We arrived at the Jackson on Oct. 3, 2013 for four nights stay with a Celtic Tours group. The tour advertised the Kees hotel across the river, but switched us (that will be in another review). Check in was pretty smooth and they were well prepared until we arrived at our rooms door, room 165 in the old part of the hotel. I tried both hey cards and neither of them would work. So I left my wife in the hall with all of our luggage and made the long walk to the desk. On my way, I encountered two other women on our tour trying to get into their room and could not. They said they had an actual key, but the lock was broken and they were working on it. The desk lady gave me two new key cards and I walked back to the room. Neither of these keys would open the door either. I again walked to the desk and by now I was getting pretty wore out and very hot since they had the heat on in the building. I told her I either wanted a key card that would open the door or a different room as I was tired of running back and forth. She then programed 3 keys and said she would go up with me. She got to the door and the first card opened the door. She left and I tried the 3 cards myself. Only two of them worked and the third one didn't, so out of 7 different key cards, only 2 worked.
The room was very warm since as I said, the heat was on in the building. I looked for an air conditioner.....none. We opened the windows and I turned the steam off to the radiator so it would not cook us out.
The room was strangely decorated with a theme somewhere between Ireland and Africa. Looks like they just threw whatever furniture was left over and not broken into the old part of the hotel. The TV remote didn't work, which wasn't a huge deal since we only turned it on a couple of times for a brief period to get a weather forecast. When we booked the trip I had requested a queen or king bed. The room had a single bed (the headboard was just loose and tipped against the wall) and a double bed that had a huge sag in it from thousands of butts over the years. I was afraid that the bed would kill our backs, but it was actually relatively comfortable to my surprise. The sheets were newer and clean, but the bed spread was showing a great deal of wear. I found the hair dryer for my wife mounted in the top drawer of the dresser. When she did use it, it was pretty lame. I thought it did fairly well for a 1960s model ;-)
The bathroom was not as clean as I would have expected for a 4 star hotel. There was mold and dirt scattered throughout the entire tile area of the tub. I know this is what it was because I took my wash cloth and scrubbed some of it off the first time I showered. The tub was narrow at the bottom and quite a slope to the drain. There was no anti slip stuff left on the bottom of the tub and the first time I stepped in, I nearly took a spill. Had to be extremely careful or risk falling and breaking bones.
The sink in the bath had very old fixtures and you had to screw them out about 2 full revolutions before the water would start to come out. The toilet when flushed dumped about 3 gallons of water, but almost always had to be flushed twice as there was always toilet paper that would not go down. There were no plug ins in the bathroom at all for my wife's curling iron and etc.
We decided to go out on the town with our adult kids who were also on the trip. I thought I'd get my c-Pap machine ready so I didn't have to mess with it when we returned. To my surprise, the lamps were hard wired into the wall behind the beds and there were no plug ins. I then discovered that there are only 2 outlets in the room which are taken up by the TV, extremely old and dirty coffee pot, the hair dryer that's hidden in the drawer and a lamp.
When we were leaving for dinner, I explained to the young lady at the front desk that I needed an extension cord to reach across the room so I could plug in my machine since I absolutely cannot sleep without it. She gave me that look like she had no idea in the world what I was talking about, so I went thru it again....very slowly. I envisioned a small light bulb glowing above her head and thought that she might now understand. She said she would see what she could do and have one delivered to our room while we were gone. Upon our arrival back to the hotel at approximately 8:40pm we decided to go to the lounge for a nightcap. I stopped at the desk and asked the young lady if she was able to get me a cord. She said that no, she was not able to get one. I asked if there was somewhere that I could find open (within walking distance of the hotel) to purchase one since I really needed this equipment at night. She told me of a place that might be open, so I headed out the door. Of course, everything was closed at this time of night. Therefore, my first night in Ireland I got a very few hours of broken sleep. The night before I got about 20 minutes of sleep on the plane as it was an overnight flight and no machine.
In the morning, I went to the desk and spoke with the new lady behind the desk. I told her I either needed a cord for the next night or moved to a room that would accommodate my medical needs. I explained the whole story to her and she seemed confused as to what I needed or by the story or something. She questioned me a little as to my exact needs. She finally said "are you telling me that they could not get you a Leader Cord last night" (this is what she called it). I informed her that they worked on it for 4 or 5 hours the night before and couldn't find one. She rolled her eyes and assured me that I would have a cord in my room upon our return. I found out later that there was another gentleman in our group who had the same problem with the same issue. He tried to get a cord the night before as well with the same results. I don't know why they put young people behind a desk who can't handle travelers situations as simple as this.
The food at the hotel: The breakfasts are fantastic, but there is the same selection every day. Nothing changes. The good part is, they have a pretty good selection with the exception that there is no potatoes on the buffet in the morning.
We ate dinner one evening at the hotel. Walked into the restaurant at 7:00 pm. The waitress took a long time to get to our table and it went down hill from there. We had our alcoholic beverages with us when our name came up so we just took our drinks in with us. We didn't order any more since we didn't have enough time to get more drinks to happen.
There were 6 of us in our party. She finally got back to take our order after a very long time and everyone ordered the special (fish and chips) except myself and my son. He wasn't that hungry and just ordered two appetizers and I ordered the baked Hake & mussels on a bed of Colcannon and it came with soup. She brought my sons appetizers fairly quickly and then we waited and waited. We finally flagged her down once to get more water, but it took a ...long time... to get it.
We heard 4 guys at the table behind us flag her down for something. The one guy asked her if they should order breakfast now so that she could have it ready for them by morning. I got a big kick out of that. Well, she didn't find much humor in that and got pretty snotty with them. I didn't hear exactly what she said, but you could tell she was not happy about their comment. Total time for 6 people to get this very simple meal was a little over two hours. And the dish that was supposed to be Colcannon was nothing more than plain mashed potatoes.....nothing else in them at all. Rather disappointing as I'd had some really good Colcannon at other locations in the country during our visit.
The hotel bar: Very nice place. They need to have someone in the hotel who could come in and help the bartenders when large groups come in. The wait was sometime a very long one.
The entertainment was fair. The karaoke guy the first night didn't have much of a voice. The Irish seem to love American Country Music. I'd have liked to hear more Irish music.
The last night we were there, the hotel bar was taken over by a bunch of NYC police who were there for some sort of sporting event. Boy, were some of these guys jerks. Rude and mouthy. I'll let it go there. Then at 4:00 am, one of jerk cops decided to start playing bagpipes outside of the hotel. He came to an abrupt halt in mid song after a while, so I assume that someone in a room told him what they thought of it or someone from the hotel intervened his early morning serenade.
In summary, I'd say that this might be a better place to stay if you were in the newer part of the hotel. The old part was not a pleasant experience. I guess that this is what I'm the most upset about. It's advertised as a 4 star hotel. Should be advertised as a 2 or 3 star at the most.
Keep in mind that my ratings below are based mainly on this idea that a 4 star hotel should be better that what we got. These are just averages since some of the hotel was great, as well as the staff, but the rest of the rating comes from the bad part of the experience and the few people there who just made the experience less than enjoyable. If you stay there, definitely ask for the new part of the hotel or go somewhere else. Some of what my rating is based upon is also from the members of our family who were there on the trip and from others in our group. Believe me, there are some stories, but I will not comment on their experiences, just mine. I will just say that there were several people who had to have rooms changed with our group because the rooms were not fit for use.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Nestled in the bustling town of Ballybofey, Jacksons Hotel is an award-winning Hotel on the banks of the River Finn and Drumboe Woods. Renowned for its hospitality and great food, Jacksons is the ideal base for touring Donegal and the North West of Ireland. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Jacksons Hotel Ballybofey
- Jackson's Hotel Ballybofey, Ireland - County Donegal