Stepping out of the plane into the tiny building that is Knock Airport, I begin to have second thoughts. This airport is too small. How can a hedonist possibly find a good time in the countryside? Will there be cocktails? Two hours and miles of eyeball-tingling green scenery later, we arrive in Galway, a bustling city sitting right along the edge of the big, bad Atlantic Ocean.
The House Hotel (00 353 91 538 900; thehousehotel.ie) is our luxe retreat. As we check in, it's all pinks and sparkles and friendly staff, which goes at least some way to counteracting the weather (lashing rain) as does the promise of big-girl drinks in the sleek downstairs bar.
Happily, by morning the rain has cleared away as – bleary-eyed – we head for what I've been assured is the best breakfast in Galway at Lohan's (00 353 91 522 696; lohans.ie) in Salthill. We munch huge Irish breakfasts – bacon, sausages, eggs, black and white pudding – overlooking the icy blue waters of Galway Bay just outside.
We're meeting friends, so we grab a taxi back into the city centre. Our pals are engaging in a little retail therapy, which is never a bad idea, so we wander up the aptly named Shop Street, then find our way into Brown Thomas (00 353 91 565 254; brownthomas.com), where I resist the urge for a pair of Jimmy Choos but do manage to pick up a gorgeous Orla Kiely scarf as a souvenir.
Our friends then usher us down Quay Street to a bright blue pub we'd passed on the way up – Tigh Neachtain (00 353 91 568 820; tighneachtain.com). Several pints of Guinness later, the day has already started to get away from us. However, we are assured there are even better pints of Guinness to be had in Galway, so we head up the street to McDonagh's (00 353 91 565 001; mcdonaghs.net) for a heaped plate of some of the finest fish and chips I've ever tucked into, before moving on to The Dail Bar (00 353 91 563 777; thedailbar.com) for a few more velvety brews.
We pop back to the House to freshen up and drop off our shopping, then take a pre-dinner stroll up to the Michelin-starred Aniar (00 353 91 535 947; aniarrestaurant.ie), where head chef Enda McEvoy does a terroir-based menu of daily specials – the scallops with black pudding and cauliflower are a perfect match for Galway's fresh sea atmosphere.
From here, we continue around the corner to the quaint Crane Bar (00 353 91 587 419; the cranebar.com). Yet another round of Guinness later, we venture to the upstairs bar and cosy in for a candlelit traditional Irish music session.
We sample some more foot tapping and pint spilling in the completely unpronounceable Tig Coili (00 353 91 561 294), until they finally blink the lights to signal it's time to get home.
Next morning after a hearty hotel breakfast, there is only one thing for it: spa day. That's where the ESPA Spa at the g (00 353 91 865 200; theg.ie) comes in. This boutique hotel boasts one of the sexiest spas in Galway. I make a beeline for the thermal suite for a proper detox and then on to a facial at the expert hands of one of the spa's amazing therapists.
Welcome to the west of Ireland.
A Hedonist's Guide to ... (Hg2) is a luxury city guide series for the more decadent traveller. For more info, see hg2.comReuse content