Sometimes the best things in life are right under your nose. In this case, a great escape just half an hour from Limerick is Aherlow House, in the stunning Glen of Aherlow, Co.Tipperary. Suddenly you are in what looks like Colorado, or New Zealand, surrounded by mountains, forest and woodlands, so near and yet so far away. I know that, for me, sometimes the effort to get to a destination can undo the benefits of being there, not so here. This is a perfect spot for winter, cosy and intimate with just 29 rooms and an ease and familiarity that's just the right amount.
A one night stay felt like a week break from check in to our gorgeous room with views of the Glens and a cosy old world room. A little package with walking map and rain macs awaited to encourage us to get out and explore the stunning surrounds. Everything is so close here we even squeezed in a trip to the nearby Apple Farm where visitors can see a real, family-run orchard and juice producting business, buy some local juices and take them home. You can stock up on their amazing Orchard Syrup, great on pancakes, or the fab Apple Cider Vinegar, great for a detox.
This was no time for detoxing however as we'd heard much about the hotels' new chef; the multi-award winner Jose Vega who uses lots of locally produced ingredients in his menus. The curry popcorn at the bar was an amusing amuse bouche. Vega produces stunning food, refined and witty yet unpretentious with courses in just the right size to seduce you and bring you just to the point of perfect satisfaction, with no flavours lost in his delicious Trio Guinea Fowl dish to the homely chocolate desert with the booziest cherries ever. The trip to eat here is well worth it, food like this is hard to find in any city, to find it in at the foothills of the Galtees is a bonus. Cocktails at the bar can be enjoyed around a roaring fire as diners excahge masterchef-like lively discussion of the food. This is foodie heaven, and breakfast and afternoon tea haven't even been mentioned.
I didn't want to leave this hotel and checked out the gorgeous lodges before we hit the road, if you have any excuse to get away with friends or your kids, this is a welcome self-catering option and a nature lovers and artists paradise. Can't wait to get back