Ask Joan: Winter sun and festive fun

Winter sun in thde Canaries and Amelia Island, Christmas in Ireland

 Christmas at Solis Lough Eske

Christmas at Solis Lough Eske


My parents and I are looking at the possibility of spending three days over the Christmas in a hotel in Ireland – from Christmas Eve to St Stephen’s Day. We would like to bring our small dog, rather than putting her in kennels. Have you any recommendations for hotels that might have separate apartment or cottage accommodation as part of the venue, while still offering us the usual breakfast and dinner options for the relevant three days? – LF, Dublin

Few hotels or resorts are remaining opening over Christmas, and even fewer allow pets.

However, the Castlemartyr Resort ( in east Cork allows pets in rooms and has a Christmas package from €665pps for two nights.

Lodges in the grounds will be open over Christmas, but you may not be able to have Christmas dinner in the hotel, as it is very busy. You can book the lodges through and a three-night stay will cost from €560.

The Solis Lough Eske Castle Hotel, in the lee of the Blue Stack Mountains, in Donegal, allows small pets and have a traditional Christmas package with lots of food, entertainment and walks around the lake.

The three-night package costs from €695pps and you can arrive on December 23rd for no extra charge ( lougheskecastle, 074-9725100).

We are four ladies looking to get some sunshine in early February for one week. We would like a Villa with a pool, near a town with nice restaurants and shops. We are thinking about the Canary Islands as we do not want to fly much further. Where would you recommend for the best chance of good weather? We would also hire a car to give us the option of touring around if the weather was mixed. – LD, Dublin

In February, the Canary Islands would be the most likely place to find sun, with average temperatures of 17-22 degrees. There is a good selection of the type of property you would like to rent and plenty of flights from Ireland.

In order of popularity, availability of good accommodation, and places to see, I would rate the islands Lanzarote, Tenerife, Gran Canaria and Fuerteventura. Lanzarote is the most popular island with Irish visitors and you will feel at home there during winter. The island has attractions such as the Jameos del Agua, the cactus garden, the fascinating home of the artist Cesar Manrique, and the Timanfaya Volcanic National Park.

Tenerife is home of the highest mountain in all of Spain, Teide, and it is a wonderful drive up to the Mount Teide National Park. Other places to visit include Loro Parque zoo and charming Santa Cruz de Tenerife with its markets and old style restaurants. has a good variety of accommodation to rent on the islands. Lanzarote has dozens to rent and Fuerteventura the fewest. Villas mostly have pools, some are on golf courses and others are in towns and villages. Prices are from around €555pps with accommodation, flights and – best of all – free car hire, as well as free travel insurance and welcome packs.

Making your own arrangements, you can fly to the islands with Ryanair and Aer Lingus and there are hundreds of properties to rent on,, and

We are a family of two adults and three children (seven, nine, 11), and we are doing a house swap for two weeks in April with a family in Amelia Island, Florida. Have you any recommendations on getting there? The children are good travellers and don’t mind overnight travel. – MD, Galway

Aer Lingus or United would work. You can fly from Shannon to New York and on to Jacksonville, which would put you within an hour of Amelia Island.

Prices will depend on the days you travel – as it will be Easter it may be busy – and the number of stops along the way and will range from €576 to €723. It would also get you there on the same day, saving the cost of an overnight.