Carton House, former home to the Earls of Kildare and Dukes of Leinster, has been pampering guests almost since it was built in 1739. Queen Victoria stayed here (twice) as did Grace Kelly, Peter Sellers and Claudia Schiffer. Marianne Faithfull occupied the quaint old Shell House, perched beside the river Rye in Carton's 1,200 acres of parkland which now also boasts two championship golf courses.
This country seat of the powerful FitzGerald clan – their Dublin house now hosts the Irish parliament – was one of the country's biggest dairy farms until six years ago. After a courageous £55m renovation, it opened as a luxury hotel in 2006.
Carton was perfect for what I had in mind: a short, romantic dose of opulence to mark our 25th wedding anniversary. The staff is young and enthusiastic, the service first rate and a stay in one of the 18 historical suites in the old house, while not cheap, is an experience not to be missed and never to be forgotten. Apart from golf, there's fly fishing, walking, cycling, clay-pigeon shooting, a swimming pool, gymnasium, sauna and spa.
We stayed in the Victoria Suite which is far too large to be named after so diminutive a monarch. Fresh fruit, bottled water, hand-made chocolates, fluffy robes, and a mountain of down pillows on a king-size bed, combine to make you feel, well rather regal really. That grandeur is maintained by the bathroom with its thick, white towels, floor lighting, roll-top bath and Molton Brown toiletries.
Food and drink
Breakfast at the Carton is a generous hot, cold or continental buffet. The Linden Tree restaurant offers quality Irish produce with continental flair. The beef and the sea bass were excellent.
A spectacular Milanese lift has opened access to most of the historic suites.
Double rooms start from ¿190 (£128) per night. The Victoria suite, with breakfast, is more like ¿450. A three-course meal at The Linden Tree would be between £30 and £40 depending on drinks.
Carton House, Maynooth, Co Kildare, Ireland (00 353 1 5052000; carton-house.com).Reuse content