CHASE WINTRY BLUES with a trio of TEMPTING RETREATS for you and your girlfriends …
Lakeside Luxury at Sheen Falls Lodge
In a nutshell: Heavenly hotel in a private woodland estate and luxe lakeside villas with breathtaking natural vistas, offering scenic seclusion, genuinely warm Irish hospitality and log fires, as well as infinite attractions for the curious. The area’s enviable characteristics are matched by Sheen Falls Lodge’s attention to detail, excellent dining, smart Cocktail Bar and Easanna Spa’s therapeutic magic. Vibrant, colourful Kenmare is on the doorstep for antiquing, great pubs (try The Purple Heather for atmosphere), live music, and excellent food experiences.
Do: Bond with gal pals in Marianne’s Cottage or one of the other impressive five-star waterfront pads in the grounds. Every detail is considered: dual-sided fireplaces, kitchen and dining room for at-home style entertaining and marble bathrooms and you can order dinner and wine (the wine cellar is the largest in the country) to be delivered. Relax while you plan massages and treatments at the spa, fishing, falconry, tennis or a guided walk before sleeping in utter luxury to be woken only by the gentle lapping of the lake. You will hardly want to leave the exquisite environs but, if you must, do so only to explore this dramatic part of the Wild Atlantic Way.
Eat: As well as The Falls for modern Irish cooking with locally sourced ingredients and superb breakfasts, the wonderful three-tier afternoon tea is worth skipping lunch for, though lunch is something of a forte for the foodie establishments of Kenmare.
Rooms: As well as the five-star rooms and suites, check out the newest additions: two elegant, spacious Oscars Suites with private terraces overlooking the cascading Sheen Falls: bespoke furnishings were designed by Hugo da Silva, and commissioned from local suppliers.
A Spring Midweek Escape, from February to April, includes two nights’ accommodation, one dinner for two, afternoon tea and spa credit. From €499. For more on this offer and the The Wine Academy Weekends (the next is February 23-24) see www.sheenfallslodge.ie.
Luxury Lifestyle at L’Andana
In a nutshell: If you want total seclusion with no shortage on service, spa or sensual details then this historic Tuscan Medici-era villa will delight. Equidistant from Pisa or Florence airports in the coastal region of Maremma, (known for its Argentario yacht scene and Bolgheri wines), the driveway of cypresses and pines sets the scene and scent for the cinematic surroundings.
Do: Borrow one of the hotel’s mountain bikes for a safari around the vineyards so you get a sense of the rolling landscape. An organic farm and the Antinori estate are good stopping off points. L’Andana produces its own wine (Acqua Giusta) and a tasting (plus shipping a few cases) is recommended. Then there is the hammam and ESPA spa to soothe the cycling muscles, with a golf course, tennis courts and two swimming pools if further activity is required. Alternately a library and lovely reception area with bar give ample space for lounging – a sport at which we want to excel.
Eat: La Villa is bright and breezy, perfect for breakfast or al fresco lunches, while a former granary is the setting for dinner in La Trattoria – showcasing Enrico Bartolini’s Michelin-starred cuisine. The walk between the main hotel and the granary is off piste, so forget the heels. Cookery courses for guests are organised regularly and I came away with two recipes which have been used repeatedly. Off site, worth-visiting is Castiglione della Pescaia, as is a stroll along the near-deserted beaches.
Rooms: There are 33 rooms in rustic ochre and beige tones that blend Florentine silks, Frette linen, impressive blackout curtains and luxe Maison Francis Kurkdjian products. With such impeccable credentials, it’s no wonder there are so many repeat guests.
Tenuta la Badiola, Castiglione della Pescaia, Italy; www.andana.it.
To the Manor Born at Mount Juliet Estate
In a nutshell: Poised and polished, Mount Juliet is Irish country living at its best set
within a 500-acre estate dedicated to outdoor pursuits. Names of rooms and suites (Mr
Jinks, the Black Earl, Lady Helen …) give an inkling of the history of this gem, located
just outside Kilkenny.
Do: Be prepared for a fun-packed stay. Participate in the ancient sport of archery,
be dazzled by an impressive and entertaining display of falconry or take to the saddle and enjoy horse riding in the state-of-the-art equestrian centre. For something more sedate, spend a restful hour or two, reading the papers over morning coffee in The Major’s Bar – also the perfect setting for an after dinner night-cap.
Eat: Afternoon Tea is an experience to be savoured in the stunning Manor House. Enjoy lunch in the new restaurant at Hunters Yard, the latest addition to dining at Mount Juliet. Fine dine in the lovely Lady Helen, the estate’s Michelin-starred restaurant, where Kilkenny legends Henry Shelfin and Deirdre were regulars.
Rooms: With a hospitality tradition dating back to the 18th-century Mount Juliet has finessed the art of combining luxury with comfort. Rooms are pretty and luminous – a luxury we love when it comes to prepping for dinner.
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