I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again…I adore castles, so much so that I will walk through the ruins of every ancient dwelling just to get a feel for the past. In fact, I blame my love of castles for my decision to study history in college.
So you can probably imagine my delight when the opportunity to visit Waterford Castle for a spot of Afternoon Tea came about.
Just 50 minutes from my hometown of Dungarvan and 30 minutes from the heart of Waterford city, this resort is situated on a 310-acre private island…yes, you read that correctly.
With only the sounds of birds chirping and leaves rustling, Waterford Castle is as close to peace as you might find in the modern age, where phones buzzing and bustling cities are the norm.
As my mother and I approached the historic 16th century castle hotel, which we accessed via the resort’s private ferry, I was filled with a sense of anticipation for the afternoon ahead.
We had come here to indulge in Waterford Castle’s newly launched Autumn Afternoon Tea offering. With roaring appetites, we approached the grand castle on foot, immediately struck by the pops of colour from the ivy and other flora.
Passing through the hotel’s grand entrance, we made our way to The Fitzgerald Room, where several groups were already at ease enjoying their Afternoon Tea.
The room was named after Mary Fitzgerald, who called the castle home during her life and was quite the socialite in her time.
With this in mind, The Fitzgerald Room seemed perfectly apt for what we had in mind. On the recommendation of our fantastic server, Illario, we opted for a little treat to get started.
Whipping up a seriously tempting Bellini for us (an Italian cocktail created by an Italian mixologist – he sold it very well, not that we needed much in the way of persuasion).
Refreshing and fruity, it was a great choice and made a nice change from the usual Prosecco options at many Afternoon Teas.
Moving to tea and I went for the fruity and floral aromas of the Camomile Flowers tea in order to aid my relaxation, enjoying the soothing elegance and admiring the grandeur of our dining room.
Choosing a light and refreshing White Tea, my mother, realising that her outfit matched the decor, embraced the relaxing atmosphere of the room and sipped her antioxidant-rich tea with a thoughtful smile on her face.
You would be forgiven for thinking you were in the drawing room of Downton Abbey when the food arrived in a blissful parade. My eyes took a moment to focus on the variety of colour and food in itself.
The Autumnal Afternoon Tea selection at Waterford Castle really was something to behold. I’m always so glad that there’s a proper order to follow when indulging in this process as I always get an urge to reach out and grab everything at once.
Casting our eyes to our savoury selection on the bottom tier, there was so much variety and not a single cucumber sandwich, egg mayo or salmon on brown bread – a win win already in my books.
Instead we had a truly decadent selection of bites, a testament to Head Chef Tom Spruce and the castle’s entire award-winning team.
While I’m not the biggest fan of Foie Gras Terrine on Sourdough, it was a well executed bite that would more than satisfy lovers of this fine dining staple.
The Heirloom Tomato Focaccia was a burst of freshness and made me want to instantly book a trip to Italy.
The freshly Baked Ham in a Brioche Bun with celeriac remoulade and only the finest Gubbeen cheese was extremely tasty, if not a little tall for those prone to clumsy messes.
My favourite, without a doubt, was the Lobster Hot Dog. With a more than generous helping of lobster, I was in my element and this bite certainly had a kick to it. This is definitely one hot dog I can really get behind.
The scones were a nice bridge between the savoury section and the more sweeter delights, with a hearty helping of strawberry jam and cream ensuring that we were prepped for the sweet selection.
Also on the medium tier were two dainty little cupcakes. Infused with lemon, these little treats would delight the little kids (and big kids…they were very popular).
Last but not least, we tackled the colourful top tier. Autumnal in their colouring, it was quite difficult to decide where to begin.
After a brief pause, we agreed that the creamy Pistachio treat must be eaten first. It had been teasing us since the tray first landed on our table and, the pistachio fanatics that we both were, couldn’t resist devouring it.
A fan of a crunch in my desserts, the raspberry dusted tropical Milo Filo Pastry was next up and went down a treat, quickly disappearing from view.
The Chocolate and Banana Ganache was my mother’s favourite dessert. So much so that long after we had left the castle behind, she was still talking about it.
The ganache was a beautiful mix of chocolate and banana and was topped with a Waterford Castle branded piece of rich dark chocolate.
The beautifully decorated Raspberry Mousse was by far the sweetest of all, and I loved it. My sweet tooth was practically dancing around my mouth.
Cracking through the thin white chocolate casing, the soft fruity treat was almost too pretty to eat…but I managed! Finally, we delved into the Chocolate Macaron. This beauty had been left sitting there for a few hours, patiently waiting to be plucked off the plate.
Worth waiting for, this was a deeply rich taste of decadence. The dark chocolate was positively sinful. It was the perfect way to end our afternoon of delights.
Rolling ourselves away from the crumbs that remained, we set off for a little afternoon stroll around the grounds of Waterford Castle.
With an abundance of flora and fauna (there are quite a lot of deer), I could have happily wandered around for hours on end.
The stone gates and steps leading to inviting nature paths were starting to prove too tempting, so I had to drag myself away. Sadly, the real world was waiting.
We were lucky with the weather on our Sunday visit, but I can fully imagine that the castle looks just as majestic all year round.
As we reluctantly got back into the car and drove towards the ferry stop as the sun began to set, I made a mental note to return and inspect the huge Christmas tree when it makes its grand entrance at the end of November.
Afternoon Tea at Waterford Castle starts from €30 per person and is served Monday to Saturday from 3-5pm and on Sundays from 2-4.30pm.
Waterford Castle Hotel & Golf Resort
T: 051 878 203
REVIEW BY SARAH GLASCOTT