Easy Escapes: Why Carton House is Ireland’s go-to for heritage-house luxury

Seeking a restorative stay on the Emerald Isle? Look no further than Carton House – Ireland’s historic bolthole for stylish, stressed-out urbanites

Carton House

Seeking a restorative stay on the Emerald Isle? Look no further than Carton House – Ireland’s historic bolthole for stylish, stressed-out urbanites

Carton House, Ireland: Why go

Delivering a five-star stay in the stunning countryside setting of Maynooth, County Kildare, Carton House is Ireland’s stylish answer to Downton Abbey. Think long riverside walks in the estate’s 1,100 acres of sweeping private parkland, fine-dining in the opulent Morrison Room, and restorative treatments in venue’s state-of-the-art spa. Oh, and there’s a new Whiskey Library to explore if you’re in the market for a post-dinner tipple, too. What’s not to love?

The vibe 

A storied Georgian jewel complete with sweeping staircases, Kilkenny limestone flooring and a bounty of aristo artworks, Carton House offers up more than eight centuries of history and architectural splendour. In the 12th century, it was the residence of the Lord of Maynooth; by 1963, it was a go-to holiday spot for Princess Grace Kelly and Prince Rainer of Monaco; in the early ’70s, Marianne Faithfull and Peter Sellers even called it home for three years. Now, thanks to an extensive, multimillion-pound makeover, Ireland’s first Fairmont resort delivers the perfect partnership of contemporary interiors (cue the sexy Courtyard cocktail bar) and country-estate elegance. In short: if you’re after Lady of the Manor vibes minus stuffy, old-school design, Carton House should be topping your radar.

Carton House

The rooms

Bijou they are not. I was lucky enough to stay in one of the hotel’s generously sized Garden Suites, which offered Pride and Prejudice-worthy views out across the lush-green grounds and boasted a separate parlour with an opulent open fireplace and period furniture. King-size beds cloaked in quality Egyptian sheets come as standard here – and you won’t be disappointed with the lavish marble bathrooms either. But, true to the Fairmont vision, modern conveniences haven’t been overlooked: expect USB charging points, in-room entertainment systems and an espresso machine for those all important morning mochas when you just want to pretend you’re Elizabeth Bennet for a few minutes before heading down for breakfast.

The food

With four dedicated dining spaces serving up regional plates for exacting palates, foodies won’t need to venture far for top-quality dishes. The fine-dining hotspot is undoubtedly the hotel’s decadently designed Morrison Room, which delivers an explosive culinary journey via an eight-course tasting menu. Dishes differ according to the season, but Kelly’s rope mussels, seaweed gnocchi and Wicklow Mountain wood pigeon are all favourites with repeat diners for good reason. I positively inhaled the panna cotta imbued with the estate’s own homegrown honey, and the focus on organic, Irish ingredients ensures each menu – whatever the time of year – will be a delight to discover. For something more low-key (yet equally delicious), try Kathleen’s Kitchen – a stylishly restored restaurant located in the house’s former servant’s quarters, which serves up contemporary plates and cool interiors. Elsewhere, there’s The Carriage House for relaxed bites after a round of golf on one of the estate’s two Championship courses, or wine and whiskey tastings in the Gentleman’s Club-style Whiskey Library or elegantly appointed Duke’s Rest. In need of a little something extra mid-afternoon? Head to the swish Courtyard Bar for a curated menu of cream teas, antipasti platters and cocktails for the ultimate heritage-house hit.

Carton House

The spa

Fans of Aromatherapy Associates and Margaret Dabbs are in luck, because Carton House Spa & Wellness – a seriously chic contemporary addition to the resort – is now home to both brands and delivers a carefully curated menu of treatments alongside the usual pool, steam, sauna and boutique-gym offerings. I plumped for the signature Ultimate Aromatherapy Experience – a 55-minute bliss-fuelled blend of Swedish massage, lymphatic drainage and neuromuscular techniques designed to dissolve emotional stress and all signs of physical tension. You choose your own oil according to your mood and let the aroma become part of the therapy. Shoulder knots firmly pummelled into extinction, I left the glow of the spa feeling like a new woman – and smelling absolutely divine. 

What to do

Walks, cycling, falconry, foraging, tennis tutorials, fishing: the world’s your oyster at Carton House and you can do as much – or as little – as you please. Keen to see more of County Kildare’s stunning emerald terrain, I booked onto one of Abbeyfield Farm Equestrian Centre’s popular hacks and enjoyed a leisurely canter through some of Ireland’s finest woodlands and farmlands, which sit just a 20-minute drive from Carton House. Meatballs – my grass-loving trusty stead for the day – proved the perfect guide, offering a fresh, adventurous perspective of the surrounding pastures, heather and golden-hued gorse. If you’re not one for pony treks, though, I’d thoroughly recommend hiring a 4x4 to explore the area on wheels. We hired a smart BMW X3 with Sixt Ireland (conveniently picking it up, and dropping it off at Dublin Airport) and enjoyed a tour of the county’s must-sees in luxurious style. Don’t miss St Brigid’s Cathedral in the heart of Kildare town, which boasts panoramic views from its 12th-century tower, or the exotic Japanese Gardens at the Irish National Stud – which also happens to be the beating heart of Ireland’s thoroughbred county. Given Carton House sits just a 40-minute-drive west of Dublin, hiring your own vehicle means you can pop into the capital for a spot of culture, too – proving you really can do as much – or as little – as you fancy either side of feasting.

How to book

Visit www.cartonhouse.com or call +353 (0)1 505 2000 for up-to-date room rates and booking enquiries; check out www.sixt.ie for car-rental options, which start from around €71 (or approximately £60) per day from Dublin Airport. 

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