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Hotel Review: Marlfield House 'Pond Suites' are the Insta-friendly future of country house stays

The Duck Restaurant and new Pond Suites are taking a classic Blue Book country house and turning it into an Insta-friendly escape for a new generation

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The Pond Suites at Marlfield House, Co Wexford

The Pond Suites at Marlfield House, Co Wexford

The Pond Suites at Marlfield House. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile

The Pond Suites at Marlfield House. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile

Nature-inspired décor in the Pond Suites

Nature-inspired décor in the Pond Suites

Marlfield House and its Turner-style conservatory. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile

Marlfield House and its Turner-style conservatory. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile

Spiced lamb kofta with beetroot purée, hummus, tomato tapenade, salad and pitta bread from The Duck restaurant

Spiced lamb kofta with beetroot purée, hummus, tomato tapenade, salad and pitta bread from The Duck restaurant

Inside 'The Nest', one of the Pond Suites at Marlfield House. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile

Inside 'The Nest', one of the Pond Suites at Marlfield House. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile

The Conservatory Restaurant at Marlfield House

The Conservatory Restaurant at Marlfield House

Two of the Pond Suites at Marlfield House. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile

Two of the Pond Suites at Marlfield House. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile

Marlfield House. Photo: Ireland's Blue Book

Marlfield House. Photo: Ireland's Blue Book

One of the new Pond Suites at Marlfield House. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile

One of the new Pond Suites at Marlfield House. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile

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The Pond Suites at Marlfield House, Co Wexford

Think Marlfield House, and what comes to mind?


A beautiful, 19th-century country house? Gorgeous gardens?

This Gorey getaway is well known as a classic Blue Book stay. What you may not know, however, is that behind the elegant, Regency-style exterior, a once-in-a-generation gear shift is under way.

Former yard buildings have been transformed into one of the best restaurants, pound-for-pound, within detouring distance of the N11 (The Duck, with its lovely garden-facing terrace). It aims to be carbon-neutral by 2022, a partially open-air “glass box” yoga and gym studio is in the works, and five new, self-contained Pond Suites have popped up among the oaks and ferns.

It’s a thoughtful, innovative — and yes, Insta-friendly — model of where country houses could go next... and not just in Ireland.

The Rating: 8.5/10

Arrival & location

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Marlfield House and its Turner-style conservatory. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile

Marlfield House and its Turner-style conservatory. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile

Marlfield House and its Turner-style conservatory. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile

Marlfield is stashed away just outside Gorey, Co Wexford, about an hour and a half from Dublin.

It feels more remote, however; big trees soon muffle the thrum of traffic, and the original house and its beautiful brickwork have a real storybook quality. You park up, step out, and go... aaah. How do the gardens look so good? Who built the conservatory? Is that a moorhen paddling on the pond?

Check-in further transports you. Crossing a short walkway bridging two water features, you step into a crescent-shaped annex crammed with antiques. It’s quite the arrival. 8/10

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Service & Style

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Nature-inspired décor in the Pond Suites

Nature-inspired décor in the Pond Suites

Nature-inspired décor in the Pond Suites

Service sits in that sweet spot between professional and friendly, as is the Blue Book way. We’re personally walked to our suite; photocopied notes are quickly brought out when I ask about the history of the house and, when it rains that evening, there’s a call 20 minutes before dinner wondering if we’d like umbrellas dropped down.

Marlfield was bought by Mary and Ray Bowe in 1977 and today is run by their daughters, Laura and Margaret. The pair clearly know what works, from period furnishings to garden design, and have built up a loyal, discerning customer base (there are not one, but two Rolls-Royces outside when we visit). But they also know which way the winds are blowing — a fascinating balancing act. 8/10

The Rooms

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One of the new Pond Suites at Marlfield House. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile

One of the new Pond Suites at Marlfield House. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile

One of the new Pond Suites at Marlfield House. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile

There are 18 rooms and suites in the main house, mixing antiques, marble bathrooms and more, but we’re here for the new arrivals. The larch-clad Pond Suites (pictured) are dotted around the water, and the spacious (50sq m) interiors take loose design inspiration from the natural world — woodland and russet colours for The Fox, for example, or a giant mural of a peacock taking up an entire wall in The Peacock (there’s an actual peacock on our deck when we arrive).

The suites, designed by Laura, blend contemporary ease and sustainability — in the zinc-clad roofs, for example — with country-luxe touches like coir rugs, super-king beds, fresh orchids and Irish textiles. Big, Crittall-style windows and small portholes blur the lines between the lush nature outside and botanical motifs in the interior designs... at one point, I find myself watching a wren for almost a minute through our bathroom window.

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Inside 'The Nest', one of the Pond Suites at Marlfield House. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile

Inside 'The Nest', one of the Pond Suites at Marlfield House. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile

Inside 'The Nest', one of the Pond Suites at Marlfield House. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile

Our shower felt large for its space (needing towels on the floor to absorb some overflow), and you’d best draw the curtains before really kicking back — other Pond Suite guests can pass by closely on the pathways. But all told, the suites are genius additions that complement the old house and chime with our times. Guests are secluded, immersed in nature, and it’s easy to imagine the eye-catching stays pinging around WhatsApp groups. 9/10

Food & Drink

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Spiced lamb kofta with beetroot purée, hummus, tomato tapenade, salad and pitta bread from The Duck restaurant

Spiced lamb kofta with beetroot purée, hummus, tomato tapenade, salad and pitta bread from The Duck restaurant

Spiced lamb kofta with beetroot purée, hummus, tomato tapenade, salad and pitta bread from The Duck restaurant


The Duck, a 2015 reimagination of old yard buildings, is a brilliant mix of casual and class. There’s no overt fanciness here, just a complete sense of confidence and an idea that absolutely works. Menus draw on local gardens, countryside and seas in a hymn to modern Irish food — a pulled pork flatbread, fish sharing board and spiced lamb kofta (above) were just some of our picks. Fellow diners included local families, day-trippers and a group of girlfriends sipping cocktails on the terrace, and staff in jeans and branded aprons glued it together with aplomb. Lunch costs from €27 for two courses; dinner €35 — both great value.

The Conservatory strikes a different tone. French-influenced fine dining is the offering here, and it’s well executed, with dishes like a roast rack of Slaney Valley lamb and Kilmore Quay halibut tastily rendered on a five-course menu (€67pp). Coeliac needs were handled well, and the glass structure and frescoes add to the theatre.

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The Conservatory Restaurant at Marlfield House

The Conservatory Restaurant at Marlfield House

The Conservatory Restaurant at Marlfield House

I just didn’t... love it. Clearly, The Duck and Conservatory are two very different offerings designed to complement each other. They do that, and many guests love the old-school service and rich, retro “cuisine” (I’d definitely advise dressing up). But all over Ireland, the casual-dining revolution is challenging traditional rooms to evolve, and I think others may find it a little too hushed and stuffy.

Personally, I’d love to see Marlfield take a fresh swing at The Conservatory — not a radical overhaul, but a creative update that respects country-house dining while bringing it into the 2020s, with a splash of va-va-voom to the menu and a gentle injection of energy to the room. 7/10

The bottom line

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Two of the Pond Suites at Marlfield House. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile

Two of the Pond Suites at Marlfield House. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile

Two of the Pond Suites at Marlfield House. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile

Ireland is lucky to have Marlfield House. Like Dunbrody and Gregans Castle, this is a uniquely Irish take on the country house, and its blend of old and new, and spirited search for sustainability, makes for an inspiring and reviving break. I can’t wait to see what the Bowes do next.

Rates

B&B in the Pond Suites costs €498 for two, including dinner in The Duck, or €554 with dinner in The Conservatory. Pól was a guest of the hotel. marlfieldhouse.com

Insider tip

A two-bed suite, The Nest, sleeps up to four adults in two double rooms. B&B with dinner starts from €718 in total for four (€179.50pp).

Local 101

Walk off the calories with ideas from wexfordtrails.ie, or check lovegorey.ie for events in north Wexford.


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