When you arrive for a weekend at a country house hotel, you bring with you a weight of expectation. Will it be in a suitably tranquil and bucolic setting? Will you like your room - or will the chintz be overdone? And what will they give you for dinner?
At Kilgraney House, Bryan Leech and Martin Marley have paid such close attention to detail that they've got all these covered. They bought the Georgian house, set in five acres, 16 years ago. It has been lovingly restored, with witty decorative touches throughout.
Dinner is prepared and served by the pair at 8pm, to a maximum of 18 guests. It's an indulgent six-course feast, which lasts at least two hours and gives ample opportunity to gaze into your beloved's eyes. Outside, you can wander along gravel pathways around the beautifully tended herb and vegetable gardens and past the croquet lawn, or simply sit on the terrace gazing at the rolling hills of the Barrow Valley. Activities are kept to a minimum; about the most energetic thing you can do here is to stroll down to the spa for an aromatherapy massage.
Kilgraney House, Bagenalstown, Co Carlow, Ireland (00 353 59 977 5283; www.kilgraneyhouse.com). You can also book through Ireland's Blue Book ( www.irelandsbluebook.com). The hotel is south-west of Dublin between Carlow town and Kilkenny city.
Time from international airport: it's around two hours from Dublin airport by car.
There are six double rooms, plus a converted farm building housing two suites. The main rooms are all decorated differently; we stayed in "Africa", which had calming cream walls and carpets, a large bed and a quirky collection of tribal masks and statues. Windows on three sides bring in plenty of natural light. No TV and no mobiles in the communal areas complete the away-from-it-all vibe.
The drawing room is vibrantly decorated with pink and purple sofas, silver side-tables, stacks of books and a liberal sprinkling of heraldic cherubs. In the dining room, there are more kitsch cherubs set against deep purple walls. Outside, one of the old stone farm buildings has recently been converted into the Aroma Spa, with views of the countryside over lavender-bordered paths. Have a full body aromatherapy massage (€75/£53) or relax in the sauna, steam room or outdoor hot tub.
Keeping in touch: No TV or internet access, but direct-dial phones in the rooms.
Freebies: Shampoo, soap and shower gel miniatures from Aromatherapy Associates (as used in the spa), plus two bottles of water.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Standard doubles cost from €130 (£93) including breakfast. The set six-course dinner costs €48 (£34). The hotel is open from 1 March to 1 November (closed Mondays and Tuesdays). No children under 12 and no dogs.
I'm not paying that: Sherwood Park House, Balon, Co Carlow (00 353 59 915 9117; www.sherwoodparkhouse.ie) has doubles from €100 (£71) including breakfast.