Deirdre Mullins lives the life of a lady in Wicklow
The Ritz-Carlton motto states its staff are, "ladies and gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen". I'm not altogether comfortable with being referred to as a lady; I feel under instant pressure to be a more mature and elegant version of myself. So, when on a weekend break at The Ritz-Carlton in Powerscourt, I did my best to hide my bitten nails, ditch my trainers and adopt a new policy of speaking in soft, moderate tones.
My first experience wasn't good, as the front desk staff I was dealing with had my booking mixed up and spent an unnecessary amount of time checking me in. But in line with my new found etiquette, I kept my composure.
After I finally got my room key, I had a chance to explore the hotel and its grandiose design and it did indeed make me feel a like lady. The lobby is spacious, comfortable and inviting. It joins a larger open plan area with the Sugar Loaf restaurant, which is a nice place to relax with the sunshine streaming through the huge glass windows. The view is a pretty one of the nearby Sugar Loaf mountain and the hotel's rear gardens. Unfortunately, the fountain in the garden was not working the weekend I was there and without water in it the concrete was a bit of an eyesore.
I stayed in the Mountain View Suite, which was comfortable and generous in size, with a massive balcony and great views. The room came complete with hi-tech gadgetry, with the integrated TV in the bathroom mirror great for watching 'X-Factor' while getting ready for a night out. I did have a few problems with trying to work the touch screen control panel for the air conditioning and lighting, but I worked it out in time for opening the curtains while still in bed the next morning.
Dressed in a white robe and slippers from the bedroom wardrobe, I headed to the hotel spa. It's well-equipped, with 20 treatment rooms, separate male and female thermal suites and a manicure suite. The black marble indoor swimming pool inlaid with Swarovski crystals attempts to mimic the night sky, and does a good job of it. Its low lighting gives the pool area a very tranquil and luxurious feel and I happily bobbed around it and the adjoining hot pool for hours.
The spa offers a good choice of treatments, at a handsome price. If only this lady could find a gentleman to foot the bill... Facials seem to average €125 for 60 minutes, which is about €25 to €35 more expensive than equivalent facials in Monart and Brooklodge spas. However, the spa does offer good value by way of day offers. For €139 midweek or €169 at the weekend you can get a massage, facial, pedicure, hand re-polish and lunch.
I went for one of the resort's newly-launched treatments, The Warming Peat Ritual. Yes, I did say peat, as in the stuff we burn in fires. I suspect the treatment is pitched at the big American client base the hotel has. This 90-minute treatment is said to condition winter skin and warm and soothe aching muscles at a cost of €175. It starts off with a salt and oil body scrub followed by a peat wrap and a head massage. Once all the peat was washed off I had a divine full body massage. My therapist, Petrice, was excellent and anticipated my every wish before I verbalised it. He was happy to swap the head massage for a mini facial on my request.
Suitably relaxed and pampered, I floated past the gym and yoga studio and opted to put on a few pounds rather than lose them.
Although Gordon Ramsay is rarely found on the premises of his restaurant in the Ritz-Carlton, his name is enough to draw the crowds. His trademark lobster and salmon ravioli is on the menu and there is a genuine attempt to feature good quality local produce in the dishes.
I went for the four-course surprise menu, which was reasonably priced at €75. With the extra tasters from the kitchen, the four courses turned out to be about seven. The food, service and ambience were excellent. I opted for my wine to be paired with my food and this was done so perfectly by the restaurant manager and sommelier Eoin Cullen. He presented each wine complete with the vineyard's interesting background story.
I wasn't so enamoured with the breakfast the next morning, which is served in both Ramsay's and the Sugar Loaf. The buffet was adequate, but if you wanted to order from the à la carte it would cost you extra. My Eggs Benedict was overpriced at €18 and disappointing on the palette.
One of the hotel's best assets is the natural beauty that surrounds it. It's located in the middle of the stunning 1,000-acre Powerscourt estate and is within walking distance of its golf course, waterfall and gardens. There is a private river walk that guests have access to. Complimentary bikes and maps for a number of cycling and jogging routes can be obtained from the concierge desk.
The more adventurous may be interested in the hotel's cycling concierge service. Ken Farrar is a professional road and mountain biker and will tailor trips to suit individuals or groups. Ken's local knowledge is excellent and I discovered areas that would have been difficult to find without him. We cycled through mossy, green woodlands along the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains before arriving at Powerscourt Waterfall and back along a beautiful river track. He's a great guide and had me hopping over gates, walls and ditches, making the cycle much more of an adventure than I had bargained for. It was the perfect way to alleviate the guilt from my indulgence in Gordon Ramsay's the night before.
After my cycle I returned to the Ritz-Carlton suitably dirty in my cycling gear. Lady Muck had arrived.
For reservations, visit: www.ritzcarlton.com, call: +353 (1) 274 8888 or email: Powerscourtreservations@ritzcarlton.com.
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