Getting away from it all does not quite capture what it is to stay at Lisnavagh House. As yoga and mindfulness retreats become ever more popular in Ireland what this historic country manor in County Carlow offers is pure luxury and escapism.
From yoga and sleep to mindfulness and cookery each of Lisnavagh House & Garden’s weekend retreat packages has one ethos at its heart “peace”. The opulent accommodation in the 19th-century house and converted farm buildings, nourishing vegan and vegetarian food, expert tuition by carefully selected teachers - these retreats are designed to “permit deep rest”. I can testify that this is most certainly achieved.
Lisnavagh House, built in the 1840s, is surrounded by 600 acres of farm and woodland and includes a farm and walled-gardens, where much of the food guests eat is grown. Purchased by the Bunbury family in 1702, the house and grounds today remain a family-run business that includes weddings, corporate events, and wellness retreats.
Lisnavagh House & Garden’s history
The Bunburys, whose family are descendants of Baron de St. Pierre, a Norman knight who served with William the Conqueror settled in Ireland in the 1660s and purchased Lisnavagh House. By 1860, the estate at Lisnavagh had evolved into one of the most advanced and efficient farms in the country. The magnificent home and grounds that guests enjoy today.
In 1879, Thomas McClintock Bunbury of Lisnavagh succeeded his uncle to become Lord Rathdonnell. His great-grandson Benjamin, the present Lord Rathdonnell, succeeded to Lisnavagh in 1959. In 2000, William, son of the present Lord Rathdonnell, returned from the UK to take on Lisnavagh with new enterprises bringing Lisnavagh into the 21st century and beyond.
Today, William, his wife Emily McClintock Bunbury along with a dedicated team manage the house, gardens and magical events hosted in their home.
When William returned to Lisnavagh he established The Lisnavagh Timber Project which produces Bespoke Bunbury products including kitchen worktops, mantelpieces, other commissions, and, of course, the now-famous Bunbury Boards. Throughout the years the farmyard buildings were refurbished and now house the family enterprises.
Emily, who married William in 2002, has been actively involved in the refurbishment and rebirth of Lisnavagh House & Gardens. The house opened as a wedding venue in 2007 and has evolved to become a sought after corporate destination, a location for fashion editorials, commercial film projects and of course a wellness retreat center.
One of the lovely things about Lisnavagh House is that while it is, most certainly, a luxurious and historic event space it’s also a family home filled with the warmth of Emily, William their three children, four dogs, two pigs and much more!
I was lucky enough to take part in a yoga and sleep two-day retreat lead by Pamela Butler, in January 2020. The weekend was simply a wonderful vacation from real life, filled with nourishment for the body and soul and a total break from the bustling, technology-filled every day.
Guests were encouraged to stay away from screens, bring their books and enjoy. As soon as I arrived I could see why. From the accommodation, food and classes the message was “peace” - to be calm and relax.
The guest rooms are all individually styled, including amazing antique furniture, family mementos, and incredible bathrooms. I was lucky enough to enjoy the Oak Suite, including panoramic views of the gardens and parkland. There is alternative accommodation in the stables courtyard adjacent to the house.
Settling into a four-poster bed, having bathed in an antique copper bath with provided Voya products, I had not a care in the world, I must admit.
The rest of the house is also open to its guest including a decadently cozy oak-paneled library, made all the more homely with an open fire and blankets.
The yoga classes, which take place just off the main house, are carried out in a wonderfully bright and warm room overlooking the stunning gardens.
Our yoga program for the weekend was informative, soothing and invigorating. The classes were led by Butler who guided us through Shadow-style hatha yoga. She led us through sequences, suitable to any level, to cultivate resilience and flow.
Most importantly she emphasized the importance of "the breathe" to the body and how important it is to take a breath every so often and take stock. What this weekend was all about.
My classmates and I left our classes relaxed, smiling and certainly took wonderful lessons and memories away from our time with this mentor.
Mealtimes at Lisnavagh are something really special. Dining around a large mahogany table with a fireplace that brings a huge sense of warmth, more than once, while still cozily wrapped up on our yoga clothes, Downton Abbey was discussed.
The meals provided were delicious. So much so that by the end of the weekend the other guests and I were pestering Emily for recipes. Vegan and vegetarian meals are provided from Lisnavagh Kitchen, which uses organic local suppliers and produce grown in the walled gardens of Lisnavagh.
The wellness retreats at Lisnavagh aim to provide guests with practical tools for living well in everyday life. What they most certainly do is give individuals a truly beautiful location to rest, recharge, relish and remember what’s important… to stop and take a breath.
For more information visit Lisnavagh.com.