What about a walk around the private lake or woods, admiring the parterre gardens and terraces, before retiring to one of the drawing rooms for afternoon tea in front of the open fire? At historic private country houses like Hilton Park in County Monaghan, you can sleep in a four-poster bed, bathe in a freestanding bath or explore the walled garden — before tasting the garden's produce in the dining room (lavender ice-cream anyone?). There's also lake swimming, boating, fishing and cycling (bikes are provided) and for the indoors types, there are books everywhere. Best of all, as the house has been in the Madden family for many generations, the owners will tell you lots of stories of the house and the area's fascinating history. See www.hiltonpark.ie and see www.hiddenireland.com for more historic private houses like this that you can stay in.