Uncommonly good: unique Irish getaways
Fed up with run-of-the-mill self-catering holiday accommodation? Fear not: yurts, pods, barns, lighthouses and other offbeat breaks are within easy reach
The 18th-century Wicklow Head Lighthouse, which accommodates four people in six octagonal rooms overlooking the Irish Sea
Ecocabins at Gortbrack Farm in Co Kerry
Maggie Pepper barge of Riversdale Barge Holidays
A Pods Ireland pod in Co Kerry
Sometimes, a mobile home or self-catering holiday cottage just won’t do. Maybe you have saturated the possibilities that such easy accommodation offers: bunk beds squeezed into tiny rooms, fitted kitchens that remind you of your own, tiny closed-in gardens behind holiday cottages that display the uniformity of a suburban estate. Or maybe you are tired of meeting people like yourself. Why not break out of your comfort zone?
These timber frame cabins, built in 2009, have wood-burning stoves for heating and solar panels for water-heating. They stand in the middle of a wild-flower meadow, so even before breakfast you can commune with nature. Farm owners Ian McGrigor and Eileen Carroll run organic gardening courses, nature trails, treasure hunts and farm tours.You can pick your own vegetables for cooking. Gortbrack Farm is about eight kilometres outside Tralee on the N70 towards Casltemaine. The ecocabins cost €475 (sleeps six) and €275 (sleeps four) per week in high season (price negotiable). 066-7137042, gortbrackorganicfarm.com
If you’ve had enough of putting your own tent up, how about trying a camping pod? Theses are made from solid, treated timber and are insulated with sheep’s wool. The standard pod accommodates two adults and one child; the family pod can take two adults and three children. There’s an awning you can sit under if it rains. You can stay in Camping Pods at Castle Ward caravan park, Strangford, Co Down (048-44881204, nationaltrust.org/ uk/castle-ward, £35/£45 per night) and the Battlebridge Caravan, Camping and Glamping Park on the Shannon in Co Leitrim (battlebridgecaravanandcamping.ie, 071-9650824, €180 for two nights and €40 extra per night after that), podsireland.com.
Yurts and tepees
These tents are at the luxurious end of camping. If you are keen to stay in an authentic yurt (with circular walls and decorated poles pointing to the central window at the top, which can also accommodate a log-fuelled stove), head for Chleire Haven on Cape Clear Island in Co Cork (yurt-holidays-ireland.com). The accommodation includes a duvet-clad double bed, sofa-bed, cooker, crockery, solar-powered water-heating and lighting and a cool box.
Alternatively, stay in a tepee – conical tents usually made from canvas. Yurts can sleep a family of six and cost €240 for two nights. The tepees costs €20 per person night with a maximum of eight in each tepee. Remember: the tepees have self-inflatable camping mattresses, not beds, so you will need to bring a sleeping bag.
Glendalough Hermitage Centre in Co Wicklow (glendaloughhermitage.ie, 087-9356696) has five purpose-built hermitages (cillins) in the grounds of St Kevin’s Church, Laragh, about a kilometre from Glendalough monastic site. Each self-catering hermitage has its own secluded space (yet close to the others) with a bed and living room, a kitchenette, a shower and a toilet. The suggested donation is €45 per night for a single and €70 for a twin.
The Benedictine monastery at Glenstal Abbey, Murroe, Co Limerick, has two new “God pods”. These small self-catering wooden dwellings, about a kilometre from the Abbey Church, cost €80 per night for one or two nights and €45 per night for a week (glenstal.org, 061-621005).
The 18th-century Wicklow Head Lighthouse, managed by the Irish Landmark Trust, is probably the only restored lighthouse in Ireland available for holiday letting. It accommodates four people in six octagonal rooms, carefully constructed in the tower overlooking the Irish Sea.
If you are looking for a remote, stunning holiday location, look no further than Loop Head Lightkeeper’s House in Kilbaha, Co Clare. The house, a landmark on the northern shore of the Shannon, facing the Atlantic Ocean, accommodates five.
The Galley Head Lightkeepers’ Houses near Clonakilty, Co Cork, are perched on dramatic cliffs about 130ft above sea level. Both houses have incredible views. And, finally the Blackhead Lightkeeper’s Houses at Whitehead, Co Antrim, are also spectacular. All Irish Landmark Trust properties have been meticulously restored following conservation methods and have period furniture and fittings. irishlandmark.com.
Boating holidays on the Shannon are a well established summer vacation but have you considered holidaying on a barge? Barges can be hired from Riversdale Barge Holidays (riversdalebargeholidays.com, 071-9644122), which rents three different styles from its base in Ballinamore, Co Leitrim. The barges – modified traditional narrowboats – range from two to eight berths and cost €1,265-€1,540 per week in high season. While the 16 locks on the Shannon-Erne Waterway are now automatic and operated by smart cards, the Riversdale team will show potential holidaymakers the workings of the boat and offer a trial run through a lock.
Restored barns are not as popular in Ireland as in France and Italy. Perhaps we don’t have as romantic a view of farming, as many are still only a generation away from rural life. That said, there are a few of interest. Swallow Barn in Kilbridge, Dunganstown, near Wicklow town, is a 200-year-old stone barn with half doors overlooking the farmyard. It sleeps five and includes a large shared garden with swings and jungle ropes on apple trees. The Granary, a former grain barn, sleeps five and has a private patio with views over the Wicklow valleys. Both barns cost €490 per week in July and August. ballardfarmholidays.com, 0404-48113.