Caroline Delaney and her husband spent a couple of days away from the kids in the welcoming embrace of a country house    

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Lovely long weekend at Longueville

Caroline Delaney and her husband spent a couple of days away from the kids in the welcoming embrace of a country house    

Lovely long weekend at Longueville

It’s often the quirky little things that make you feel more at home than in a sleek modern luxury hotel.

Whether it’s the note alerting you to the shoe shine kit stashed in an antique commode in pride of place on a landing, or the mud room filled floor-to-ceiling with wellies in child and adult sizes, just for guests so they can go for a mucky wander around the orchards and kitchen gardens.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Longueville House only takes a very short while to get you feeling you could, or should live here permanently. A few minutes from Cork Racecourse, Mallow — it’s a world away from rush and fuss. Here the biggest hustle and bustle is when the six dogs who live off the courtyard get wind that ‘a walk’ is on the agenda. Instantly surrounded by a mix of excited yippy ones, a super lean and eager gun dog and a few quiet plodders, we took off . You’d actually end up feeling ferociously important with the way they keep circling and watching your every move over a couple of hours.

THE ROOMS

Think Downton Abbey only with some discreet modern touches and you’re on the right track. Canopied beds, dark-wood dressing tables and big windows with heavy drapes all add up to a feeling of luxury and timelessness. The view across the valley was so spectacular it took a while to realise there’s no TV in the room.

I’d be surprised if you actually miss it anyway. And top marks for being the first hotel I’ve ever seen offering butterfly nets to guests – they’re right in there in the alphabetically listed book of amenities in each room.

THE FOOD

I almost became one of those clowns who take photographs of their dinner to post up on social media — but then I remembered that I hadn’t grown the vegetables and I hadn’t cooked any of the food, so taking pictures of my delicious-looking meal while it went cold would just make me a complete fool — so I just ate it.

We started with an aperitif by the fire before heading to The President’s Room for dinner. My vegetarian expectations have been lowered through years of the vegetarian ‘option’ being floppy ravioli, so it was a real treat to see that the meat-free choices were well thought-out and would easily tempt someone who typically eats meat as well as a vegetarian.

A starter of St Tola Irish goats’ cheese parfait, pickled beetroot, leek jelly and oatmeal crisp was just lovely. My carnivore husband opted for deep-fried Longueville woodland ham hock, fennel saladand lemon and parsley sauce.

Main courses also featured a superb selection of home-grown vegetables and clever mixtures. I may even rescind the ban on turnip crossing the threshold of my home – but only if chef William O’Callaghan comes with it.

My dessert was hot praline fondant, nougat ice cream with redcurrant sauce – and I would definitely recommend it. But I would also recommend dipping into the raspberry and rose sorbet across the table if you can.

Just make sure you get up early enough the next morning to go for a bit of a walk so you can feel like you’ve earned breakfast. It will be worth it, I tell you. Lots of delicious treacle bread, fresh scones, gooseberry jam, homemade marmalade — as well as a fry-up if you want it.

THE AMENITIES

Longueville House is an 500-acre hunting and game estate with the River Blackwater flowing through it, so hunting and angling are a huge draw here. But if you’re happy to meet your dinner for the first time on your plate, then there’s plenty to do, anyway. There are adventure activities at the nearby Ballyhass Lakes, hiking along a range of routes, or use the hotel as a base for visiting the horse racing at the nearby racecourse.

WHAT TO DO

Keeping things a little less strenuous — there’s a guided dawn and dusk chorus walk coming up in May.

Or if the delicate and super-detailed paintings around the hotel catch your eye and you reckon you could try your hand at something similar, then check out the two-day course in botanical painting with the artist, Patricia Jorgensen, whose work is all around. I particularly liked her rendering of some toadstools.

The course is actually designed for those with little or no experience of watercolour painting and all the equipment — drawing boards, watercolour paper, brushes, paints and mixing palettes and even flowers and containers – are supplied.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Evening meal: €65 per person. The botanical painting course costs €310 for a day-student package or the residential-student package starts from €549.

A one-night dinner and bed and breakfast getaway costs from €285 for a queen or twin room.

ANYTHING ELSE TO ADD

You don’t have to stay to enjoy a taste of life in Longueville House. Afternoon tea is served from 2-5pm Wednesday to Saturday.

And Sunday lunch features a hot and cold appetiser buffet, main course roast special followed by a dessert buffet.

It’s also definitely worth checking out the Longueville House Cider -— or Longueville House Apple Brandy.

Made just yards from the main house the cider is currently being promoted for the US market as well as sold locally.

Jams from fruit grown on the grounds and honey from bees kept on site are also available to buy if you need to bring home a little memento of your visit.

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