The Getaway: Tankardstown
Short breaks in Ireland
Tankardstown is the perfect destination for a special occasion, says Rachel Dugan. And the food is delicious too...
Set the mood
Crunching over gravel as we drive up the sweeping, tree-lined driveway to Tankardstown, a beautifully restored country house and estate set just a few minutes outside Slane, it's hard not to come over all Downton Abbey.
Rather than a line of perfectly turned-out staff waiting to greet us, however, it's ageing golden labrador Millie who ambles across the lawn to say hi. Once inside, the grandeur gives way to something far more homely and inviting, too. The perfectly pitched decor, a stylish blend of comfy sofas, gorgeous antiques and rich soft furnishings, curls around you like a warm embrace. It feels like the ultimate country retreat for stressed-out couples seeking a slice of solitude.
The main house boasts seven tastefully decorated rooms. We stayed in the plush and palatial Master Suite: a big, indulgent space with two bathrooms and a dressing room that would easily accommodate a one-bed city apartment. The rooms are a mix of old-world charm and high-end luxury, with Nespresso machines, flat-screen TVs and state-of-the-art bathrooms sitting very comfortably alongside restored period features.
If you're looking for even more privacy, or are on a family getaway, then opt for one of the seven courtyard cottages, which lay on the same hi-spec mix of old and new - albeit in a more family-friendly set-up, with sitting rooms and kitchens in one or two-bedroom configurations.
Rob Krawczyk at work
If you're a foodie, then Tankardstown is probably already on your radar.
Tucked away behind the main house in one of the estate's many converted outbuildings is Brabazon, a culinary hotspot that has been the subject of rave reviews since Rob Krawczyk (above) joined as head chef.
If you're looking for a treat, and you have the stamina, then try the seven-course tasting menu (€70).
If that sounds a little too rich, then a sparkling high tea (€50 for two), served in the estate's quaint tea garden, is a beautiful way to kick off your stay. The delicious baked goods all come from one of Tankardstown's sister businesses in the village itself, Slane Bake (slanebake.com).
Tankardstown sits in the lush Boyne Valley, one focal point of the new 'Ireland's Ancient East' initiative - a kind of Wild Atlantic Way for archaeology buffs. A visit to the Co Meath estate is a perfect excuse to check out some of the Eastern seaboard's many ancient gems - including Newgrange (heritageireland.ie; €6/€3), a mere 20-minute drive from the estate.
If you don't fancy leaving the grounds, then hop on one of the Blue Book property's free bikes - its 80-acre estate includes woodland, a walled garden and parkland, all ripe for exploration.
No pool or leisure facilities, although I did hear rumours of a secluded hot tub on the grounds. A small outbuilding has been turned into a treatment room called the Hideout, but it really is very small and can only accommodate one guest at a time. If you want to get on the treatment table in the run-up to dinner, best book early.
Get me there
Tankardstown (tankardstown.ie) is in Rathkenny, Slane, and is less than an hour's drive from Dublin. It has B&B with afternoon tea, complimentary entry to Newgrange, a Hot Stone Massage and a seven-course tasting menu in Brabazon from €199pp midweek. Weekend deals are available on its website. See also irelands-blue-book.ie.
A small reception room has been turned into a cosy honour bar for guests, so make sure to pop in before dinner for a chance to pull your own pint and mingle with other guests. There's also a gorgeous outdoor space where you can enjoy an al fresco tipple.