| 16.8°C Dublin

Your own slice of Downton Abbey

IT'S a small comfort, but one of the nicer things about post-Celtic Tiger Ireland is the way hotels have changed. Service has improved, the welcome is warmer and more genuine, the staff more expert in highlighting the delights of your destination and surroundings.

The Radisson Farnham estate in Co Cavan is a great example. Just over an hour's drive from Dublin, it's got that great mix of four-star luxury and a bit of rural fun.

First impressions are of a grand, big old house (well, it is some 400 years old) on a sprawling country estate.

It's so big that, scarily, there's even a shuttle to get from the carpark to the hotel.

That said, you could take in the country air and walk it in less than five minutes.


We stayed in the modern wing, with a great view over the adjoining golf course (just keep the curtains closed; you're that close to the players).

Rooms are typical Radisson Blu standard -- you know it's going to be modern wood surroundings and a great night's sleep.

Our room had a dividing screen between the bath and the bedroom, so if a romantic night -- or just sheer exhibitionism -- is your thing, this is perfect.

If you just want some privacy, slide the screen and have some 'me' time.

Other features as standard include walk-in showers, wifi and flatscreen LCD televisions.

And if you've got the urge to splash out, eight of its 12 suites are situated in the historic Farnham House, so the restaurant's the kind of place where most of the customers have read Fifty Shades of Grey.

Buzzing and lively, it was filled with women on the weekend we dined.

Birthdays, girls' getaways, ladies who lunch, it's the kind of atmosphere you'd find in a high-end city restaurant -- without the price or the stuffiness. Or, seemingly, many men.

And the place to go after -- if it's not pelting down for the rest of the summer -- is the restaurant's old house courtyard, complete with mini fountain and fish-filled pond.

Prices are good too, with the steaks good value, and the wine list includes a Malbec that's a steal when compared to Dublin. Just don't tell them that...

My highlight, though, was the warren of cellars and tunnels that make up one of the main bars, the Wine Goose.

Underneath Farnham House is an array of underground tunnels which served as the kitchen and quarters for staff throughout the centuries.

It's got a touch of France about it, with its atmospheric nooks and crannies.

Nowadays, it's the perfect place to unwind at night (the chilled out music and cosy heat may make you doze off though).

Today, one of these tunnels located underneath the hotel's reception area houses the Wine Goose Cellar Bar where guests and visitors alike can enjoy a drink or two and step back in time.

This is a wonderfully interesting and atmospheric bar and is often used as a venue for wine-tasting evenings.


Back upstairs, there's the Botanica Bar -- an open place that's not my style, being more a girly pre- or post-dinner cocktail spot -- or you can simply unwind in the atmospheric Music Room, Games Room or Boudoir --it's your very own little Downton Abbey.

Throw in a nice pool and spa area -- and some really good deals -- and this might be the relaxing break you need, whatever the weather.