Arriving at Monart's imposing gates outside Enniscorthy, you get a sense that something quite special lies inside this private estate.
From the welcome you receive through the intercom to the porter awaiting your arrival at the main house, the valet parking, front desk hospitality and personal tour, checking in is one immense pleasure. The handsome facade of the original house, completed in 1740, belies the magnificent architectural feat of glass and wood that snakes behind it into the surrounding woodlands.
Despite the striking contemporary design the hotel and spa marries seamlessly with the wonderful old trees and cleverly landscaped areas that succeed in bringing nature up close to every window. A leaf motif features subtly throughout the hotel - from the ornate bedroom balconies to the table lamps, and the bedroom prints to the faux topiary balls that stand sentinel on the ground floor - reflecting the mature 100-acre estate outdoors.
Monart is a destination spa and guests are encouraged to lounge in fluffy gowns during the day. Despite the spa being large, therapist treatments must be booked well in advance, especially at weekends where guests are limited to two each. Access to the impressive thermal suite, which includes nine unique experiences, including a caldarium, hammam and salt grotto, is complimentary for all guests however, as is the relaxation room with juices, fruit and newspapers.
Away from the spa the old house retains its elegant proportions and is accessed from the main hotel through a bold glass corridor. Its reception rooms have all been tricked out in dramatic décor and guests are encouraged to enjoy the space, whether taking afternoon tea in the conservatory, reading papers in the drawing room or playing chess in the library.
Upstairs two private suites enjoy extra grand proportions, although Monart's standard bedrooms, all in the new extension, are extremely roomy and spacious. Request the back bedrooms and you'll enjoy glorious views of the trees and lake, all of which are imaginatively lit by night.
The rooms feature a curious blend of French-influenced furniture and more modern pieces while Egyptian cotton sheets, stacks of pillows, a flat screen TV, DVD and CD players and individual balconies and a pale palette make for a comfy, relaxing space. Extra large bathrooms are impressive with good mirrors, a large shower, separate double-ended bath, bespoke local Kiltrea pottery washbasins and lovely Damana herbal toiletries.
Breakfast, served in the rather lavish formal dining room, is an impressive affair - the egg dishes especially worthy of praise. A bistro style menu is offered all day in the Garden Lounge, where guests may eat outdoors enjoying the lakeside setting and resident cheeky ducks. By night this space becomes an intimate lounge for casual dining or a relaxing nightcap.
The casual Spa Café serves lighter fare, and a more limited menu, although is conveniently located next to the relaxation rooms. The estate boasts miles of marked walks, allowing you take in the fresh country air and tranquillity of the area.
Rooms 70 (2 suites, all executive & no smoking); not suitable for children; broadband wi/fi; lift; B&B €195 pps (€95 low season), ss €40. Garden, fitness room, destination spa, indoor 'pool, walking, hairdressing, massage.
Special attention has been paid to Monart's elegant fine dining restaurant which opens each evening for dinner, as well as for Sunday lunch, and welcomes non-residents. Opulent chandeliers, crisp linen, large tables and a curving organic roof make this a glamorous space for the sophisticated cooking.
Good breads and an exciting amuse bouche;- perhaps a smoked eel raviolo;- alert diners to Brendan Byrne's creative approach in the kitchen, where quality seasonal produce is imaginatively prepared. Seasonal meat and seafood dishes are given a classic twist, with Spa dishes highlighted for those looking for lighter, healthier options.
Food is beautifully presented, service is smooth and informed, and though the wine list is expensive there is value to be found from a dozen house wines.