Wednesday 21 March 2018

Hotel deal of the week: Carton House Estate

Carton House
Carton House

Sinead Van Kampen

Carton House is a pretty grand affair, cast in stone among eleven hundred acres of greenery, the former country seat of the mighty FitzGerald family is a pretty impressive place.

Even before you reach the Palladian pile that is the house and hotel, setting eyes on the lakes, boathouses, follies and rolling greens that make up the grounds is enough to give you a hint of the treasures that might be waiting.

Although the old house itself could be straight from the pages of a novel, the hotel complex also caters for modern comforts. It is often said by owners of country houses that they are the custodians of something larger than the sum of their parts and despite the fact that a whole wing of Carton is a modern addition, two wings of the present complex sit side by side in a way that deserves some credit.

Though the country house is the centerpiece, it is the newer buildings and converted outbuildings that make up the bulk of the guest rooms and suites for visitors. Connected by glass walkways and making use of the grounds and gardens the comforts of the new are unashamedly modern, yet take very little away from the charm of the original building. Depending on budget and availability most rooms are in the new wing rather than the old house and prices midweek start from €80 pps.

As it stands either location provides a good standard of bedroom. Unlike many hotels of this type, getting a room in the modern addition of the hotel will not mean getting an upstairs-downstairs divide on the subject of quality. Luxury en-suites, luxury beds and good decor feature for the new as well as old.

As good as the new may be, it is still the country house that was the main selling point for my visit and though the glass walled restaurant is a decent spot to dine and the ambient sounds of the spa a good place to relax, being in the belly of the beast is something else entirely. Walking room by room with the late evening sun falling through sash windows makes you realise just how special the house actually is.

In essence the food and service at Carton are four star but it is the history and the character of the house that really make it so unique. As most of the activity takes place in the newer wings, the old house has a quiet atmosphere which allows guests the full country house experience. Carton feels quiet and private.

Going room to room through the richly detailed music rooms, barrel vaulted baroque salons and a library room floor to ceiling with leather bound books leaves a lasting impression. Original rooms like the estate kitchens have been altered little and converted into dignified dining areas which preserve the original features. Even the bell room for attendant servants of has been preserved (along with it's secret paneled door) as a waiting room for hotel guests.

Where the paintings are too valuable or the fabric too delicate, viewings of the estates most unique features are by prior appointment. It isn't by choice that some of the house is kept under lock and key, but following a simple booking at guest relations the doors swing open to a magnificent Chinese Room decorated for the visit of Queen Victoria. Carton House will leave you shaking your head and wishing you could stay longer - it is a very rare place.

What's the deal :

I took a two night weekend package at Carton House in Kildare. Priced at €205 pps, the package included a three course dinner at the Lindon Tree Restaurant, breakfast on both mornings and full access to the hotel spa and health club facilities. The package is currently available on the Carton Castle website.

Independent Rating :

Room : 4 / 5

Food : 4 / 5

Service : 4 / 5

Atmosphere : 5 / 5

Value for Money : 4 / 5

Local attractions :

Two championship golf courses on the Carton Estate.

Trout and Salmon fishing on the Rye River.

Clay pigeon shooting.

4x4 Adventure course on the Carton Estate.

The Japanese Gardens at the Irish National Stud.

Bru na Boinne - the ancient royal burial site.

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