A staycation so good you'll never want to fly abroad again...
Does anyone else feel like they are stuck in some sort of alternate reality where 2019 never really ended and 2020 hasn't really yet begun?
It's been raining for what feels like seven hours and 15 days nonstop, and our preferred escapism of social media has become such a dodgy cesspit it's actually getting us down more than lifting us up.
Never has Dowager Countess from Downton Abbey's "What is a weekend?" question felt so fitting. It's time to indulge in some serious self-care and me-time, which is why we're booking a staycation. Go on, you know you deserve one too...
Castle Durrow is 300-years-old and offers a sanctuary away from the stressors of everyday life, nestled in the Laois countryside. Photo: Castle Durrow
We're booking into the luxurious 18th-century Castle Durrow in Co Laois to feel like a lord and lady for the weekend.
The castle was originally built in the early 1700s as a family home for the Flower family. They continued to expand and improve the estate over 214 years, until they were forced to give up the manor when the banks foreclosed in 1922. The estate has had many incarnations since: it lay idle for many years until it was transformed into a convent in 1929. It was later a primary and secondary school.
In the 1990s, Peter and Shelly Stokes purchased Castle Durrow and began an almost four-year renovation. Keeping as many original features as possible, the pair designed every room in the castle themselves.
Handpicked from around the world, family heirlooms and antiques are dotted around the building. The original cantilever grand staircase is located in the west wing of the mansion, and the original black oak ceiling beams are visible in the oriental rooms after they were discovered when the old roof was being replaced. The Stokes family still manage the day-to-day running of the castle.
Relax and rejuvenate
The Ashbrook Suite at Castle Durrow has amazing views of the sprawling grounds. Photo: Castle Durrow
You are spoilt for choice with 47 magnificent rooms available at Castle Durrow. You will be transported back 300 years – in the best way – in the luxurious Master rooms on the first floor. Feel like the lady of the manor in an exquisite hand-crafted four-poster bed draped in beautifully soft fabrics and framed by large sash windows.
Each room is packed with family antiques and personally picked accessories. Floral themes bring the garden into the castle. The view of the gardens from the Ashbrook Suite, pictured above, will make you never want to leave.
Every room in the castle boasts a stunning view of either the surrounding countryside or the gardens.
The opulent Oriental rooms at the top of the main house under the eaves of the castle will transport you back to the extravagance that was oriental China. These rooms give a panoramic view over the surrounding countryside, with vibrant charming decor and furniture. The rooms on the south side overlook the gardens and the Ballagh, Durrow’s beautiful hill range. The furniture is uniquely Oriental antique, sourced overseas in the tradition of the big house. The wallpaper is an Oriental Chinoiserie.
If you're looking for the ultimate romantic getaway, the Roseyard rooms are located in the rose garden on the ground floor. Each room is individually decorated to give a sense of different countries, to truly give a sense of stepping out of everyday life. Each of the courtyard rooms have king-sized beds, antique furniture and views of the beautiful rose garden. These rooms lead onto the walled garden with the herbaceous double borders and the kitchen garden and orchard, pet ducks and chickens.
If you couldn't quite manage to leave all of the madness of everyday life at home, the Heritage rooms located in the west wing of the castle are deluxe rooms for families, including twin rooms. They are beautifully and individually decorated, some with four-poster beds and some with French cherry wood sleigh beds.
Staff at Castle Durrow want you to relax and leave the hustle and bustle of everyday life at home. Tea and coffee is available for delivery to your room at any time.
Dine like a lady
Head chef Graham serves up delicious mouthwatering meals daily. Photo: Castle Durrow
There are myriad dining options available at Castle Durrow. On special offer right now is a bed and breakfast option, see here.
If you're planning a romantic getaway with your significant other, the castle has made it the most relaxing and intimate atmosphere, with no mobile phones or outside noise to distract you.
Head chef Graham and his team serve international favourites with a Castle Durrow twist on the tasty casual menu. There are daily specials and old-time favourites for lunch and dinnertime. The dining room is a mobile phone-free area, and those travelling with children should note that under 12s are not seated after 7pm.
After you've had the most relaxing night's sleep in your opulent suite, enjoy only the finest produce on the extensive breakfast menu, served until 11am. The menu is a perfect fusion of cultures, where the traditional Irish breakfast sits comfortably next to a lavish continental buffet.
The jams are made at the castle, and the breads are made daily by the chefs.
Garden of Eden
Dust off the cobwebs with a garden tour at Castle Durrow. Photo: Castle Durrow
Unwind with a garden tour at Castle Durrow guided by head gardener Bart Howard. The rejuvenating tour covers most of the 50 acres with emphasis on the beautiful south gardens, the stunning courtyard, the intimate walled garden with its double herbaceous border, herb parterre, the orchard and vegetable garden.
Outdoorsy guests can also opt for a loop walk around Durrow, which starts at the castle and leads either into town or down to the River Erkina.
Handmade jams and breads, as well scones and pastries are made daily on-site at Castle Durrow. Photo: Castle Durrow
After you've worked up an appetite on your relaxing walk, why not treat yourself to a plentiful afternoon tea?
Guests are treated to an afternoon tea feast of soup, followed by a selection of gourmet sandwiches, fresh scones with cream and homemade confiture, delicious French pastries and cakes.
Anyone celebrating a special occasion can add bubbles to their afternoon tea.
If this opulence sounds like something you need in your life, why not see what special offers Castle Durrow is currently running? From a two-night seasonal delight stay, to a sneaky Sundays offer, there is a menu and stay to suit every staycation and budget.
And if you're planning something a little grander than a staycation, Castle Durrow also offers archery and clay pigeon shooting for groups of 10 or more. There is a private dining area which gives Downton Abbey a run for its money, and the manor estate is of course a popular wedding destination. See here for more details.