In these hectic, modern times, one thing that busy people crave most is more time to relax, to spend time with family and friends, and to indulge in their pastimes. There are those who like to unwind with a drink or meal with friends, others with a rigorous hike or bike ride, and some who choose to recharge their batteries by means of a couple of days rest and relaxation in a tranquil spa.
So if you’re looking for a way to really say thank you this Christmas, be it to your hardworking employees, or to your friends or family, then give the gift of time and relaxation with an Ireland’s Blue Book Gift Voucher.
The appeal of Blue Book gift vouchers is that they can be used in over 50 different country house hotels, castles or restaurants across the island of Ireland. And each of these luxurious properties has a different look, a different personality and different types of facilities. Some have indulgent treatment rooms and spas, others have golf courses, equestrian centres and tranquil lakes and rivers for fishing. There are so many ways to relax and unwind with an Ireland’s Blue Book gift voucher, but here are just six of the best:
An equestrian break at Castle Leslie Estate
Castle Leslie Estate is a beautiful family-owned estate in Monaghan with its very own equestrian centre. Castle Leslie offers packages of up to four days of relaxed horse-riding, with bed and breakfast and evening meals in the casual Conor’s Bar on the estate, where guests can eat like the proverbial horse, which will be well-deserved after working up a good appetite exploring the estate on horseback, or trekking through the local countryside.
A few days spent trotting through the trails of the estate followed by dinner and the most comfortable night’s sleep – we can’t think of a nicer way to unwind.
For more information, visit Castle Leslie Estate
Relaxing in Hayfield Manor’s serene spa
The Beautique Spa is a true tranquil haven that can be found right in the centre of Cork city at the five star Hayfield Manor Hotel.
Relax your body, mind and soul with a long soak in the indoor heated pool or in their outdoor jacuzzi. Lounge poolside with a good book, or rid yourself of the stresses and toxins of everyday life in the sauna or steam room.
During your spa break, take the opportunity to book in for some of the expert treatments on offer, including a range of detoxifying facials, revitalizing massages, body wraps, cleanses and nail and waxing therapies.
No need to wait for the new year for a new you.
For more information, visit Hayfield Manor
Fishing on the Lough Corrib at Currarevagh House
What could be more relaxing than drifting out to the middle of a lake and enjoying an afternoon of fishing with nothing but the sound of the occasional bird, the lapping of the water against the side of your boat, and the plink of your fishing line as it breaks the surface of the water?
On Lough Corrib you can enjoy the fishing season from February 15th to September 30th, catching trout, salmon, pike, perch and bream. At the end of an enjoyable expedition, indulge in a wonderful dinner and overnight stay at Currarevagh House – a charming, old-fashioned country house that sits right on the edge of the lake and has direct access, along with traditionally built clinker boats for hire.
For more information, visit Currarevagh House
Baking bread at Ballymaloe House
This one is for the baking fanatics. Dust off the rolling pins and step into the warmth of the kitchen at the world-renowned Ballymaloe House and learn how to bake bread the Allen way.
Enjoy a wonderfully comfortable overnight stay at the beautiful country house along with a delicious meal in the award-winning restaurant. The next morning will be spent kneading the stress away in the kitchen, learning from Ballymaloe’s own expert pastry chefs.
After enjoying a delicious breakfast make time to explore the beautiful grounds of Ballymaloe House, including their peaceful walled gardens and farm
Ballymaloe is open year round, excluding the 23rd to the 29th of December.
For more information, visit Ballymaloe House
Dining aboard the Orient Express at Glenlo Abbey
For some, the ultimate way to unwind is with a delicious dinner and good wine, shared with someone special. And what could be more romantic than a lavish meal for two on board an old fashioned steam-engine?
The unique Pullman Restaurant at the five star Glenlo Abbey Hotel in Galway is set aboard two carriages of the original Orient Express. For a dining experience with a difference, step back into a bygone era on this wonderfully maintained piece of history, in classic 1920s style, with elegant lace curtains, dark wood panelling and fine china.
Afterwards head back to this stylish hotel for a luxurious night’s sleep and - if you can manage it - a delicious breakfast the following morning.
For more information, visit Glenlo Abbey Hotel
Sleep on the edge of the earth in Clare Island Lighthouse
For some true escapism, you can leave the mainland entirely and head across to Clare Island, off the coast of Mayo, where the original lighthouse has stood since 1818. Now a unique hotel having been bought and renovated in 2008, it is perfect if you’re looking for something just a little bit different for your next break away.
Imagine falling asleep to the sounds of the Atlantic ocean gently breaking just metres from your window, and waking up to unobscured views of the ocean, stretching all the way across to North America.
Take a couple of days to explore the island, have a drink or dinner in the charming local pub, or just relax in the lighthouse, which even has its own sauna with impressive ocean views.
For more information, visit Clare Island Lighthouse