The Sunday Mail - April 2006

Ideal Cure for Craic Addicts

I'll never forget my first trip to Ireland. It came courtesy of some pals who organised a boozy Dublin weekend to cheer me up after my much-dreaded 30th birthday. Since waving goodbye to my 20's, I'd been grumpier than a beauty queen without botox - but the 'craic' soon put a smile back on my face. Only trouble was, after a Guinness fuelled weekend, I felt like I needed another holiday just to recover.

If only I'd known about the fabulous BrookLodge Hotel, just an hour away in gorgeous County Wicklow. It's not far to BrookLodge hotel, near Aughrim, which opened in 1999 and quickly became a popular retreat for out-of-towners and wealthy Americans. Close to the plush hotel and spa in Macreddin village is a pub with its own micro-brewery, a tea room, a smokehouse and organic shops.

We were promise our two night break would leave us feeling as sprightly as a couple of leprechauns and it all got off to a promising start when we were shown our room, which was more Sex and The City than Country House. Decorated in cream and trendy taupe, the hotel's suites each have a luxurious living room boasting a state-of-the-art entertainment PC which controls the CD, DVD and internet connection, all viewed on huge plasma telly inlaid in the wall. The super comfy beds are massive, while the free standing Phillipe Starck bath just begs to be filed with bubbles.

It's the view outside, though, that really takes your breath away from the luxurious cocoon of your room, there's some great sightseeing on the doorstep in villages that look like something from a movie. If you like a little more action, the hotel can organise clay-pigeon shooting, archery, falconry, horse riding, golf and even off-road driving.

We weren't feeling that adventurous so took up residence instead at the on-site Wells Spa where chilling out has been turned into an art form after a relaxing day of facials, massages and lounging by the pool.

My favourite part was the hot-stone body treatment - after my skin was scrubbed then nourished with a body mask, the therapist began a hot stone massage that was so soothing I almost fell asleep. But the treatments aren't just for girls. My other half enjoyed a full-body massage and float session - a soak in a super-salty bath which gives a feeling of weightlessness. There are also facials for blokes who'd admit to being a metrosexual male - and shared treatments.

Being pampered within an inch of your can be hungry work, and the hotel's restaurant, The Strawberry Tree, which is Ireland's only certified organic restaurant, didn't disappoint. We tucked into tender fillet steak and delicately-flavoured hake, followed by a trio of chocolate desserts and a to-die for caramel pannacotta. These are just the highlights - dinner is a real five-star, four-course affair. And chilling out at the spa and feasting on gorgeous Irish food is about as strenuous as it gets.

By: Laura Davidson