By Isabel Conway –
Lyrath Estate is set in over 170 acres of pristine lawns and woods, a stone’s throw from Kilkenny in the middle of Ireland’s Ancient East. Dating from the mid-1800s the sumptuous hotel is a re-modelled design of an earlier building created by a foremost Victorian era architect.
Lyrath Estate is especially famous for its award winning Oasis spa. The 5- star property of 139 bedrooms is perennially popular for ‘girls away’ breaks and romantic getaways, but also for family long weekends (lots for the kids to do, including their own club with its in-house cinema and console room.
Upmarket escorted coach tours love this stop off and Lyrath is also a mainstay of weddings and conferences. Ireland’s economic crash claimed a lot of victims and Lyrath also had its difficulties, going into receivership with massive debts. But the hotel complex weathered the storm and over €5 million was recently spent on improvements.
It offers easy comfort and nice touches which we enjoyed on a 24 hour break here. The views from our comfortable suite are lovely, every shade of green in spring-summer and spectacular autumn vistas when the leaves turn to golden.
My blissful soak in the warm hydrotherapy pool, open on one side to view the gardens beyond whilst we’re pummelled and rained on by massage jets and mini waterfalls, was another highlight.
The contemporary facilities of bedrooms, bars and restaurant are connected by a long atrium style hall. On arrival a trio of giant Greek Goddesses grabs attention as does stained glass and marble ornamentation that would not look out of place in ancient Rome..
The temptation to join afternoon tea tables enjoying lavish fare off tiered cake plates in a restful corner overlooking the lawns is pretty overwhelming. But we resist since an early dinner beckons. Afterward
By late afternoon it’s time for my facial while my companion takes the measure of the facilities, including a 17 metre swimming pool, gym and fitness centre. Patricia, my therapist, performs her magic applying cold and hot cloths to stimulate circulation, followed by deep cleansing and face polishing that leaves my skin feeling ultra clean and velvety. A quick foot massage is an added treat. The Oasis staff are celebrating the news that their therapist Jessica has just won the All Ireland body massage award with her energy balancing body treatment.
A big American tour group are dining in the main restaurant so we decide on the less formal quieter Lyrath Grill that has an open kitchen and friendly service. We share a smooth Chicken Liver Pate with sourdough, pear and Cumberland sauce and delicious spicy chicken satay skewers. For mains I opt for grilled organic Donegal Salmon, accompanied by grilled asparagus spears and yummy truffle potatoes on the side. Ireland is renowned for the quality of its fish so I was confident it would be great and it was. He made fairly light work of a locally farmed Mohawk steak (400gm) meanwhile and we could only manage one pudding between us – delicious Baileys and White chocolate cheesecake with salted caramel ice-cream.
Like many a story surrounding Ireland’s great houses Lyrath has an interesting but sad history. Sir Charles Denny Wheeler-Cuffe of Lyrath had his eye on one Pauline Villiers Stuart daughter of Lord Stuart de Decies, proposing to her for the second time after she had turned him down resolutely before. She was in love with a railway engineer who came to a sad end. To heal her broken heart Pauline’s father decided to permit Sir Charles to marry her insisting that the no frills house be made grand enough “for a lady of rank to live in”. The couple do not appear to have lived happily ever after.
Work on the house took many years to complete and was so costly that Sir Charles’s finances never recovered. By the time he died in 1915 there was nothing left. Pauline had died childless many years earlier without ever enjoying an idyllic life in her beautiful mansion.
Whilst at Lyrath an excursion to nearby Kilkenny is a must do, exploring the 12th century Medieval Mile stretching from the magnificent Butler Castle to monumental Cathedral of Saint Canice. Don’t miss Ireland’s oldest working brewery either. I was founded by John Smithwick in 1710 on the site of a 13th c Abbey whose monks had been brewing beer until Henry VIII’s reign of terror against Catholicism expelled them. The old brewery complex( www.smithwicksexperience.com) is one of Kilkenny’s most visited tourist attractions . It’s a fun and informative outing ( €15) which includes a pint of ale and a 50 minute tour in which you learn about the brewing process, the history of the brewery and its founding family.
Lyrath Estate (www.lyrath.com) offers tempting special packages so check out its website for the latest ones. One night bed & Breakfast, one early bird dinner, a light healthy lunch and complimentary thermal pass from only €128.50 p.p. Getting to Lyrath: from Dublin 1 hour 30 mins (129 km) via M9 . Lyrath Estate is on the Paulstown Road less than 2 km from Kilkenny . See also www.visitkilkenny.ie