Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside
We’ve fished out 10 of the best briny hotels, perfect for a healthy dose of salty sea air
O’Carrolls Cove, near Waterville Co Kerry. Photograph: Frank Miller
Inis Meain Restaurant and Suites, Inishmaan, Aran Islands
Cliff House Hotel Ardmore
Kelly’s Hotel, Wexford
View of the Sheep’s Head Peninsula from Ballyroom Mountain in Co Cork. Photograph: Getty images
Let the sun set on Connemara
Sundowners just aren’t the same without a sunset behind them, and preferably a sea. So pull up a chair, sit back and enjoy the display at the Ardagh, a boutique coastal hotel at the edge of Ardbear Bay, in the heart of Connemara. The views are spectacular and, like all seascapes, pretty much impervious to weather – the worse the weather the more dramatic the sea. The hotel is two miles from Clifden but most guests seem to like to book in and chill out, simply soaking up the panorama. It’s very relaxing and the food is great, with a suitable emphasis on fresh seafood. If you feel like swimming it’s a 10-minute drive from Dog’s Bay. Pay an extra tenner for a sea view room and leave your curtains open for the night – assuming you’re not on the ground floor that is. Overnight B&B stays from €82.50 pps midweek in June.
Life is suite on Inis Meáin
Ruairí and Marie-Thérèse de Blacam’s Inis Meáin Restaurant and Suites is not so much a sea-side hotel as a sea-surround. Though actually, it’s not a hotel either. It’s a restaurant that just happens to have beautiful suites with which to reward those who make the effort to get to this tiny island. Stay for two- or four-day packages and make the most of the bicycle, binoculars and fishing rods you’ll find in each suite. There’s a knapsack too, to hold the packed lunch included each day. And the beaches are perfect for picnics. “Even last summer, during all the amazingly hot weather, you could still find totally deserted beaches and have them all to yourself here,” says Marie-Thérèse. Two day B&B packages start at €440 for two.
Picture yourself in Donegal
Some of us are very particular about our sea views. Water alone is not enough. To really engage, it has to have some land in the frame – preferably cliffs or an island. Arnolds Hotel in Dunfanaghy, Co Donegal, hits the mark because it looks out across Sheepshaven Bay and the golden sands of Killahoey Beach to the wilds of Horn Head. It’s idyllic – the only problem, according to owner Gerarda Arnold, is that it’s so beautiful up here that it’s nigh on impossible not to spend your time taking pictures of it all. Her own favourite view is of Lucky Shell Beach, just up the road behind the Capuchin friary at Ards. But if what you really like to do is ride beside the seaside, Arnold’s is perfect too, there’s a stables next door. Two nights B&B plus dinner from €147 per person sharing midweek.
Seascapes of the sunny south east
For Sorrento-style glamour on the south-east coast, head for the Cliff House Hotel in Ardmore, Co Waterford, preferably in a 1950s’ convertible and a headscarf. If there were Michelin stars for sea views, this hotel would have one. All of its luxury rooms and suites – it’s a five-star property – look out over the water so you can rest your eyes on the sands, watch the lobster pots bobbing and the dolphins playing, practically from your bed. Mind you, given that the tyre company has given its (rubber) stamp of approval to the hotel’s restaurant, dragging yourself away from the window shouldn’t be too much of a wrench. Two night midweek breaks, including dinner in the bar restaurant, from €450 based on two sharing.
Buckets of fun in Rosslare
Year after year the same faces return to Kellys, the fifth-generation resort hotel in Rosslare, for its unique mix of relaxed luxury plus bucket-and-spade fun. With the sands of the famous strand trailing right up its paths, you feel like you’re on holiday as soon as you arrive. You can walk for miles along the beach here, swim and, if you’re lucky, sunbathe. But because there’s so much going on in the hotel, you don’t have to panic if the weather’s bad either. The kids will be in the games room either way. Full board from €154 per adult per night in summer.
Shiver a timber in Baltimore
Set sail, or at least the SatNav, for Baltimore, the west Cork village famous for boats and pirates. In 1631, Algerian corsairs arrived, bundled up all the inhabitants and sold them as slaves in north Africa. The event is remembered each year in the Baltimore Pirate Festival, though with perhaps a tad more humour than the victims would appreciate. Baltimore’s two beaches are stony so for golden sands take the 10-minute ferry trip to Sherkin which has two nice ones to choose from.
Or make like a local and head to nearby Lough Ine instead. The stunning salt water lake is refreshed twice daily by the sea and has a beautiful hill walk next to it. Keep your eyes peeled though, just in case. Two nights B&B and one dinner at Casey’s of Baltimore, including ferry to Sherkin, from €99 pps.
Celebrate the sea in Waterville
There’ll be more than one centenary being celebrated in 2016. The year also marks the 100th anniversary of the Butler Arms Hotel in Waterville, Co Kerry. The family business has welcomed many a celebrity visitor in its time, including Walt Disney, Virginia Woolf and, of course, Charlie Chaplin, who famously stayed here all through the 1960s.
Run today by sisters Paula and Louise Huggard, it offers a perfect mix of watery endeavours, with Lough Currane on one side and the Atlantic on the other. Little wonder it’s so beloved by anglers.
With the announcement of a new 26km Greenway along a disused railway line from Glenbeigh to Cahersiveen, and the region’s recent award of Dark Sky status, it’s going to be increasingly popular among others too. See it before it goes stellar. Double rooms from €110pps.
High rollers in Rossnowlagh
The Sandhouse Hotel in Rossnowlagh, Co Donegal, is famous for two things. The original owners, the Britton family, practically invented surfing. Well, okay, but they brought it to Ireland. More recently, it hit the headlines with one of the only good news stories to come out of the Nama years.
When the hotel went into voluntary liquidation, its general manager of 20 years, Paul Diver, managed to buy it, securing the jobs of the staff. Diver is still smiling today, all the more because business is booming. “The good will has been amazing. Last year for the first time ever, we stayed open all winter,” said Diver, Ireland’s happiest hotelier. “Families love us because we’re as close to the sea as we can be without getting wet. I just had a guest come all the way from Texas because she had her heart set on sleeping in a room where she could leave the windows open and hear waves, so she came here.” Good choice. B&B from €69 pps.
Coves in Cork
Blair’s Cove House and Restaurant opened in 1981 and has been attracting those with a grá for coastal walking ever since. The Sheep’s Head Peninsula, over which it looks, is criss-crossed with paths, offering some of the most dramatic Atlantic views imaginable. Again, it’s a restaurant with rooms rather than a hotel, but it also has self-catering units.
Opt to stay B&B by the night, or in self-catering accommodation by the week. While Blair’s Cove is tucked away on a rocky foreshore, the vast and golden sands of Barleycove Beach are just a 15-minute drive away. B&B rates from €110 pps, including in-room breakfast service.
Beached in Donegal
Donegal is awash with wonderful beaches but even the most jaded beach bum could not fail to be impressed by the spectacular view of Ballymastocker Bay, on the western side of Lough Swilly, as seen from the Knockalla coast drive from Portsalon to Rathmullan. But persevere.
If you’re looking for an equally spectacular seaside hotel, don’t stop till you get to Rathmullan House, 15 minutes further up the road. The period house hotel has a two-mile beach right outside the front door, just waiting to be jogged, combed and swum. Or explore further afield, with a boat trip on the Swilly Explorer, taking Buncrana, Fanad and Inch Island, a birdwatcher’s paradise. Two nights B&B from €160 pps.