We were surprised to find security gates when we arrived at Monart, but as they slowly closed behind us, my husband and I really felt as if we were leaving it all behind. This upmarket spa on the outskirts of Enniscorthy is designed around a fine Georgian country house at the end of a tree-lined drive. As soon as we turned the last corner, a valet was waiting to park our car.
The old house leads into the more modern part of the hotel, where we checked in with a refreshing fruit smoothie. The lobby was dotted with white-robed guests lounging around in comfy chairs. There was something amiss though; it was strangely quiet. Then, it hit us -- no children allowed. It was the sound of silence.
Room to book
Each of the 68 rooms in the modern part of the hotel has a private balcony with either a woodland or a lakeside view. Our room, with its lovely high ceilings and spacious bed dressed in 300 thread-count linen, overlooked the woods, which we enjoyed from our balcony. For something really special, splash out on one of the two luxury suites in the old house with antique four-poster beds, free-standing baths and views stretching over historic Vinegar Hill.
What to do
Relax! Monart is undeniably one of the leading spas in the world. I went for a tension-release massage (€65), which lasted 30 minutes and was executed with just the right amount of pressure. During the 50-minute facial (€90) that followed, the therapist gave my skin a thorough analysis, while my husband opted for an Aromatic Moor Mud Back Wrap (€55) which, according to the brochure, promises to remove tension and toxins and induce a state of deep relaxation. I think they might be under-selling it. He floated out of the treatment room with his eyes half-closed and a blissfully relaxed grin.
Despite the high price of treatments, use of the thermal spa is included in the room rate and you could happily spend a whole afternoon hopping between the saunas, the caldarium, the knieppe cure pool, the salt grotto and the hydrotherapy pool, cooling yourself off with ice bucket showers in between.
Adults. When we stayed, the crowd was predominantly couples of all ages and lots of mums down for a pampering weekend without the kids. There were also a few women who seemed to be on their own. A solo trip is definitely something I would consider.
I give it 10 out of 10. The Monart experience is all about spoiling yourself and I reckon a two-night stay easily equates to a week in any other hotel on the chill-out scale. You don't even have to get dressed in the morning. Guests are encouraged to stay in their robes -- except during dinner, of course.
There are three options for dinner: the garden lounge, the à la carte restaurant and, from 7pm-8.30pm, the main restaurant has a market menu for €37.50. The lovely garden lounge has a light menu of soups and sandwiches during the day. A two-course dinner costs between €55 and €80, so it's not cheap.
For starters, I had the organic chicken liver pâté, which was such a success that I had it again the next day. My husband declared the spicy chicken wings to be excellent. For mains, I had ravioli and he had a cheeseburger, both cooked to perfection. The next night we ate à la carte in the formal restaurant, which was exquisite and comparable to the best restaurants in any Irish city, in both quality and, alas, price.
Leaving. But Monart is a pricey place and you have to wonder if their rates need to be revised for these times.
One night's B&B costs from €95 per person sharing. Check the website for the best deals.
Monart Destination Spa, The Still, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford. Tel: 053 923 8999; monart.ie.