When my wife and I were both asked to speak at the TBEX conference in Dublin, Ireland, we didn’t want to just pop over the pond and return. So we made a week of it—it was Natalie’s first trip to Ireland and her birthday, after all.
We began the trip in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and then took the train south to Ballyfin via Dublin. From Ballyfin, we returned to Dublin for the conference and stayed at the historic Merrion Hotel for two too-short nights (here’s my review). For the grand finale, we were picked up by one of the nicest, most colorful drivers ever and driven 30 minutes outside of the city to County Wicklow, where we spent a glorious weekend at the Powerscourt Hotel.
When we made our reservation, Powerscourt was a Ritz-Carlton hotel. But a few weeks later, we received an email saying:
“Thank you for your upcoming reservation at The Ritz-Carlton, Powerscourt. We are sending you this letter to inform you that as and from 1st October 2013, The Ritz-Carlton, Powerscourt will no longer be operated as a Ritz-Carlton Hotel. With effect from 1st October 2013, the hotel will be re-launched as part of the Autograph Collection Hotels, Marriott International, an exclusive group of luxury and upper upscale independent hotels in the U.S., Latin America, Asia, and Europe. In the spirit of The Autograph Collection, the property will operate as an independent hotel. The hotel will be called “Powerscourt Hotel” and will be managed by Interstate Hotels and Resorts, the largest independent global hotel management company. Powerscourt Hotel will maintain the five-star standard of excellence and service already associated with the property to ensure that the Hotel will remain Irelands finest five star luxury resort.”
That’s the first time either of us has ever had a hotel change brands on us between our reservation and our stay. Has it happened to you?
I’d never been to Powerscourt Hotel prior, so I can’t compare the Marriott version to what it was like as a Ritz-Carlton. But I must say, we were quite impressed with our stay and it was just a few days after the transition.
Even as a Ritz-Carlton, the hotel was part of the Marriott family, so there wasn’t a lot of transition necessary—if any. The luxury, five-star hotel—or resort, rather—is set amidst one of the most scenic and historic estates in all of Ireland. There are two championship-caliber golf courses, one of the top gardens in Europe and the Palladian-style building has 200 rooms, a 30,000-square foot luxury spa, and a signature restaurant.
5 highlights of Powerscourt Hotel
1. The views
Pulling up to the estate, we asked our driver to pull over so we could take pictures of the lush green countryside. He laughed and said we weren’t the first to ask, and when he found a safe spot to stop, he pulled over for us. But the best views were from our room. Be sure to catch the sunrise and sunset on Sugar Loaf Mountain—it’s not to be missed.
2. The gardens of Powerscourt Estate
A few hundred yards from the hotel is the Powerscourt Estate (the hotel has golf carts for guests to hire to get around). The Estate’s house and landscaped gardens occupy 47 acres (19 hectares). The house was originally a 13th-century castle but it changed over time before finally being destroyed in a fire in 1974. Everything but the shell of the house was lost, and so it was renovated in 1996 . Today, the estate is owned and run by the Slazenger family (think: tennis and golf) and it’s a popular tourist attraction. They charge 8.50EUR ($11) for adults to walk around. It’s totally worth it on a gorgeous sunny day like the one Natalie and I had.
According to Wikipedia, the main attractions are the Tower Valley, Japanese gardens, winged horse statues, Triton Lake, pet cemetery, Dolphin Pond, walled gardens, Bamberg Gate and the Italian Garden.
3. Afternoon tea
If you’re into afternoon tea like my wife is, then you don’t want to miss the hotel’s Sugar Loaf Lounge. Here, they serve traditional afternoon tea daily and many tables face out, providing sweeping views of Sugar Loaf Mountain. Sugar Loaf Tea for two costs 35EUR ($47) and comes with four savoury sandwiches: 1) Prawn and smoked salmon salad, herb cream cheese, brown bread; 2) Egg mayonnaise with cucumber, long sliced bread; 3) Roast beef on Brioche, horseradish cream, rocket; and 4) Tandoori Chicken wrap with fresh mango, cilantro (my favorite). A selection of warm scones accompanied by “Tipperary” jams, jellies and curds is included with each.
And if that wasn’t enough, after lunch, they roll over the most incredible looking dessert trolley and let you each choose two. And of course, there’s a wide selection of teas.
The hotel has an award-winning spa managed by ESPA. There are 20 treatment rooms, a 20-meter Swarovski Crystal-lit heated pool and a fitness studio with equipment by Technogym. I signed up for their signature treatment, which was a body scrub using Irish peat from a company called ÓGRA (it supposedly ‘restores skin to a youthful state in a natural and effective way’). The scrub was followed by a Swedish massage, and boy did that feel good. I have no idea how much it costs since the hotel had invited us for a complimentary treatment and I can’t find my notes—but I can say it was amazing!
5. Johnnie Fox’s
Johnnie Fox’s is not part of the hotel or even on their property—it’s about a 15-minute (20EUR) winding, uphill ride from Powerscourt. Although it’s super touristy, it’s a fun spot to go to hear traditional Irish music, which they have every night. It’s situated in Glencullen on top of the Dublin mountains and is supposed to be one of Ireland’s oldest and highest pubs in the country…though I heard the latter is not true. We went to one of their famous ‘Hooley Nights,’ which is dinner and a show (reservations recommended) and we sat next to the former first lady of Poland, Danuta Wałęsa.
There’s a lot more fun stuff that we did in Ireland, like hit a bucket of balls and take the golf cart for a ride along the river. But the Autograph Collection, which has famous American hotels like The Algonquin and The Carlton hotels in New York, The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, The Brown Palace Hotel and Spa in Colorado, and a few others, should be very proud that they’ve now added the Powerscourt to their impressive offerings.
Rates begin at 215 EUR ($292).
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