As some of you may have noticed from my social media, I turned the ripe old age of 33 last week. I know, I know who would have guessed 😉. I am convinced my frown lines have definitely become more prominent, but thank god the grey hairs are behaving themselves. It only seems like yesterday I turned 21, blinked and have somehow managed to find myself quickly hitting my mid thirties. Anyway, enough of me feeling old! The hubby had enquired a few weeks ago, like any diligent husband would, what exactly I would like for my birthday. As I have a mound of beauty products to get through and I basically live in my pj’s nothing really stood out. We moved back in with my parents last year to save for a house and to also help ease the burden whilst I continue to fight Lyme disease. As much as I love my family the idea of having a little break away from them and well everything else really appealed to me. I had been browsing some of the deal sites to see if anything would jump out at me or catch my eye. Lo and behold as soon as I saw Carton House mentioned I knew that was exactly where I wanted to go. I have always wanted to stay there so gave a quick wink – wink, nudge – nudge to the hubby and left it in his capable hands. As my energy levels are severely curtailed due to illness, I have to be extremely careful and pace myself. In order to enjoy my birthday this year I decided to spread out the celebrations. My past few birthdays have been a complete disaster as I have just been too ill to enjoy them or to do any celebrating so this year I was adamant on enjoying myself and marking the occasion.
The hotel deal I found composed of a one night stay in a superior room with breakfast the following morning, €20 dining credit (for the linden tree restaurant), €15 off any full price spa treatment and €20 golf credit. The deal being valid from Sunday to Thursday only (inclusive) until the end of November. As Carton House also have an amazing spa, I decided to have a look around online to see if there were any spa offers available. I found a great package on their own personal website called the mini retreat. This spa package entailed 55 minutes of what promised to be pure relaxation, something my body was most definitely aching for. The package itself was broken down into two treatments, a Darphin facial and a back massage all for the appealing price of €80. Don’t get me wrong €80 is still a lot of money and something I would feel guilty about spending on myself but my parents kindly booked me in for this package as their birthday gift to me. We decided on Sunday the 5th of November for our stay and Monday the 6th of November for my spa treatments.
Carton House – A Brief History
Carton house, originating from the old Irish name ‘Baile an Cairthe’ or Land of the Pillar Stone sits in the most beautiful of settings nestled in two counties, Meath and Kildare. This 1,100 acre demesne previously owned by the Fitzgerald’s of Kildare (Earl of Kildare) currently houses two 18 hole championship golf courses, a hotel, the main house, Tyrconnell tower, shell cottage, a lake, a river, a boat house, a spa and leisure centre and many leafy walkways.
The house itself was built by renowned architect Richard Cassels in the 17th century. Cassels is also well-known for building such grand houses as Powerscourt house and Westport house to name but a few. His most notable achievement being the construction of Leinster house also owned by the Fitzgerald’s in 1745 but which now occupies the Irish government. Carton house was redeveloped as a luxury hotel and golf resort in 2000. Many soccer and GAA teams train in the grounds of Carton House but most notably they have been the main base and training grounds of the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) since 2010.
The Main House
The Palladian style main house has some of the most beautiful and intricate features I have ever seen. The most captivating being the beautiful ceiling located in the gold salon which was handcrafted by the Franchini Brothers. The attention to detail being simply breathtaking. Another room that I found truly impressive was the Chinese Boudoir. This luxurious room was the room Queen Victoria slept in when she stayed at Carton House. She had wanted to sleep on the ground floor as she had a fear of fire. The room itself designed in a beautiful shade of navy with hand drawn papyrus wallpaper. The most unusual room by far and something I have never seen before was the bell room. This room has bells linked to different rooms in the main house adoring it’s walls so servants knew what room they were required to attend when they sounded. Each bell has a different sound and I noticed the bell for the lady of the house had a hole in it. I wonder was that from overuse???
Check-in and Lunch
Check in was at 3pm but we decided to make our way out to the hotel a little bit early so we could enjoy some lunch. We arrived a little before 2.30pm and enquired at reception to see if our room was ready. Unfortunately, it was not but the extremely pleasant receptionist Ciara informed us that she would ensure house keeping would look at the room as soon as possible and took our phone number to call when it was ready. We decided to go over to the main lobby for some lunch. The lobby itself was buzzing with the sound of laughter, cutlery and the faint hum of piano music coming from an adjoining room that served afternoon tea. It was very busy but we were lucky to get a high table opposite the barista station.
I am a fiend for a good scone and although they were not mentioned on the menu the waitress serving us was more than accommodating and went to check if there was any left over from the morning service. To my delight there was, so I ordered two with a nice creamy latte and Kev ordered a chicken and bacon sandwich with a coke. On ordering his fizzy drink we were surprised to be informed that they did not supply Coca Cola, only Pepsi. As Kev is not a fan of Pepsi he opted for a club orange instead. I know it is a minor issue but we would have expected Coca Cola to have been supplied over Pepsi as it is definitely the most popular beverage in Ireland. Kev’s sandwich arrived accompanied by skinny fries that both looked delicious. The sandwich itself more resembled a burger as it was housed in a bun and packed full of delicious ingredients. Judging by Kev’s lack of speech and the fact that not a scrap of food was left behind on his plate indicated he thoroughly enjoyed his lunch. Unfortunately that could not be said about my lunch. My scone’s left a lot to be desired. There is nothing more I enjoy than a plain scone decorated with butter, strawberry jam and fresh cream. It is pure comfort and something which I order in every hotel I stay in. These particular scone’s lacked something and really did not taste particularly nice which was a shame but I did not let it bother me too much. Just as we finished eating we got a phone call from reception, settled up the bill and made our way over to check in.
The Ashford Suite
I was blown away upon check in to discover we had received a complementary upgrade to a suite in the main house. I know little old me in a suite! Far from suites I was reared but it was a lovely surprise to receive. I have never stayed in a room like that before so it was a completely new and exciting experience for me. The suite assigned to us was named the Ashford Suite and contained a large bedroom adorning a big four-poster bed, dark wooden furniture, beautiful slash windows looking out over the rose garden and walk ways whilst also boasting a separate large bathroom with a beautiful free-standing bath. Normally when I stay in a hotel the room is composed of modern decor but this was in keeping with the overall ambience of the house. I loved how the bathroom and bedroom retained their original fireplaces. The first thing that struck me about this room was how gloriously spacious it was. I did not feel like I was boxed in like I have done in some hotel rooms. The hotel itself was also blissfully quiet and the bedroom kept at a constant cosy temperature. The bed itself was firm but comfortable and we both had a great night’s sleep. I happily availed of the beautiful free-standing bath and had a relaxing bath for myself with added mood lighting. Yes the floor surrounding the bath had mood lighting. Whilst Kevin availed of the powerful shower.
The Linden Tree Restaurant
We booked ourselves in for dinner on Sunday evening in the hotel’s main restaurant, The Linden Tree – yes it is named after a linden tree located just outside the restaurants main window. The menu comprises of a selection of five/six different choices in each starter, main course and desert section. One thing to note which I thought was a nice touch was upon making our booking we were asked if we had any dietary requirements/food allergy’s as the kitchen would be more than happy to facilitate our requests. Apart from himself having a severe intolerance to onions we are pretty ok when it comes to food so this did not apply to us.
Upon arrival at the restaurant we were greeted by the restaurant’s assistant manager Jamie, a delightfully warm character. We were sat at a beautiful table looking out at the lit up linden tree. I don’t know how exactly it happened but two flutes of champagne suddenly appeared on the table. I was not going to say no to that! To say I was salivating reading the menu was an understatement. The two of us had been dying to get out and enjoy an amazing three course dinner that we practically starved ourselves all day. So come 7.30pm we were absolutely ravished. We were first treated to an amuse bouche of venison carpaccio. I know again far from venison I was reared but it was simply beautiful. Extremely juicy and flavoursome. We then opted for mushroom velouté and rabbit to start which were both beautiful. We both had never tasted rabbit before so were intrigued to try some. It tastes somewhere between pork and chicken but with more depth of flavour. It was very tasty and we would both happily order it again. The mushroom soup was the creamiest and most comforting mushroom soup I have ever tasted. I am even salivating thinking about it now. We then received another taster dish containing skate, which is a flat fish similar to ray. This was really nice and being honest we both could have eaten a larger dish of it for our mains. It is definitely something we are going to enquire about in our local fish shop. For our mains I opted for the fillet of beef whilst Kev opted for the venison. Yes we are the type of couple who order different dishes so we can both have a taste of each others food. Both the beef and venison were juicy, flavoursome and melt in the mouth. The menu boasts a selection of seasonal produce so you know what you are ordering is going to taste wonderful. At this stage we were fit to burst and could not even eat our unique side of veg. This veg was a strange vegetable from China that resembled and tasted like some sort of hybrid between cauliflower and broccoli. I don’t think we ever appreciated a bottle of red wine quite like the one we had to help aid in digesting the amazing food we were consuming. I must say the bottle of wine was beautiful and went down a little too well. We had enquired about a fruity, easy to drink red wine and received a bottle that matched those requirements perfectly. We decided we needed to take a breather before even contemplating desert and were fastly approaching our third hour in the restaurant. We both really appreciated having each course spaced out as nothing irritates us more than restaurants rushing courses to get you out. Myself and Kev both like to sit, chat, enjoy our food and drink our vino without any time limitations. When it came to ordering desert we were both talked into getting two separate deserts to try, after all we might as well go the whole hog. We joked with the staff saying we would require a forklift to get us up to our room afterwards. Kev chose to be exotic and ordered a plum and dandelion dish whereas I opted for a chocolate dome containing a chocolate and baileys mouse. I have to admit I struggled with desert but Kev finished off mine and his. Honestly I don’t know where he put it all! Food wise we enjoyed it all but were not really taken on the dandelion flavouring and the chocolate dome was very lush but that is just our personal tastes. Upon leaving the restaurant we decided to pop into the bar to get a cocktail each to finish off the evening. I had a delicious freshly made strawberry caipirinha and Kev has a whiskey sour. We then stumbled up to our suite feeling like 18th century aristocrats, both slightly merry, fat and happy.
After our tasty breakfast of pancakes (for me) and a cheeky fry up for himself we checked out and I made my way to the spa whilst Kev decided to walk off some of the food he consumed in the previous 24 hours. Kev decided to go and explore the hotel grounds as it was a lovely bright and crisp winters morning. I spent which can only be described as an indulgent hour getting pampered by an amazing therapist called Roxanna. The base of my back has been incredibly sore lately so she focused in on that area during my back massage. Having said that she did not neglect any other area of my back and I felt like she really got in and loosened up my sore muscles and joints. I relaxed so much so that I did that strange body jump thing. You know that one as you drift off to sleep and your whole body has one massive twitch that nearly lifts you off the bed? Well that happened me and gave us both a fright but we had a great laugh about it afterwards. After my soothing massage I flipped over onto my back for my facial. The spa uses products from Darphin which I have heard about but have never actually used. I enquired if they produced a range for sensitive skin which they did so that range was applied to my skin. I received two beautiful cleansing treatments, an exfoliating treatment, toner, two masks, eye cream and moisturiser. Basically I got the entire works. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment and thankfully my skin did not react badly to any of the skincare applied. I had been a little nervous as I had not tried that particular brand before but it really did suit my skin and definitely left me with a nice glow.
I know every spa offers a range of massage’s and facials and I tend to treat myself to these two treatments every time I go to the spa, which is not often. I have received a mixture of good and bad treatments over the years in various spa’s but my treatments in the carton spa were some of the nicest I have ever received. I loved the extra little touches like putting warm towels on your feet, massaging your arms and hands whilst your face mask sets, having your temples gently massaged and most importantly not being rushed out the door. I felt like I had the therapist’s full and complete attention for well over an hour. Her presence was calming and I felt very relaxed in her company. She listened to my requirements and also used her own intuition to ascertain my skin’s specific requirements and exactly what areas to focus in on. There was also none of this pressurising me to buy products which I greatly appreciated. I was also given a lovely fresh strawberry sorbet to enjoy as I came around in the relaxation room.
The only slight negative I experienced and this is just me being pedantic is the view from the relaxation room is not the most flattering. There is only a small patch of grass outside the window but you are mainly looking out at a fence. The grounds of the hotel are absolutely stunning, it would be silly not to avail of them. I know I would have really enjoyed looking out over the greenery as my mind drifted. Other than that I found the spa very nice. The staff were very pleasant, all areas were kept clean, the relaxation room was tidied up on a regular basis and fresh juice and water topped up. I also really liked how lockers in the changing rooms were electronically coded so you did not have the hassle of dealing with keys.
My Overall Opinion
My overall opinion of Carton house is positive. The only slight negatives being the poor view from the relaxation room in the spa and the tasteless scone’s I consumed in the bar area whilst we waited for our room to be ready. One positive thing that really stood out to me was the staff. They really go above and beyond for their guests and the most importantly they all look genuinely happy to be there. They are warm and welcoming and very chatty which really adds to the whole guest experience. I was particularly taken by a member of staff from reception giving a child some jelly beans. The kindness she showed the child was heartwarming and you could clearly see the sheer delight in his eyes. Everyone in the vicinity could not help but smile at this touching act. Speaking of reception, it was the first reception I have been at where I have not been left standing there or ignored as staff made themselves look busy whilst also avoiding eye contact. Each staff member was warm, welcoming and accommodating.
The main staff that really stood out to me were Éanna who kindly gave myself and Kev a tour of the house, Jamie the assistant manager in the Linden tree restaurant who served us for the entire evening and who we had great chats with and Ciara who checked us in and out. We also got served by a lovely lady in the restaurant which for the life of me, I cannot recall her name. Unfortunately, we also did not get the names of the two staff from the bar on Sunday night who were also very pleasant to deal with and accommodating. Unfortunately, the bar had run out of some ingredients which were essential components in a lot of their cocktails so we had to make do with a limited selection of cocktails to choose from. Having said that we both managed to get two beautifully flavoursome and freshly made cocktails that we both enjoyed. The hospitality industry can be a fickle trade and to be honest it is extremely hard going so it is refreshing to meet staff who really add to the overall guest experience. They truly are an asset to the hotel.
The hotel itself and its grounds are simply stunning. It is hard to believe it is only a 40 minute drive from my house in Dublin City. It is so nice to have this great location practically on our door step. Even if it is to just avail of the hotel grounds and various walkways during the weekend or popping in for a spot of lunch or afternoon tea or even treating yourself to a hotel stay, spa day or round of golf. I know Carton House themselves have some great offers currently running during the winter period and the offer I got was from escapes.ie. I would highly recommend a stay in the hotel, dinner in the Linden tree restaurant and booking yourself in for a treatment or two in the spa. Unfortunately, as my skin is so bad at the moment I did not make it to the leisure centre. Myself and Kev also have no interest in golf so we cannot comment on the golfing facilities or courses but Kev did say they were stunning and many of the pictures here were taken on his walk around them. Unfortunately we did not get a chance to book in to see the shell cottage but I will definitely return and book myself in for a tour of it.