Beautiful Ballilogue: Cottage chic in one of Ireland's best-kept secrets
Short breaks in Ireland
Ballilogue is where grown-up getaway meets child-friendly mini-break, says Chrissie Russell.
Set the Mood
There's a fresh log on the woodburner, a bottle of Villa Maria chilling in the fridge, and I'm wrapped in a soft cashmere throw enjoying a good natter with my friend.
Safely tucked behind a balcony in the open-plan living room, our toddlers have played in the garden outside, built a train track around the coffee table, and are now curled up in a designer swivel chair watching Finding Dory on the DVD player.
We're in Ballilogue, a suite of three restored stone cottages stashed away in rural Kilkenny, and the perfect hybrid of grown-up getaway and child-friendly mini-break. The clochán (stone cottage) exteriors remain true to their 18th-century heritage, but inside is like walking into the chic calm of a Farrow & Ball colour chart.
When night falls, we're enveloped in the perfect peace of the countryside. It feels like the middle of nowhere, but Ballilogue is just a two-hour drive from Dublin.
Take the lazy option with dining. Ballilogue offers the option of a pre-arrival grocery shopping service and, for groups of four to 22, there's a local catering partner who'll supply delicious, locally sourced food - think stuffed free-range Carlow chicken, seasonal veg and wild berry cheesecake - to your door.
For groups of 20 or more, a private chef can be arranged for sumptuous buffet breakfasts, or three-course dining from €45 a head. If you fancy more pampering, on-site spa treatments can be arranged.
We stayed in The Loft, the smallest of three Ballilogue cottages. Guests can also opt for the four-bed Lodge, five-bed House or indeed all three (it sleeps 22 in total).
Another building, the Old Dairy, boasts a light-filled dining space, making Ballilogue a popular choice for festive family getaways, intimate weddings and office retreats.
There's also a gift shop, should you fancy styling your home with the clochán's knitted cushions.
Woodstock Gardens (woodstock.ie), just a 10-minute drive from Ballilogue, were once considered to be Ireland's finest Victorian gardens and, over the past decade, extensive restoration has restored them to their former glory (a further €200,000 investment is earmarked for 2017).
Walks down monkey puzzle-lined avenues, around rockeries, walled gardens, and the exotic arboretum, are all easily accessible for those with buggies.
The kids' playground, with its bouncy wooden bridges, towers and slides, ensures plenty of nap-inducing fun, leaving time for mums to hit the teashop for a quiet cuppa later. Just don't forget to bring €4 in coins to raise the car park barrier.
Kilkenny City is about 45 minutes from Ballilogue. We took a run around the castle estate and, though buggy-friendly cafés can be tricky to find, the Kilkenny Design Centre foodhall (kilkennydesign.com) across the road was an oasis of accessible tables, frothy lattes, berry smoothies and oozy caramel slices.
The entrance sign to Ballilogue is so tasteful and understated (like the property) that we sailed past it, only to be righted by a farmer further down the country lane. The Wi-Fi was patchy, but it felt like getting off the grid.
Get me there
From Dublin, take the N11 via Enniscorthy, exit towards New Ross on the N30, then take the R700 over the Red Ferry Bridge. After 2.5km, take the slip road on your left. Ballilogue (056 772-2118; ballilogue.com) lies 2km along on the right after a long, white-washed cottage.
The Loft costs from €200 per night for four in low season, with a minimum two-night stay on all properties. A small wedding service is also available for 30-60 guests. For more to see and do in Kilkenny, see visitkilkenny.ie.
New Ross is also just a short drive away.