Go away with ye: The gift of a trip
From spa breaks to a gourmet dining experiences, surprise and delight someone this Christmas with a luxurious mini-break
Enjoy three days of outdoor fun in Finland. Photograph: iStock
The perfect antidote to the whirl of the Christmas season is the chance to get away from it all. Whether you want to find an activity trip, a spa break or a gourmet dining experience, you don’t have to go far. There are short trips to suit all tastes and budgets both here and abroad. Here is a selection of our favourites.
TOUR SKATING IN FINLAND
A trip to Finland’s favourite skating resort offers the perfect opportunity to get active again and shake off any seasonal sloth. The trip starts in Helsinki with a train journey to a resort on Lake Saimaa for three days filled with outdoor fun. These include sledging, skating or taking a horsedrawn sleigh across a frozen lake to the island of Kaarnetsaari. (Or guests can try kicksledging, which would be good practice for using a scooter.) Then it’s time to pause for a hot lunch before trying some ice fishing. Visitors can also travel to Linnansaari National Park, either by ice skates or sleigh, stopping off to make pancakes and coffee by an open fire. Day three involves a snowmobile safari to a reindeer park to help feed the animals. The five-day trip is available in February and March. It costs from €888, not including flights to Helsinki. responsibletravel.com
A MINI-MED FLY CRUISE
Give the gift of dining out nightly in different spots on the Mediterranean with this four-night cruise on the MSC Opera. It takes in Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Marseille and Genoa. The price includes return flights from Dublin, accommodation based on two sharing an interior cabin, full on-board dining, gratuities, taxes and fees. Transfers and airline baggage cost extra. The cruise, which costs from €775 full board, leaves on April 6th, 2020.
MSC Divinia, departing on April 10th, takes three nights and visits all the ports above except Palma. It costs from €739 per person, full board with similar conditions. sunway.ie
SWIMMING CLASSES IN COMFORT
If you know someone who wants to learn to swim but doesn’t fancy cold, functional pools, then the luxurious Park Hotel Kenmare has the answer. Its Learn to Swim residential programme of one-to-one classes over two to three days can be added to any two- or three-day break for an extra €60 per hour. After three days of individual attention from the triathlete coach in the 25m pool, guests of all ages “will be able to stay afloat, but not to enter the Olympics”, the hotel says. More advanced swimmers can focus on improving their breathing technique to swim effortlessly. The programme is tailored to individual requirements. Rooms costs from €210 per night in February. parkkenmare.com
FOREST BATHING IN ANTRIM
There’s no need to fly anyone to Japan to indulge in the latest wellness trend. Just send them to Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort, which is set in 160 acres of lush parkland near Ballymena in Co Antrim. The new Forest Therapy Treatment at its award-winning spa features guided breathing, warm stone placement and massage using silky Aromatherapy Associates products. Follow that with a trip to the snow cabin or a Celtic sauna for €15. Forest bathing costs from €69 per person. The four-star manor house hotel has four restaurants so you need never leave. The Galgorm luxury escape costs from €217 in January and February. galgorm.com
THE SEA, THE SEA IN CORK
Consider giving a Weekend Wellness trip to the Eccles Hotel on the Beara Peninsula for an infusion of bracing sea air. Guests can indulge in a couples’ seaweed bath before having a 90-minute massage or a facial. Then settle into a hot tub overlooking the sea. The offer includes a two-night stay for two, including daily Irish breakfast, a three-course dinner on one evening and a half-day pamper package including lunch for €600. eccleshotel.com
PARTY ON AT WINEPORT LODGE
Keep the romance alive with the Champagne Suite Experience at Wineport Lodge, which is set on the banks of Lough Ree, in a bucolic setting surrounded by native woodland. This is a chance to bask in opulence before falling asleep to the gentle sound of the “lake waters lapping and low sounds by the shore”. Technophiles will love the curved Sony Smart TV.
The offer includes one night in the suite, dinner for two in the award-winning restaurant on one evening, followed by breakfast in bed each morning. Guests also find a bath basket, handmade chocolates, a fruit plate and a half bottle of Champagne in the room on arrival. This costs €500. wineport.ie
LITERARY TREAT IN DUBLIN
Bibliophiles should be delighted by a trip to the newly-opened Museum of Literature on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin. The museum’s exhibitions tell the story of Ireland’s literary heritage from the earliest traditions to its celebrated contemporary writers. Immerse yourself in the sounds of storytelling across the centuries, trace the footsteps of James Joyce’s Dublin, and encounter rare gems from the National Library of Ireland, including the first copy of Ulysses. Stauntons on the Green, which is next door to the museum, is offering an overnight break for two people that includes a night in the classic Georgian hotel and entry to the museum for €245. Guest will receive a bottle of Prosecco on arrival. stauntonsonthegreen.ie
Offer an escape from the modern world with a stay at Inis Meáin Restaurant & Suites on the medium-sized Aran Island off Galway. The four-night element package devised by Marie-Thérèse and Ruairí de Blacam involves full immersion in these largely untamed surroundings. What’s on the menu is determined by what they have grown in their garden and greenhouse, what fish have been pulled from the Atlantic and other locally-sourced ingredients. It costs from €2,480 to stay in a severe-looking yet deeply luxurious suite with sweeping ocean views. That price includes four dinners, breakfast delivered to your suite, lunches and two island experiences, which could be anything from harvesting island food, to a wine tasting, to a cookery demonstration, to an island site visit or a cultural performance. Island retreats can be booked for March, September and October only. inismeain.com
DINE IN DONEGAL
Book a Foyle Escapes package at the award-winning Foyle Hotel and dinner will be the creation of chef-proprietor Brian McDermott, author of Donegal Table, which was voted the world’s best cookery book at the Gourmand World Book Awards. The unpretentious hotel in the coastal town of Moville is a great location from which to explore the northern headlands of the Wild Atlantic Way.
The package includes dinner for two in the award-winning restaurant, a glass of Prosecco each and a late breakfast. The package costs from €140 in January. foylehotel.ie
RUN AWAY TO ROME
Acknowledge any cultural inclinations with this three-day trip to the Eternal City. The Travel Department package includes a walking tour of ancient Rome which includes the St Peter in Chains basilica, the Colosseum, the Forum, Capitoline Hill and the fountain at Trevi. Art lovers can just wander the streets or visit the Museo e Galleria Borghese, which houses paintings by Caravaggio, Botticelli and Raphael. There is also plenty of time to indulge in luscious local ice-cream, pizza and pasta. A package for three nights’ bed and breakfast in the city leaving on February 20th, 2020, costs from €499 based on two people sharing. traveldepartment.ie