20 Jun A jam-packed 72 hours in Co. Wicklow!
I was lucky enough to be hosted by The Powerscourt Hotel & Spa for three days during April, where despite the rain I was treated to a wonderful weekend jam-packed with activities and inspections, all set against the backdrop of the stunning Wicklow Mountains.
The seven-storey Palladian design gives almost all 200 rooms and suites a view of the majestic Sugarloaf Mountain. The hotel is located on the 1,000-acre grounds of the Powerscourt Estate, currently owned by the Slazenger family. The historic Powerscourt House stands alongside the hotel and overlooks the delightfully manicured Japanese gardens (voted No.3 in the World’s Top Ten Gardens by National Geographic), and the Powerscourt Waterfall, the highest in Ireland. The Powerscourt Golf Club offers two championship courses in a beautiful setting, and all of this just a 30-minute drive from the centre of Dublin.
Upon arrival our small group of buyers from boutique agencies were treated to a cocktail reception in the light and airy surroundings of the Sugar Loaf Lounge, a perfect spot for a relaxing drink or afternoon tea. After this I went up to my room, a lavish suite exceptionally well-appointed with a lounge, large work desk, dining area, dressing area with extensive wardrobe space, marble bathroom with rainforest shower and my personal favourite – the recessed bathroom tv, ensuring I could catch up on BBC news whilst getting ready – and king size bedroom with a balcony overlooking the gardens and the mountains, a truly breath-taking view.
Our first evening was spent at a fascinating Whisky tasting in the Sugarloaf Lounge where we were able to taste a selection of drams, including the local brew from the Glendalough Distillery – locally renowned for its Whisky and Gin, set at the site of a 6th Century monastic settlement within the Wicklow Mountains. It is worth noting that the Powerscourt will open its own distillery in September 2018.
We then finished our evening at McGill’s Pub, a traditional hostelry onsite at the hotel, serving hearty Irish fayre and of course the obligatory pint of Guinness. A band playing traditional music completed the evening and set the tone for the Irish hospitality we enjoyed all weekend.
After a substantial breakfast we gathered on the lawns for our morning briefing, three Land Rovers perched ominously at the edge of the lawn, overlooking the hotels own amphitheatre. (My first thought being what a perfect setting for a car launch!) The fabulous guys at Orangeworks Events immediately put us at ease, dividing us into two teams to begin our challenge for the morning – first stop was taking a selfie on our iPad – easier said than done when you are trying to climb onto the bonnet of a wet Land Rover!
Off we went in our Land Rover to our first stop, following an interactive app on the iPad and navigating our driver to Tinnihinch fisheries, where we were treated to a talk on the history of the fishery and the fly-fishing tuition available for groups. Following this we were taken into the grounds to take part in an activity I had certainly never done before – axe throwing! It was a great way to break the ice and ensured we started the day with plenty of laughs!
Onwards in our Land Rover we stopped off at the stunning Powerscourt Waterfall – a striking area of natural beauty where more selfies were snapped and challenges completed such as creating a human totem pole! Back in the Land Rover for a general knowledge quiz on the iPad whilst we drove up into the Wicklow Mountains, at this point the competitiveness had really kicked in and our team was getting serious!
Our treat at the top of the mountain was Gin tasting! Which – on a beautiful sunny day I can imagine is utterly delightful – but the guys at Orangeworks Events ensured that our wet and windy gin cocktails in the clouds whilst the horizontal rain lashed down was an absolute joy and again, lots of laughs!
Our journey back down the mountain with yet more general knowledge questions accompanied by some impromptu singing brought us back to the historic house at the Powerscourt Estate where we viewed the events space available – of particular interest was a beautiful column-lined hall which would make a luxurious setting for private dining. We enjoyed a great lunch with the guys from Orangeworks Events (I am still craving the pink salt-topped bread rolls!) before being told that our team had won the challenge! (Did I mention we were very competitive?!)
Luckily the rain had cleared by this time as we enjoyed a walk around the lake and gardens of the house, before heading back to the hotel for our spa treatments at ESPA. The spa boasts 20 opulent treatment rooms including a private spa suite. I took a quick peek at the 20m heated pool illuminated with Swarovski crystal lighting before settling in for my facial and back massage, expertly carried out in a very relaxing surrounding by Anna, who immediately put me at ease and explained the ESPA products available at the spa.
On Saturday evening we had the opportunity to view the extensive 1,111 square metres of meetings and events facilities at the hotel, from the Secret Garden – a versatile outdoor space which has previously hosted trapeze artists – to the magnificent Ballroom that can be divided into 3 separate salons. Cars can be brought into the Ballroom as well as situated on the lawn or at the amphitheatre which makes The Powerscourt a perfect venue for a car launch. Ten breakout rooms and a variety of food and beverage options complete this excellent offering. There is even a 4×4 off-roading course in the hotel grounds for those adrenalin-seekers!
Pre-dinner cocktails were served in the Presidential Suite on the 7th floor, with its own guest rooms, private dining and even its own sauna and steam room. We were entertained to a captivating display of cocktail making by the Powerscourt’s very own award-winning mixologist – who kept us immersed with his creations.
Onto dinner at SIKA restaurant, named after the Japanese deer that were introduced to the estate by Lord Powerscourt in 1860 and still roam free in the grounds to this day. Presentation of the food and the attentiveness and knowledge of the restaurant staff was particularly impressive and dessert at the Chef’s table was a real treat ensuring we got to see the behind-the-scenes working of the kitchens and had the opportunity to chat to the chefs who were clearly profoundly passionate about their craft.
After a noticeably relaxing sleep in my suite we headed off the next morning to the centre of Dublin for an electric bike tour of the city with Lazy Bike Tours. Having not ridden a bike for at least a decade it was with some trepidation that I fitted my helmet and rain poncho but the owner Hugh led our tour and immediately put us at ease. The thrill of speeding through the cobbled streets seeing the sights of Dublin was an exhilarating experience and would be an excellent choice for groups – the electric part means you don’t even have to pedal which I was grateful for!
On our transfer to the airport I reflected on my weekend and the one thing that stood out for me was the abject passion and professionalism in the level of service shown by all members of staff at The Powerscourt Hotel & Spa.