As I slipped into the thermal pool, the busy working week began to fade away and I knew that I was in for a weekend of relaxation.
I was staying with my wife at the elegant five star hotel The Heritage, outside the pretty village of Killenard in the beautiful countryside of County Laois.
Being around two and half hours drive from Belfast it was somewhere, I must admit, I hadn’t heard of before, but by the time I was leaving, it was somewhere I’ll never forget.
This is a hotel that has been designed to impress. The stunning entrance is a light-filled four-storey atrium, with the floors of the hotel opening up above and a statement wrought iron-railed staircase adding to the ‘wow’ factor.
The Heritage Killenard is polished and stylish, with impeccable levels of service throughout and we were personally welcomed to the hotel by manager Andrew.
Our incredibly spacious room had a classic feel but with modern facilities. A huge bathroom evoked a sense spa luxury with a large shower and a tempting standalone bath.
The huge bed was absolutely nothing like I had ever slept on before; sinking down into it was like sleeping on a giant marshmallow. Absolute bliss. ‘I could get used to this,’ I thought.
We had a few hours to kill before dinner, so we decided to try out the award-winning Spa at The Heritage, which sits next to the hotel.
I have enjoyed spas before but nothing on this scale. This is much more than a steam room and sauna, it is one of Ireland’s most extensive thermal suites.
The Heritage Spa Experiences has created a specially tailored two-hour sensory journey around the different thermal rooms and heat and cooling experiences to wow the senses and relax body and mind. A two-hour sensory journey that maximises the benefits of all the spa facilities.
My favourite was the Tepidarium, or the warm room which is the ideal temperature to gently cleanse the body and bring you a real sense of wellbeing. The warm, dry air also helps enhance your body’s immune defences, as well as relieving stress.
There is an ice shower and a ice bucket, but I wasn’t brave enough to try it, although I was told by other guests that it was an exhilarating, refreshing experience.
In the middle of the spa area there is a chill out area with elegant sinks where you can soak your tired feet whilst enjoying a magazine.
Not surprising to my family and friends, the Slieve Bloom Bar was one of my favourite rooms in the hotel.
Manager Andrew Phelan told us that he had a say in the circular design, which reminded me of something that could have been from a classy early 20th century bar in LA.
My wife and I took a seat at the bar and started our first night with a delicious gin chosen from their wide selection. We soaked up the atmosphere and craic in this classy establishment.
There really was a buzz around the place, golfers talking about how they’d conquered the course, couples relaxing and enjoying food from the bar menu.
The hotel also has a world renowned 18 hole golf course. Unfortunately I didn’t bring my clubs, but the course looked stunning and seemed very popular with the golfers who were taking part in a charity golf day.
At breakfast I opted for a three egg omelette as my wife enjoyed the full Irish Breakfast. Both were absolutely delicious.
There is also a breakfast buffet with a wide selection of traditional cooked items, freshly made pancakes, waffles and a wide variety of cereals and pastries. A gluten free range is also on offer.
After breakfast we ventured over to the spa as I had been booked in for a hot stone massage. My wife enjoyed the thermal spa she had become acquainted with previously while I checked in to the treatment area.
As I was led into one of their 16 luxurious and relaxing treatment rooms, I found out the answer to a long pondered question - you’re not supposed to wear your swimming shorts on the massage table!
My welcoming and very friendly masseuse said it was a common mistake and put me at ease as I got myself comfortable.
As many parents of young children will know, lifting and running after toddlers can leave your back in a pretty bad way, so a hot stone massage sounded good but I had images of my back sizzling like a steak on one of those hot stones you get in trendy restaurants.
Thankfully they were a comfortable temperature, so what followed was a luxurious and relaxing massage, which seemed to sort out every sore muscle in my arms, legs and my back.
With the herbally menthol smells and calming music, I was in total bliss.
After a delicious lunch of cream of vegetable soup and tasty sandwiches, we were whisked off to the nearby village of Vicarstown to meet reps from cycle hire company Barrow Bikes.
A leisurely cycle along the beautiful canals and tranquil countryside, with the sun shining, was the perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
We arrived at the little village of Fishertown and the Fisherman’s Thatch Inn pub. Owner and landlord Shaun explained that the historic bar dates back to the 1600s and has been a popular spot for traders and farmers ever since.
Shaun offered a warm welcome to everyone in our group and spoke with pride about the local area as we enjoyed a beautiful afternoon tea provided by the hotel. Like all the food so far, it was delicious.
On Saturday evening, my wife and I joined the rest of my colleagues in the Arlington Lounge for a tasting menu that was simply stunning.
Starting out with duck pate and lovely pea soup, the fish course of pan fried Halibut was beautiful, while the rack of lamb was cooked perfectly.
A warm round of applause was well earned and deserved for chef Ian Clifford and his team. The food all weekend was of the highest quality.
On Friday evening we had been served a delicious hot buffet which included tasty Thai red curry, beef stroganoff and a selection of desserts and cheeses. It is clear why The Heritage is popular with weddings and conferences.
It is not surprising that the food is of such high standard, these standards are clearly instilled by manager Andrew, who was personable, attentive and most importantly genuine.
All the staff were very attentive and friendly and a credit to his stewardship and the hotel itself.
The Heritage Hotel & Spa is surrounded by a host of major visitor activities and attractions including the Curragh Racecourse, Kildare Village shopping complex, Grand Canal Equestrian Centre, Emo Court with its beautiful James Gandon-designed house and 250 acres of parkland, and the National Stud Gardens.
Two nights at the The Heritage Hotel and Spa in one of their luxury Deluxe Room’s including breakfast on both mornings, with €20 credit per person. €208 per couple sharing. Offer is valid Sunday to Thursday
Bike hire from Barrows Bikes: Hybrid and MTB bikes : 20 euro/day, Children’s bikes/trailer 10 euro/day. www.barrowwaybikes.ie