blew me away - the thickness, tenderness and cooking were all spot on for my liking. I had no trouble passing on my compliments to the chef for delivering “the best steak I’ve had all year”.

Having finished a delightful bottle of French red and topped up the quail/steak combo with an indulgent tiramisu, it was off to the bar for quick nightcap before retiring to the luxury of our suite. Afterall, I had a big day ahead with three hours of sea kayaking to get through although my wife had the much less daunting prospect of the enjoying one of Delphi’s famous signature seaweed baths to look forward to.

The most important meal of the day was more than well catered for the following morning. There was a wide selection of continental and traditional Irish breakfast items available in the buffet - the black pudding was a particular favourite for me along with some homemade wholemeal bread washed down with fresh coffee.

With the belly filled, it was time to embark on an adventure at the spectacular Killary Harbour - one of only three glacial fjords (along with Lough Swilly) in Ireland. The experience was the highlight of my stay. Five kayaking debutantes made up the group and we were assured by our expert instructor, a Slovakian called Andy, that we’d all have a whale of a time. Having been coached on a few basics, we took to the water and crossed into Mayo as the fjord forms the border between the neighbouring counties. Three hours later and we looked, for all intent and purpose, a competent team of albeit novice kayakers. Maybe we were not quite ready to take on the world but we were more than ready to take on each other in ‘bulldog’ - a game of marine tig in which one group takes on another with paddles ready in the battle for Killary Harbour, well our small section of it at least.

With the kayaks finally berthed on dry land, there was only one thing left to do - put our wetsuits (provided as part of the activity) to good use with a little pier jumping. School memories flooded back as I bombed through the air, slapping the water with full force and tasting the salt from the sea. It was an appropriate way to round of the day and bring my Delphi adventure to an end. As I swam back to shore after a second pier jump, I felt completely relaxed and safe in the knowledge that I’d return to this Connemara hideaway sooner rather than later. The people at Delphi bill the resort as “a truly unique place in which to completely escape, unwind and contemplate”. I wouldn’t disagree. Indeed the essence of the Delphi experience lies in a fantastic combination of adventure, exploration, discovery and relaxation for all ages.

For further information on Delphi Mountain Resort, Leenane, Co Galway log on to www.delphimountainresort.com, telephone 00353 95 42208 or email the team at info@delphiescape.com w:www.delphimountainresort.com.