WHILE I love the months of anticipation leading up to a long overdue holiday, I have to admit it’s the occasional mini-break in Ireland that really makes my heart lift.
Working in Dublin means it’s a treat when I get the chance to take a skip down the country, even when it’s only for an overnight stay.
It’s the perfect way to get away from the bustling rush-hour traffic, take a breath of fresh air, and be back before you’re ever missed.
Tankardstown House is located in Slane, Co Meath – less than an hour’s drive from Dublin – and I was delighted to finally gain an excuse to pay a proper visit.
Arriving in the early evening, my partner and I were just in time to take in the sweeping grounds and long driveway before darkness fell.
With walled gardens, an orangery and expansive lawns, Tankardstown has all the features you could wish for in a country manor house.
The comforting wintery smell of turf greeted me as I pushed the front door open, along with – to my great pleasure – a roaring fire in the small, intimate lobby.
The house is beautiful, with old period features, characteristic decor and furniture that you’re sure could tell a story or two.
We stayed in the Library Suite, which we later learned was one of the most recent rooms to be made into a guest suite. It had, until recently, been the reading room for guests staying at the house.
Its wide windows were draped with heavy curtains and the room’s main feature was easily the four-poster bed.
However, it wasn’t the huge gold plated mirror or the marble fireplace that took my breath away, but the stunning bathroom adjoining the room.
With a “his and hers” sink, a large open shower and a vintage-style standalone bathtub, we could easily have stepped right into an episode of Downton Abbey.
Other rooms in the main house were magnificent, combining all the charms you’d expect of a Georgian period house.
It was full of old-fashioned charm, leather chairs and warm welcomes – the ideal place to curl up with a good book and a china teacup in front of the fire.
However, that will have to wait until next time however, because before I knew it, it was time for dinner at Brabazon restaurant.
Just a short walk from the main house, the restaurant is tucked neatly in the Garden Village, which also offers guests the chance of enjoying a drink or – if you arrive early enough – afternoon tea in The Cellar.
Brabazon has been busy building a reputation for its delicious dishes, which use home-grown and locally-sourced ingredients. With head chef Richard Luckey at the helm, we made the most of the menu selection, opting for the Ardsallagh goat’s cheese mousse for starter.
For our main course, we enjoyed a fillet of hake with quinoa, apple and walnut, as well as a breast of duck with Morteau sausage. The food was tasty and fulfilling and was topped off nicely by a glass of good wine, great company and a pleasant atmosphere.
We finished our evening with a choice of two desserts – a banana souffle with salted caramel sauce and, a particular favourite, mango and coconut panna cotta.
After a relaxing slumber, I was reluctant to get out of the comfortable bed and even more sorry to say goodbye to the room.
I’ll be returning for my dose of fresh air before too long, only this time I’ll stay that bit longer. Oh, and I’ll bring that book …
Tankardstown was named AA Ireland Guest Accommodation of the Year for 2013/2014 in the recent AA Hospitality Awards.
For further information, or to book your break away, see www.tankardstown.ie, or call Tankardstown House at 041 982 4621.