THE Blue Book is regarded as the bible of Ireland’s best country house hotels – so the offer of an overnight stay at one of them was an opportunity not to be missed.
Nestled in the heart of the Hook Peninsula in Wexford is Dunbrody House, the luxurious country retreat run by Kevin and Catherine Dundon.
The old Georgian residence boasts a grand entrance, a cocktail bar and a dramatically opulent dining room, and with the addition of a cookery school and a spa has become something of a mecca for foodies and a hotspot for honeymooners.
The hotel opened in 1997 and was named Luxury Country House of the Year by the Luxury Travel Guide in 2016 – and it’s easy to see why.
There is no formal ‘reception’ desk, just an inviting foyer with a book where guests can leave their comments, and a very warm welcome from Catherine and the team.
The rooms are everything you’d expect; well-appointed and spacious with high ceilings and intricate cornice work, beautifully decorated, yet with all mod cons including orthopaedic mattresses, coffee machine, iPod docking station, Damana Earth & Sun toiletries and full-size bath.
As you’d expect, dinner in the Harvest Room restaurant is a culinary experience to be savoured thanks to the food, the service and the ambience created by the large roaring fire.
Hannah and April were attentive without being intrusive and their knowledge of both the food and drinks menu was impressive to say the least. A delicious amuse bouche of bream with beetroot offered a hint of what was to come.
The wild mushroom soup with truffle oil was literally bursting with flavour, but it was upstaged by the roasted hake with tenderstem broccoli, celeriac and mussel cream, which was to die for.
Dessert was a difficult choice between beetroot cake with cream cheese ice cream and walnut tuille, and sweetcorn pavlova with honey madeleine and honey confit egg yolk.
If in doubt try both, I always say …
After a relaxing night’s sleep and an excellent breakfast it was time for some pampering in the spa where Laura unleashed a glorious cocktail of oils to administer a facial combined with a back, neck and shoulder massage.
“We use Aromatherapy Essentials which is a fabulous range,” she explained as the deliciously heady scent of bergamot filled the room.
“The nice thing about them is that they are not overpowering, and they are 100% natural.”
With 300 acres Dunbrody really does feel like another world – converted stables are home to the cookery school and it even has its own gastro pub, The Local.
If you want to leave its cocooning warmth, which is unlikely, the lighthouse at Hook Peninsula is a must-see.
Catherine and Kevin have been at Dunbrody for more than 20 years and they always manage to make time to chat to their guests no matter how busy things get behind the scenes.
Before I left with batteries recharged, they walked me around the courtyard garden which has just been replanted after the damage wreaked by the snow and drought last year.
“We knocked a wall which was blocking the light just to open things out a bit,” explained Catherine. “We’re using the salvaged bricks around the flower beds.”
Kevin added: “This is a gorgeous spot. It’s a lovely place to sit and have a drink of a summer’s evening, or even have your dinner out here.”
Go see for yourself: B&B prices start at €95 with a two-night getaway with B&B and one dinner priced at €395 per person.
For further information, see www.dunbrodyhouse.com.