Aug 11, 2011

Loving the Wicklow Mountains south of Dublin

Ireland always surprises us. We picked up our rental car in Dublin and headed for Powerscourt in the beautiful Wicklow Mountains. The beltways around Dublin are great but the tolls must be paid on line. The best thing is to mention it to the hotel and they will help guests take care of the toll. Once we got off the parkway we were soon lost… an easy thing to happen in Ireland. The roads are scenic but that means narrow with no shoulders. We finally found a little place to pull off and were trying to reorient ourselves when there was a little knock on the window. “A bit off your way, are ye?” said the tiny elderly man, with a wide smile and a twinkle in his eye… a leprechaun, for sure. He proceeded to give us direction and then a 15-minute summary of Irish history from Anglo-Norman times to Mel Gibson. It was charming!

We found our way to Powerscourt Estate, which has been in the Slazenger Family, of the tennis-racket fame, for 50 years. The estate has an amazing series of terraces that lead from the house to the lake with views of Sugar Loaf Mountain. The fantastic gardens are a popular day tour from Dublin. It defies the image of Ireland as one of small, picturesque cottages surrounded by a field of grazing sheep. Powerscourt is how the wealthy lived.

I think every trip should include a couple days of complete relaxation and luxury. In Ireland we found it at the Ritz Carleton Powerscourt. Located adjacent to the Powerscourt estate it is built in the Palladian-style with all the ambiance one would expect from a Ritz Carleton property. Even though every guest is treated as if they were special we noticed that our red Ford Focus rental car was quickly dispatched to the parking lot while the exquisite Bentley spent the day under the porte-cochere where everyone could see it.

Our accommodation was outstanding with a large patio where we could gaze out over the expansive lawn to Sugar Loaf Mountain. The first night we dined in McGills Pub where I enjoyed Fish & Chips and John had Corned Beef & Cabbage. The next day we planned a “Special Day.” We reserved one of the hotel’s golf carts and took it down to Powerscourt Estate and to the River Walk. The River Walk is a “secret place” within the wall of Powerscourt Estate. The cedars along the bubbling stream are some the largest we have ever seen. It was a magical trip. Later John retired to our patio to read and I went to ESPA for some pampering.

After a wonderful massage I went to the Jacuzzi-style hot pool with a view of Sugar Loaf Mountain then to their main pool that is lit with Swarovski crystal. It made the water shimmered as if there were diamonds on the bottom. There is a spa café and I noticed some of the people were spending the entire day in the spa. What a life!

In the evening John and I had an incredible dinner at the Gordon Ramsey Restaurant. Besides the beautiful view of the mountains I liked the fact that the menu included mainly locally raised products. It was a wonderful ending to our “Special Day.” There was only one problem. In the morning we had to leave!