THERE are moments in life, all-too-rare, some would say, when you can fully appreciate your luck. A few weeks ago, I had one of those moments.
I was in the bath — I don’t get to have many baths. I had gone for the full ‘decadence’ package by also having a glass of wine (no beer handy — that would have been better, although a wine glass is easier to grasp when surrounded by water).
And I was watching Match of the Day on a TV screen that was quite cleverly sequestered into the mirror of the plush, marble lined bathroom.
Had it not been tainted by Liverpool FC crashing and burning away to Crystal Palace, it may even have been the perfect moment.
Powerscourt Hotel, set in the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains yet just a bus ride from Dublin, tends to specialise in perfect moments.
A striking, epsilon-shaped building in the sprawling Powerscourt Estate, this is undoubtedly a place designed for the definitive 5-star experience.
From the stone archway marking the entrance, along the tree-lined avenues leading down the hotel and the sight of the Sugar Loaf in the near distance, it’s a luxurious bolthole surrounded by some of the country’s most beautiful scenery.
When a hotel has a helipad and one of those over-sized outdoor chess sets, you know you’re traipsing into somewhere out of the ordinary.
With 200 rooms, Powerscourt isn’t in the ‘boutique’ bracket, and it knows it. There’s a labyrinth here. There’s a fountain which gushes and tarries, lit at night-time like something from a Fellini film.
There’s the beech trees towering high overhead, and there’s the enormous foyer, glass-backed and with two roaring fireplaces, leather couches and a sweeping staircase down into the restaurant. And of course, there are the rooms, comically large and stylishly finished.
On our honeymoon some years ago my wife and I splashed out and stayed in one of Manhattan’s five star hotels for a few nights; frankly, this left it in the shade. The rooms were quiet — you couldn’t hear anyone rattling around.
Everything was enjoyably muffled, like wrapping your head in a duvet which, given the smothering comfort of the beds, was an option.
In my relatively limited knowledge of five star accommodation, a top grade hotel should tick a few particular boxes.
It should have excellent food options (particularly for breakfast); the staff should be attentive and always helpful, rather than acting like they’re doing you a favour by speaking to you; and despite the finery of its surroundings inside and out, it should never be pretentious.
Finally, once you close the door of your room, it should feel nothing but relaxing, like you’ve entered a secret antechamber somewhere filled with bathrobes, a mini bar and high definition television.
Powerscourt comfortably succeeds on all fronts. Behind the Palladian-style architecture is an entrance area, at once sweeping but intimate. Everyone — guests and staff — seem to be in a good mood.
The Sika Restaurant serves elegant, hearty fare, including triple cooked chips and homegrown, Irish supplied duck, pork, beef and fish. Upstairs, the Sugar Loaf Lounge may boast Ireland’s best burger.
The breakfast is a deluxe buffet with all the extras, the Sugar Loaf Mountain itself silhouetted against the morning sky as you plough into the food. And then there’s the two championship level golf courses, a 30,000-square foot luxury spa with 20 treatment rooms, and a 20-metre indoor pool (lit by Swarovski crystals; I accept this might seem a little pretentious).
There is more too, if you have the energy for it, not least a stroll around the estate’s gorgeous 18th century gardens, voted third best in the world last year by National Geographic. In first place were the gardens at Versaille.
Our visit to Powerscourt coincided with the last of the leaves browning on the trees, adding dazzling colour to the views which stretch out across the Wicklow Mountains. A short drive away is another local attraction, Powerscourt Waterfall.
I must admit to querying the sense of paying to see a waterfall, but then again, if you are going to fork out to see water cascading down a mountainside, it may as well be here, at Ireland’s highest.
I did climb the Sugar Loaf once, almost a decade ago as a drive into the mountains turned into an impromptu gallop up the 501 metres to the top.
It’s not Mount Everest, granted, but I still had a sense of achievement as I took in the panorama, a feeling of satisfaction, of contentment. Munching into my breakfast and looking across at the same hill, it was hard not to feel a similar sense of gratification. In this corner of Ireland, life feels good.
Powerscourt Hotel is near the village of Enniskerry, 30 minutes south of Dublin off using the R117 of the N11. In the unlikely event of taking a bus, the number 44 goes to Enniskerry.
Bookings start from €145 per person per night under the Powerscourt Grown-Up Getaway promotion. Bookings can be made at www.powerscourthotel.com or by telephone on 01 274 8888
Apart from relaxing, activities range from treatments at the luxury ESPA Spa to walking the extensive gardens or exploring the nearby park which holds the Powerscourt Waterfall. Shopping options include the nearby Avoca Powerscourt centre.
The Hotel has three dining options: McGills pub, which serves bar food; the Sugar Loaf, which has an all-day menu and related Martini Bar; and the Sika Restaurant.
More details at www.powerscourthotel.com