Located 30 minutes outside Dublin in the rolling green hills of County Wicklow, the verdant landscape is known as “The Garden of Ireland.” The region is anchored by the Powerscourt Estate & Gardens, overlooking 49,000 acres of protected forests. The 68-room Powerscourt Mansion was constructed here in 1741. A century later, over 100 men spent eight years creating the sprawling gardens wrapping around the pretty lake and fountains. And in 2007, The Ritz-Carlton, Powerscourt opened a 5-minute walk away with 200 rooms, two golf courses and the largest spa in Ireland.
The property was designed with corporate meeting and incentive groups in mind. Everything from the moment you walk into the Georgian grand lobby was created to inspire awe, while at the same time, the tight footprint and simple crescent-shaped layout makes it easy to navigate for business sessions and events.
The lobby is a stunner with 2-story windows framing the grand lawn and Sugar Loaf Mountain, punctuated with a swirling staircase to the spa and grounds below. This is one lobby you won’t mind waiting in while your group assembles. The mix of classical elegance amid the woodsy environs adds to the appeal and invigorates all of the senses in anticipation for your stay here, and that’s within the first five minutes upon arrival.
As you walk out into the grounds and cultivated gardens, the full weight of the majestic neo-classical, Palladian-style architecture hits you full force as the sweep of the facade curls around into the trees on both ends. We did a group photo out here and it’s a wonderful setting for tented alfresco events.
Of the 200 rooms, there are 93 suites starting at 700 sf with large balconies overlooking the lawn and forest, floor-to-ceiling windows and large white-on-white baths. The striped wallpaper and updated period furnishings are residential in tone with a modern sensibility that feels elegant without being stuffy. Love the hardwood floor entryway and big cornice molding throughout. All of the rooms, public spaces and meeting facilities are hooked up with fast, complimentary WiFi.
The 30,000-sf ESPA at The Ritz-Carlton, Powerscourt is a destination spa with 20 treatment rooms and a fun variety of steam rooms, tepidariums, vitality pools, “thermal suites” to warm and relax the body, and a 65-foot pool lit with Swarovski crystals. The palette of dark and pale natural stone, wood and slate brings a deeply harmonizing quality to the space complementing the sylvan landscape outside. This is the first ESPA-branded spa to launch at Ritz-Carlton in Europe. Meaning, the treatments are inspired by ancient Eastern and Indian philosophies, ranging from Balinese massage to Ayurvedic bathing rituals.
The gorgeous Powerscourt Golf Club sits nestled between the East Course and the West Course, designed by local golf architects Peter McEvoy and David McLay, respectively. Between the deep green undulating hills and the historic golf club, this is one of the most visually appealing layouts in the U.K., which we brought up during our tour. And there are three more courses within a 20-minute drive.
“For groups who want the iconic Irish countryside experience with full meeting and incentive facilities, along with world-class golf and spa, this is it!” says Anne Marie Whelan, director of sales/marketing.
Time for lunch, we headed to the authentic Irish pub, McGills. They put a lot of thought into this supremely comfortable restaurant with a cool wooden bar, fireplace, pharmaceutical shelves, tall tap handles and lots of cozy banquettes to slip into. The bento boxes of fish ‘n chips with a pint of Guinness hit the spot for lunch, and the space is conducive to walking around and mingling with people in front of all the unique decor.
The F&B highlight is Gordon Ramsay at Powerscourt on the lobby level with a full glass wall facing Sugar Loaf Mountain. This is the only restaurant in Ireland operated by the Michelin star chef, serving a seasonal/local menu. Sample appetizers include Castletownbere crab and code-glazed pork belly. The mains include wild sea trout with white asparagus and a braised lamb shoulder with Boulanger potatoes. There’s a Chef’s Table in the kitchen and the hotel does know when Chef Ramsay is going to be in town. The Wine Bar is a new addition to the restaurant, with charcuterie and cheese boards updated daily.
For meetings and conferences, The Ritz-Carlton, Powerscourt offers 10,200 sf of flexible meeting and function space, including a 600-pax ballroom divisible by three with direct vehicle access. The hotel does 60% corporate business and the U.S. is the second most popular feeder market with 12 American groups in 2012. Planners can request the Ramsay menu if they wish, but don’t forget to order some of those bento boxes of fish and chips too.
Due to the economic crunch in much of Europe, and Ireland’s overall value in general, now is the time to lock in group rates you’ll find very approachable for a luxury hotel of this caliber with as many amenities. The hotel is only 30 minutes from the airport so you transfer everyone here in a snap, and the Dublin’s city center is close enough to go into town conveniently for dinner and sightseeing.
Here’s one last photo. This is the ballroom in the Powerscourt Estate mansion, arguably one of the most stirring venues in all of Ireland with exceptional views over the endless gardens.