The Wicklow Escape combines the most comfortable lodgings with exquisite food, writes Róisín Healy.
Taking the winding roads to the Wicklow Escape emphasises how fitting that is – you really feel as you drive deeper in the hills that you’re leaving everyday life and stress behind. The white walls of the lodge are blanket in green leaves and it feels instantly welcoming – you just know you will find a cosy fire inside.
The soothing birdsong, the rustle of wind through the trees, and the odd bit of chatter and whirr of appliances from the kitchen are the only noises around, as the remote escape is located on a quiet country road. It’s easy to imagine its former life as simple overnight accommodation for hikers trekking through the Glen of Imaal.
But current owner Lisa Wilkinson has spent years making this a destination not only for rest and recuperation surrounded by nature, but also a sense of laidback luxury. The handmade super king size beds are beautiful, and each bedroom is decorated tastefully in teal and grey, offsetting the natural texture of the wooden furniture beautifully. There are rooms with bunks and single beds too, making it a brilliant option for getaway with friends.
Bringing renowned chef Danni Barry and sous chef Niamh Barry onto the team last year has been the culmination of years of investment in the property. The mature garden and greenhouse on site provide much of the vegetables on the menu, and behind the lodge, there is an outdoor kitchen and dining space the likes of which is really unexpected in Ireland.
Guests staying for two nights can usually expect on the first evening to gather in the outdoor Fiery for a meal cooked over fire, with interesting flatbreads and smokey meat dishes. We were staying for just one night, and so took our seats along the long table in the dining room, where the other guests were still raving about the previous night’s dining experience.
The dining room boasts a high ceiling and cosy Nordic cabin vibes, with faux furs draped over the chairs and a set of antlers displayed on the wall. We sat spaced out from other couples along the long table, so it felt safe, but was still possible to chat comfortably with those sitting across from us – the type of relaxed conversation that has been sorely missed during these past few quiet months.
First we settled in with a seasonal cocktail, followed by canapés. The cultured butter for the homemade bread was just so pretty decorated with edible flowers that the servers had to warn us it wasn’t an amuse-bouche. Each course is expertly matched with wines, including organic verdejo, Rioja and picpoul. The Kilmore Quay turbot, served with roast bone sauce and kalibos cabbage was incredibly flavourful, and the Wicklow mountain lamb with black garlic elicited satisfied nods and murmurs around the table.
When we had made our booking, the staff suggested enjoying the hot tub by starlight and after dinner we followed the trail of twinkling fairy lights to the secluded hot tub. The other guests had told us that the water was particularly hot, and so it felt especially nice to sink into the steaming water in the cool night air. After such fine food and the warmth of the hot tub, and the promise of a delicious brunch before check out the next morning, falling asleep was easy.