Sumptuous Staycay

Apparently, the romantic seven star staycay's all the rage for youngish power couples who leave the children behind, re-allocate the funds they would've spent on airfares for a city break abroad to their accommodation bill and head straight for the likes of Ballyfin, only an hour away from Dublin.? Having spent the night in a golden Faberge egg of a bed overlooking the stately grounds, it's not hard to see why. There not being a child in sight (under 12s are banned unless you take the whole house) is a rare thing in this country and not altogether unwelcome (particularly if you've left your own behind).

Before and After albums in the drawing room show the vast scale of works required to transform the gloomy old Patrician Brothers school into the most lavish country hotel in Ireland. Parquetry, plaster and mahogany details have been restored with an unparalleled attention to detail- and the work goes on, quietly, elsewhere on the estate. It's no wonder that everyone seems to dream of getting married here of late.

Tea in the immaculately restored Turner conservatory is an absolute must (perfect salmon sandwiches) as are breakfast (truffled Benedict), lunch (maybe a picnic atop the castle folly) and dinner (degustation with excellent wine pairings), for that matter.? No one seems remotely tempted to leave the grounds- far better to grab a pair of pristine wellies (and a golf cart or tandem) to explore the grounds and/or partake of shootin?, fishin?, archery and even dress-up (the owners bought a collection of costumes from the Chicago Opera and guests are encouraged to channel their inner Callas and pitch up for dinner in character). ??There are plenty of other toys, too - a spa, snooker room, tennis, gym and warm-as-a-bath indoor pool. No one could get through them all, try as they might.

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Ballyfin Demesne, Ballyfin, Port Laois, County Laois, Ireland, tel 05787 55866 . Rates from €975 (double), all inclusive.

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