The Getaway: Dunbrody House, Co. Wexford
Vicki Notaro checks into one of Ireland's finest country houses.
Set the mood
Pulling up at a beautiful Georgian mansion just off the Wexford coast is one thing...
Spying a fairy-light strewn outhouse that turns out to be a charming local gastropub is another entirely. Our first impression of Kevin and Catherine Dundon's Dunbrody Country House Hotel is an intriguing mix of opulence and casual fun.
The dichotomy is welcome, because we wanted an alternative venue for a romantic, pre-Valentine's Day getaway; somewhere both relaxing and adventurous, which is no mean feat.
Dunbrody does both. Traditional romantic elements are immediately revealed in the charm of the 1830s building with its elegant decor and luxury vibe. Romance blossoms while clinking pint glasses over burgers as much as it does over champagne and foie gras, so it was great to scoff wood-fired pizza and ha'penny wafers mere metres away.
A welcoming fire at Dunbrody...
Dunbrody is not just a country pile - it also has a cookery school and spa. One-day culinary courses cost €175, but I went for a full body massage. Why? Because I'd just spent an hour on a quad bike (pictured above).
The Quad Attack (quadattack.ie) experience in nearby New Ross costs €42pp for an hour, and you'll be covered in mud by the end of it - but also completely exhilarated. We didn't know what to expect, but ended up very impressed with each other's skills. My other half definitely changed his view after I beat him in an uphill race!
The signature treatment (€100) was welcome bliss after our adventure on four wheels.
Venture to nearby Tintern Abbey (heritageireland.ie) and check out the walled gardens at Colclough (colcloughwalledgarden.com). Entry is only €3 for adults, and the bright flowers and lake views can't fail to reawaken your romantic instincts.
Read more: 10 great reasons to visit Waterford
Dunbrody House is ideally positioned for exploring Wexford and the Hook Peninsula, and thankfully, the Sunny Southeast lived up to its reputation during our visit.
Hook Lighthouse (hookheritage.ie) isn't to be missed - gorgeous views combine with the opportunity to spot some seals (and even whales if you're lucky) here. Nearby Duncannon has a beach that's perfect for a romantic stroll (and selfie opp).
While you're there, pop into Roche's bar (sqiglrestaurant.com) for seafood chowder, sizzling prawns or bangers and mash, washed down with a warming whiskey.
Dunbrody by night
We found the wifi signal quite weak in Dunbrody, and it didn't work all over the property - ideal if you're looking to get away from it all, but frustrating if you're relying on a stronger connection.
Get me there
From Dublin, take the M9 to New Ross - it's a far quicker journey than the N11 and shaved about an hour off our driving time on the way home, a trip of 110 minutes door to door.
Dunbrody House (dunbrodyhouse.com) has a Winter Quickie special bundling B&B with a five-course seasonal menu and 25pc off spa treatments from €125pp. You can book with Ireland's Blue Book (irelands-blue-book.ie) too. For more on Wexford, see discoverireland.ie.
Dubbed Ireland's most haunted house, Loftus Hall (loftushall.ie) reopens for tours in March. Ghost hunters the world over have visited thanks to the legend of a hoofed man who called to the door in the 1700s, played cards, and disappeared through a hole in the roof. Yikes!