RTE Travel - April 2010

By Deirdre Mullins

The Vibe
BrookLodge has a country house style with a comfortable, relaxed and wholesome vibe. The setting alone, in a Wicklow valley, is enough to make you feel removed from the stresses and strains of city life. The lobby has a sense of homecoming with a beautiful golden retriever lying lazily in front of a blazing fire. The strong smell of turf brought me back to my granny's kitchen in Mayo. This smell does not compromise BrookLodge's luxurious standard, which is unquestionable. It's plush, but in a subtle and rustic way.

All grades of rooms are comfortable and lush. The duplex suites are minimally decorated, with the large ground floor consisting of a spacious bathroom, walk-in wardrobe and comfortable sitting room featuring a gas fire, internet and a flat screen TV. Upstairs is the bedroom with the lovely feature of a freestanding bath in the corner. The sound of the river outside and birds singing can be heard when the windows are open.

The hotel is in Macreddin village which is near Aughrim in Co Wicklow. Macreddin is also home to an organic shop, The Store Rooms, Acton's County Pub and La Taverna Armento Italian restaurant. The grounds are pretty and make for an enjoyable experience to wander around. Hens, cocks and pheasants walk around the village unfazed. At the foot of a large lawn, you'll find a small wooded area, a babbling brook and a chapel where civil wedding ceremonies can take place.

Pamper Me
The spa at BrookLodge offers a good range of treatments from friendly knowledgeable staff. There is a fair-sized pool and in fine weather the retractable doors open, turning a portion of it into an outdoor pool. Alternatively, the outdoor hot tub is perfect for two to enjoy. There is a 'couple's chalet' in the woods with two couches for treatments so therapists can work on each client separately.

Or, if you and your partner like to get a bit messy, the Serail and Mud Chamber is great for the skin and a bit of fun. Steam is pumped out into the mosaic-tiled chamber and there are several types of mud, salts and oils at hand for you and your partner to paint yourself with. I opted for one of their signature treatments, Healing Hammam Massage, which left my skin feeling silky smooth and me very relaxed.

Eating
The Strawberry Tree Restaurant, Ireland's only certified organic restaurant, is one of the best things about BrookLodge. Everything on the menu is either wild or organic and, where possible, sourced from local suppliers. Eating here convinced the sceptic in me and I now am a firm believer that eating natural food does taste better. The seared wild scallops served with spiced braised shallot, spinach and wild mango coulis were scrumptious. The wine list has plenty of organic wines and is mostly well-priced. The dining room has a regal feel to it, with its dark blue velvet walls and a dark blue mirrored ceiling. To eat in the Strawberry Tree alone is worth the trip to BrookLodge.

The Orchard Café - The menu offers typical bar food such as fish and chips, sausage and mash, and chicken goujons and chips. Keeping with the theme of a healthy and relaxed weekend, I opted for the soup which was adequate. Acton's Pub has a full bar but also serves its own recipe of homebrewed stout and beer.

The Italian restaurant, La Taverna Armento, serves a Southern Italian menu based around the foods available from the towns of Armento and Basilicata. There is also a light lunch and snack menu in the Waterside Lounge - the ideal spot for reading while you're sitting on the comfy sofas.

Feeling Active
Walk in nearby Glendalough or in one of the several of hiking trails around the area. The hotel has a pamphlet at reception giving you all the information on these trails. There is a 160-acre golf course designed by Ryder Cup hero Paul McGinley, or you can trek on horseback through the Macreddin woods.