Think of a "foodie city" in Ireland and chances are Dublin, Cork or Galway will spring to mind. All incredible spots, and well worthy of their culinary status.
But one oft-overlooked treasure is Kilkenny. A top foodie destination, Kilkenny boasts pretty much everything from artisan cheesemakers and chocolatiers to cute cafés and cosmopolitan city eateries.
A recent sunny weekend was the perfect opportunity to go check out what Kilkenny has to offer. I hopped on the bus (yes, it was grim, but sure isn't that my own fault for still not getting my driving license?) and arrived around lunchtime to see that the Marble City was buzzing.
Buskers were banging out tunes on the streets, people were eating and drinking al fresco along the river and the lovely food market was showcasing its wares right outside the castle.
A quick lunch in Foodworks, a charming unfussy bistro that does a great value lunch of two courses for just €19 kicked things off nicely. Roast garlic prawns with a chunk of ciabatta to start and a fillet of hake with creamy risotto. Kilkenny knows how to make the most of local ingredients, that's for sure.
Bellies full and wanting to do nothing but flake out, we made our way just outside of the city to Lyrath Estate, an award-winning hotel set on acres upon acres of pretty parkland.
This 17th century house has been restored into a tranquil haven...
A mix of old world charm and contemporary design greet you as soon as you walk in. Light streams in through glass yet you can still glimpse the old stained glass windows and winding staircase from the modern reception.
Rooms range from traditional ones (think four poster beds!) in the manor house to luxury modern rooms in the main hotel
We stayed in one of the nicest rooms in the place: a luxury suite. Genuinely, this room was bigger than my entire apartment.
A dining table, Nespresso machine, sofa with a gas fireplace, walk-in wardrobe and not one but two bathrooms await. The suite costs from around €480 a night but if you want a weekend away that's unforgettable this room alone will do the trick.
Views of the lake outside surrounded by cherry blossom trees seal the deal.
There's landscaped gardens and plenty of space to explore... Oh, and there's two beaut Golden Retrievers
Petition for every hotel to come with two fluffy dogs please? Reilly and Ringo are the hotel's resident pups and you'll come across them chilling out during your stay. Lyrath Estate also has 170 acres to wander around, with signposted walks leading to a little waterfall.
A miniature maze and herb garden make a gorge spot for strolling around after brekkie and you can arrange to do archery, falconry or even have a picnic outside.
An infinity pool looks out over the grounds and trust me, you won't want to leave it
And yes, it is necessary to pose for an Instagram looking out into the distance.
We were lucky that it was an absolute scorcher the day we arrived so an outdoor infinity pool was an absolute life saver. There is an indoor pool and leisure centre in the hotel but when we popped our head in it was full of kids - great news for families, but I wanted something a bit more chill.
Over to the Oasis spa area you'll find the serene outdoor pool. It's €15 for access but is well worth it. There's two saunas that overlook the pool and gardens outside as well.
Kilkenny is a mecca for food lovers and Lyrath has two spots to dine
There's the newly opened The Grill Bar which has a more casual menu or on the finer end is their Yew Restaurant, a bright open space with a focus on local and seasonal food.
I had dinner in the Yew Restaurant and while it was absolutely lovely, I couldn't help but have FOMO over some of the places in Kilkenny city that I'd heard so many great things about. My recommendation? Make a weekend out of it and stay two nights - one to chill in the hotel for the entire evening and dine there as well, and another to explore the city by night.
And the bar at Lyrath is a solid space to settle into for the night
We spent the rest of our evening after dinner in Tupper's Bar, a cosy space in the manor area of the hotel.
The bartender was pure class - suggesting a touch of citrus in my G&T by putting a flame to some orange peel and adding it into the drink.
An open wood burning fire was crackling away all night and there's also a pretty conservatory area to the side for summer afternoon tipples.
A last pet of Ringo as we left, we stopped off in the city again for a last stroll around before heading back up to Dublin.
Kilkenny isn't just for stag parties after all. A gorgeous city break where you can be chilling in the countryside in just a few mins? Ideal.