“ Hotel Spa & Country Club / Address: Tullow / County Carlow / Ireland / Tel: +353 59 91 80100 „
The Mount Wolsely in Tullow Carlow, is home to one of the most celebrated golf courses in Ireland. However, our late and much missed reviewer Ken, wrote an unbeatable review of the golf course, so I am just going to review the hotel and it's many amenities.
The land was bought by William Wolsely who fought alongside King William in the Battle of the Boyne. There have been Wolselys living here until the turn of the last century when it was sold to the Patrician Fathers. (Who seemed to own most of Tullow at one stage!) The Wolsely family went on to become famous for Wolsely cars, many pictures of which are to be seen in the hotel. The land was sold late in the last century to the present owners who have turned it into the magnificient place it is today.
When I first started going to Mount Wolsely about fifteen years ago, it was a relatively modestly sized place. Meals were served upstairs in a very comfortable restaurant or in the lovely lounge bar, or if the weather was good you could sit outside on the terrace and enjoy the sun and the views over the golf course. Nowadays, that portion of the Hotel is reserved for members of the golf club. It's sad really because I used to really enjoy it up there.
The Hotel now has gone seriously upmarket! Like Topsy it "Just growed! and then it 'growed' some more! The Aaron lounge bar is vast, very comfortable but vast. You could probably seat the whole town of Tullow in there! Luxurious leather chairs and settees abound. Television screens pretending to be Old Masters when they're not in use! Beautifully shiny tables, elegant light fittings. Room dividers looking like they've been extracted from Georgian Libraries. (No real books though!) Deep luxurious carpets! It all looks very posh now! However, the staff manage to be welcoming and efficient and they probably cover about twenty miles a day running up and down with orders. (If I worked there I'd be asking for a scooter or a Segway to save my legs!) The staff are great! They manage to be friendly with everyone and still manage to get your order right and will often remember your preferences from your last visit. That always makes you feel special!
It is possible to eat in the bar/lounge or if you wish to be really upmarket you can go through into the restaurant, Fredericks. This is up a few stairs behind the main reception. The food in there is expensive but very good, with an extensive menu of game and fish. I had thought the vegetarian options a bit sparse in the past but things have improved for veggie's with the advent of a new chef in the last six months. The restaurant is spacious, elegant and well lit. The table linen is immaculate and the cutlery is a pleasure to eat with.
We usually choose to eat in the bar and since the menu has been changed there is no shortage of goodies to choose from. My favourite in here is the Seafood Chowder or the Black Pudding as a starter. I quite often have two starters instead of a main course and the staff are fine about this. The steaks are delicious and as all the food is sourced as locally as possible, the accompanying vegetables are fresh and varied. Lovely home made bread is usually offered but don't be tempted to eat too much because it is very filling! Leave room for the temptations of the dessert menu!
The menu falls into the current fad of having daft names for things. So you have to work out what a 'Timbale' is, or wrestle with the idea of 'Goujons' (which always sounds a bit rude to me! Which bit of a fish is it's goujon anyway?) I can never decide if these odd names are pretentious or if I'm just getting grumpy. Jus? I digress. Even though the menu has some strange descriptions, the staff, especially JJ, will always be on hand to explain. (and in the case of JJ, to make some pithy observations of his own!) The food there is uniformly good, well presented and promptly served. The bar is well stocked with a good variety of draft and bottled beers and a comprehensive choice of spirits and soft drinks. It always looks spotless and shiny too!
The general spaciousness and comfort of the hotel carries on through into the toilets and there would be no problem that I could see for manouverability of wheelchairs.
The only serious criticism I would make of the Mount Wolsely is that no provision is made for smokers. Most large pubs and hotels in Ireland have provided some kind of heated covered area for smokers so they don't have to stand in the rain. An establishment of this size could and should provide some facilities of this kind and the fact that they still haven't is a source of suprise and irritation to me and others.
If you want to work off some of the calories that you have enjoyed absorbing in the lounge or Frederick's Restaurant there is a gym and a large swimming pool. I've never been in the pool but it looks fantastic. The Gym is supervised (if I remember rightly) and seemed equipped with every kind of torture implement known to man.
There is a large choice of accommodation ranging from singles at E 80 to suites at E 235. All rooms are en suite. There are often special midweek offers on so it is best to check out their website for the best rates.
I have never stayed in a suite but the rooms I have used have all been very comfortable, spacious and well designed. The bathrooms are fitted out with marble and look very elegant. All the rooms are provided with the amenities you would expect from a four star hotel. In fact I am left wondering what they would have to do to get the extra star. Perhaps install a personal butler in each room? The rooms are seriously well fitted out. Another big plus is that the hotel, being set in it's own large grounds is very quiet indeed. Even the ubiquitous Irish crows can't be heard within the bedrooms! Bliss!
It is also possible to hire holiday cottages in the grounds. I have not seen them but some of our students have hired them and they report them to be well equipped and comfortable.
The grounds are a delight to walk around. Last week I saw a stoat running round in circles on the car park. I couldn't decide if it was playing tag with itself or if it had been hit on the head by a stray golf ball! There is a beautiful lake at the front of the hotel and I have enjoyed many a quiet moment feeding the ducks there. That's one of my favourite things to do!
If you have exhausted the attractions of the Golf Course, the Spa, the swimming pool, the seasonal ice rink, the restaurants, the gym or the grounds, you can take a trip out to one of the many local attractions. Altemont gardens is twenty minutes away, the amazing Rathwood garden centre about fifteen minutes. Local towns are Carlow, Kilkenny and Wexford. There is a lot to see in the area and the hotel is very conveniently situated for day trips.
Overall this is a high class hotel which even though it is big it is never impersonal. There is good wheelchair access throughout the building as far as I can see. The staff are well trained, very welcoming and always cheerful and helpful. It's a lovely place to relax in and be looked after.