Country manor offers style, character and plenty of relaxation, writes Rowena Walsh.
It’s the recipe for the perfect escape. Take two stressed-out parents and a night alone in a luxury get-away. The result? A couple who feel about 10 years younger when they wake up in their oh-so-comfortable king-size bed the next morning.
The relaxation process had begun almost as soon as we left home for Lyrath Estate and Spa. Of course, there was guilt at leaving our three young children in the tender loving care of their grandparents.
Guilt, that is, about their grandparents; we knew that our offspring would relish being spoilt rotten.
But needs must, and even the most devoted parents require some time away from home to miss their children.
After just 10 minutes on the road, the shackles of responsibility were already slipping off our respective shoulders.
Even the seemingly endless roadworks on the way didn’t dent our spirits.
The five-star hotel is located mere minutes from Kilkenny city, but it feels as if we’re in the depths of the countryside when we pull up outside the 17th-century estate house.
The grounds are spread over 170 acres of countryside and boast picturesque lakes, historic gardens and fairy-tale woodlands.
It’s a glorious vista in the summer sunshine. Unsurprisingly, the beauty of Lyrath Estate makes it a popular destination for weddings.
We see one bridal party being photographed under an impressive tree as we arrive and, later, we meet an excited bride-to-be just hours away from her big day.
The hotel is certainly not trading purely on its natural glories, however.
A contemporary extension has been sympathetically built on to the old house, and the hotel boasts 139 bedrooms, a convention centre and, most alluringly, an award-winning spa.
Check-in takes place in the impressive 17th century entrance hall, and I soak up the sartorial style as wedding guests mingle and one mini-me enjoys a well-earned rest on her mother’s lap.
The receptionist is warm and welcoming, but it’s hard not to be distracted by the full-height foyer with its glass roof, contemporary art, country manor furnishings and Roman statues.
As we walk towards our room, we pass the Atrium café with its chilled-out vibe and the buzzing mezzanine bistro, where, later, live music will be heard. We’re momentarily confused by the fact that our room on the second floor requires the lift to go down, rather than up.
Our room is decorated in a more restrained style than the public areas, and it comes well-stocked with Rituals lotions and potions, as well as a Nepresso machine and yummy shortcake biscuits. It’s luxury of the understated variety.
I know, of course, that I should make the most of the beautiful nature surrounding me, but one restorative coffee later, and I’m donning a towelling robe and slippers and making my way to the Oasis Spa.
There is a fee of €15 to use the spa facilities, which include a hydrotherapy pool, sauna, steam room, tropical showers and a well-stocked relaxation room.
Once happily ensconced, I take some time to relax and unwind in the sauna and steam room, before being whisked away for a full body massage.
Fifty minutes later, and the knots that had taken long-term residency on my shoulders are a dim and distant memory, thanks to the soothing hands of the spa therapist and her arsenal of always impressive Elemis products.
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Afterward I snuggle up on a cosy bed in the relaxation room. I decide I don’t ever want to leave, and it takes an enormous amount of willpower to convince myself otherwise.
But the effort is certainly worthwhile as I soak in the bubbling infinity pool, which is open on one side to provide a view of the stunning Victorian gardens outside.
I spend so much time there that it’s almost time for dinner, and my husband and I realise that, actually, we’re quite hungry.
One quick turnaround later and we’re sitting at a coveted window table in the Yew restaurant, Lyrath’s fine-dining option, sipping gin and tonics.
The chef certainly isn’t distracted by the wedding taking place at the same time.
The standard of food is simply superb. We have seared scallops in a coral bisque and cured Goatsbridge sea trout to start, followed by pan-fried halibut and fillet of beef for mains.
We thought that we would barely be able to share a dessert, but they are so moreish that we have absolutely no problem demolishing a chocolate salted caramel tart and a deconstructed passionfruit meringue pie.
There may have been a few crumbs left on both plates, but I really couldn’t swear to it.
We take a break from indulging ourselves and step back in time to have a constitutional around the manor house with its fascinating history.
Our wander takes us naturally to Toppers Bar, where the friendly barman gives us an inspired recommendation. Neither of us had tried Romanian wine before, but we’ll certainly do so again.
The next morning, I wake up after the best sleep I’ve had in ages. Both my husband and I are shocked when we see the time, but we aren’t in any danger of missing breakfast, which is served until 11.
The Yew restaurant is positively buzzing when we arrive, but we are treated to yet another coveted window seat where we watch the world go by and enjoy fruit and granola, perfectly poached eggs with smoked salmon and a satisfying full Irish.
It almost seems overly indulgent to order a second Americano to accompany our chocolate croissants, but it is definitely the right decision.
We are loathed to leave Lyrath, but 24 hours away from home has left us desperate to see our little munchkins. Next time we might even bring them with us.
The ‘24’ spa package includes bed and breakfast, dinner and a 25-minute spa treatment as well as access to the thermal suite and hydrotherapy pool.
It costs €150 per person sharing. The award-winning Oasis spa offers Elemis products and is the exclusive stockist of Rituals in Kilkenny.