After the events of the past four months, now is the perfect time to enjoy a staycation. If, like me, you got a little fed up with largely seeing the same four walls day in, day out, you will enjoy it more than ever.
The hospitality industry was dealt a huge blow by the pandemic as premises were forced to close their doors, but it is clear they have fully embraced the new normal and, for me, a hotel stay now feels safer than a visit to the supermarket.
Last week I enjoyed my first post-lockdown staycation at the beautiful Glasson Lakehouse near Athlone. Located just outside the quaint village of Glasson in Co Westmeath and nestled on the tranquil shores of Lough Ree, this country house hotel offers the ideal getaway.
If you are unsure about staying in a hotel at the moment, my experience gave me real peace of mind because everything was planned out to make residents' stays as safe as possible.
Guests check in at a reception desk covered with Perspex screens and rooms are cleaned and then sealed with sticky tape, showing the next guest that no one has entered the room in the interim.
In the restaurant there are no plastic menus - these are replaced by disposable paper ones - and social distancing markers and hand sanitiser stations are visible across the premises.
So you can book with peace of mind, the hotel has added more flexibility to all reservations including free cancellations up to 24 hours prior to check-in.
I fell in love with the Irish midlands some years ago and this escape once again confirmed it to be my favourite holiday destination in Ireland.
Businessman Paddy McKillen jnr, the son of Belfast-born property tycoon Paddy McKillen snr, and his Press Up Entertainment group recently purchased the Glasson Lakehouse and have ambitious expansion plans for the years ahead.
It was so heartening to hear of such investment plans during this time of economic uncertainty.
The Glasson Lakehouse is home to the award-winning Glasson Golf Course & Club, which has justifiably earned an international reputation as one of the most challenging and scenic golf courses in Ireland. Designed by Ryder Cup star Christy O'Connor Jnr, it suits golfers of all abilities.
Having largely retired my clubs some years ago after a back injury and frustration at a lack of progress with my game, my break helped me fall back in love with the sport.
That is entirely down to the Glasson's in-house PGA professional and golf director Lynn McCool. The Strabane woman, a walking encyclopedia on the game of golf, was previously the golf professional at the Lough Erne Resort in Fermanagh.
Within an hour she had perfected my grip and swing and, even though I took several lessons many years ago, I believe my game is now more consistent and better than ever as she found faults I had never spotted.
After my lesson with Lynn, it was back to the hotel bar to enjoy a well-deserved pint of Guinness (oh, how I had missed thee).
During my two-night stay I enjoyed a number of delicious meals in the Lakeview bar and restaurant, including spicy chicken wings, a crispy buttermilk chicken sandwich, seafood chowder and a roast lamb dinner. All of the food was perfect, with an emphasis on fresh, local produce.
We also spent time in Athlone town - a fantastic place packed full of history. The town centre is built around Athlone Castle, which was constructed in 1210 to aid the Norman invasion of Ireland.
The 890-year-old stone structure, which sits above the River Shannon, offers a state-of-the-art multi-sensory visitor experience and has recently reopened to the public.
Here you will be treated to 3D maps and audio-visual installations showing the evolution of the castle and its role in local history, Viking raids and the Battle of the Boyne.
The great Siege of Athlone is relived in a 360-degree cinematic experience that transports visitors to the centre of the 1691 battle.
Another must-see attraction in Athlone is Sean's Bar, which was apparently established around 900, making it Ireland's oldest pub.
That claim makes the pub, with its raging open fire and sawdust-strewn floor, a tourist hotspot - and from previous visits it is clear American holidaymakers absolutely love it. It was still closed when I visited last week but is due to reopen in the coming weeks.
Next month the most popular tour of Athlone reopens, the Viking Tours that set sail from Athlone Castle to either Clonmacnoise or Lough Ree.
Captained by 'Viking Mike', you will enjoy the tour in a pimped-up Viking longboat which offers a great way to enjoy the waterways in the midlands. On the tour you will hear about how the Vikings first came to Athlone in 842 and the many Viking chiefs who took part in battles there, including Olaf the Scabby Head.
If you fancy travelling by water on something more intimate, Glasson Lakehouse has a number of smaller boats and kayaks that you can venture out on.
After visiting the town for its attractions or many shops, you will want to rush back to relax at the luxurious hotel.
We spent hours just taking in the view of the lake from our spacious room and the most comfortable bed. Such a perfect view to wake up to.
It is also well worth taking a stroll around the grounds of the hotel. If you venture outside a little, walking towards the water will take you past a dreamy cabin chosen as RTE's Home of the Year a few years ago.
A number of picnic tables have been installed around the hotel grounds and staff can arrange a picnic overlooking the lake if you wish.
Those expansion plans for the Glasson Lakehouse I mentioned earlier include a new shebeen-style pub and a large outside barbecue area built with Belfast brick. This area will be complete within the next month and will offer a perfect setting for any outdoor wedding gatherings.
Hotel manager Sean Foley, a most welcoming host, has a great vision for the years ahead, including log cabins in front of the lake and development of a marina area. He spoke with such passion for the project it was clear he is man who will get things done.
Do yourself a favour and check in to see for yourself what this hotel in such a beautifully picturesque setting has to offer.
Glasson Lakehouse deals include:
For more information or to book, visit https://glassonlakehouse.ie/ or call 0035390 6485120.