In 2018, my best friend gave me a luxury stay in a bubble dome at Finn Lough Resort. This was honestly one of the most unique stays I have experienced in Ireland and wrote a full, separate blog post about it. Ever since, many friends and readers have asked me, if a stay at Finn Lough is worth the hefty price tag. I was fortunate when their marketing manager invited us back for a night’s stay in one of the Lakeside Villas! I couldn’t resist saying yes returning to this fine property during COVID-19 to blog about whether or not Finn Lough is really worth it.
In this post you will read about:
- Finn Lough during COVID-19
- Self catering accommodation experience vs. Bubble domes
- Are the activities value for money
- Price comparison
- Hidden costs
- The verdict – is a staycation at Finn Lough really worth it?
Over the moon with excitement, we booked an extra night to make the most of a mini break. Finn Lough closed in March due to the Covid-19 restrictions, like all hotels and resorts in Ireland and reopened in August.
Is it worth staying in a Lakeside Villa or was Finn Lough’s draw really living in your own little bubble?
Traveling during COVID-19: measures in place
Travelling during a global pandemic can be a difficult for the guest and property alike. Accommodating guests during the Covid-19 restrictions can be challenging, too. But Finn Lough is fortunate enough to have space and lots of it.
On arrival you are greeted at the gate side reception. This is an addition from our previous stay and a good one, too. You have the option to complete the check in from your car or to enter their spacious reception facility. A pandemic pre-stay cleaning regime is in place and you can see all measures are in place to protect both guests and staff.
Some of the positives are vastly improved hygiene and cleaning regimes. Many properties are providing unique solutions to unique challenges. Reduced menus with perceived lack of choice can actually improve the overall quality and delivery of a meal experience. However removing facilities, amenities, variety and reducing operating times under the guise of safety measures will be noticed by the discerning traveler.
There were three different accommodation options, all advertised as 5 Star. From the infamous Bubble Domes to the self-catering options: the Lakeside Lodges and the Lakeside Suites. As there is no difference between the suites and the lodges, Finn Lough have changed the names of both accommodation types which are now known as Lakeside Villas.
Our Villa had three bedrooms and breakfast was inclusive. The onsite restaurants were not operating during breakfast service during our stay. The Villa is enormous for just two guests and has a partial lakeside view while overlooking onto another property attached to ours. This took away from the sense of privacy or “hideaway”.
Nonetheless we settled in to our bright, airy and spacious surroundings.
The property has a new restaurant onsite but there was no available information about it. We were informed that breakfast items will be left in the fridge. However, we don’t seem to get a choice – even after inquiring about the ‘items’. I flagged vegan dietary requirements and hoped for the best. The ‘items’ were individually boxed and placed in the fridge prior to arrival: uncooked eggs, sausages, flapjacks, ham, wet croissants. No salt, cooking oil or pepper.
After speaking to the manager on duty and Gil, the owner, to ask if we could at least have something fresher, they were accommodating. Thankfully!
It is incredibly disappointing to ask for fresh food.
The accommodation type is better suited for a group. (more about the booking system later in this post as this is whole other rigmarole)
On our previous stay we experienced the superb Elements trail and it’s worth every penny!
- On this occasion, we opted for the Kayaking (£30 per couple) and found ourselves in the middle of the tranquil Lough Erne for 2 hours – completely overpriced.
- Complimentary mountain bikes allow you to explore the forest trails and even the surrounding area outside the gates.
- Film screenings can be enjoyed in the Cinema Room at allocated timings, also complimentary.
- Complimentary morning Yoga classes are normally offered but during our stay the instructor was unavailable. We were still able to practice our own routine in the “Giant Bubble dome” overlooking the lake.
- Sun-downers by the lake with a log fire is overpriced (£60 pp with additional supplements on wine or bubbles). The food offering is disappointing. This option is weather permitting. (Note – a backup location for sun-downers is located in a Giant Bubble at a reduced rate).
The emphasis is on seclusion and tranquility. But, if you are not paying for the extras, you will find that there is little to do. Just soak up the silence of mother nature which is perfect if this is what you are looking for. But the price you are paying, doesn’t reflect this and the additional ‘everything’ can be off putting. Finn Lough, simply, is not worth it.
We were delighted to see that the toiletries available throughout the accommodation are from local company “The Handmade Soap Company”. These products contain all natural ingredients, they are vegan and cruelty free and avoid single use plastics. Efforts for promoting sustainability didn’t go unnoticed.
When we return to a property, we want to relive the same experience and explore things we hadn’t previously. Our bubble was a little burst this time. Overall our visit was in contrast to our first stay. The bubble domes and the elements spa trail is unique to Ireland. But without this, your experience will be underwhelming. Your money would go a lot further at other properties.
Here’s is why the Villas at Finn Lough is simply just not worth it:
- “Too remote and we are not talking about the location!” This is about communication. One of the perks of paying for 5 star is the ability to have quick connectivity with the hotel team. At Finn Lough, the telephone line has been discontinued and the communication is through email only. We found this inconvenient as there was a delay in answering inquiries and some didn’t get picked up at all. It is fantastic to “switch off” but it is inevitable to have open and easily accessible communication lines with your hosts.
- The price has increased but the service, quality and sense of luxury decreased.
- It is evident that the property is investing in the grounds with improved access and some additions. But the level of service and sense of hospitality has dropped dramatically and in no way related to social distancing measures.
- The owners are not dealing with the shortcomings effectively. They are defensive and indifferent with communication being the biggest downfall.
Small things matter and it is the accumulation of all the little things that didn’t do it for us. From the breakfast in a box delivered at lunchtime the day before to the misleading and confusing accommodation types which leaves you looking onto your neighbor’s window instead of the promised lakeside view.
Finn Lough missed the mark. Although the ingredients are there to create a truly memorable experience, the quality certainly is not 5 star which makes Finn Lough not worth a visit.
Whats the bill like?
Price quoted is based on a two night weekend stay in November 2020
Bubble Dome: B&B €965
Lakeside Villas: 2-4 Adults €650 (€716 – €782 with Breakfast). 6 Adults €880 (€1078 with Breakfast)
****Comparable stays on the same dates for two in Dromoland Castle’s 5 star surroundings is, €620 for a 2 nights in a Queen Anne Classic Room. Breakfast included.***
Self Catering hidden Costs:
One of the joys of self catering, is sharing the experience with friends and family. The property’s website advertises the Lodges or Villas as ideal for a group getaway, offering spacious interiors and outside spaces. However, not only is the pricing structure inconsistent, it is nearly impossible to book. You will be directed to the website’s chat facility where Michael is online to answer questions. Beware the hidden costs:
- Pricing for 6 people is unclear on the online booking portal.
- Self catering for 2 and 4 guest is the same.
- Add another couple and the price jumps by €172.
- Michael explained the price difference as: “The additional covers the bikes, forest trail, library, cinema room and yoga”. However, these are advertised as complimentary to inhouse guests.
- Furthermore, it proved difficult to book this stay for 6 people.
- Groups are screened to avoid multiple stag parties or large groups. This is why you cannot book online but you also cannot contact the property via telephone.
Michael mention that they were “in a moment where we find the volume of inquiries overwhelming and have chosen to focus our resources on those guests at the resort and those set to arrive (as you potentially will one day). But with nearly 200 emails a day we find it hard” .
This price is only for the accommodation and access to the resort. Your bill will soon rack up once food, beverage and activities are added.
Give it a miss for now!
With so many options for traveling Ireland at the moment and even in the middle of the staycation season, there is far greater value for your money especially at the upper end of the market.
Remember, good properties sell accommodation.
Excellent properties sell experiences.
We strive to give our honest opinion, share our travel tips and endeavor to give you our experience as it happens. Till next time.
Dannii & Pauric