The Christmas period, while joyous and festive, can be fraught with planning frustration. For some, a hotel stay just doesn’t provide the same sense of home, where cooks like to don an apron and baste the turkey while sipping an aperitif. Some households find it difficult to accommodate everyone for extended family gatherings. Others want to escape the mayhem. From cosy hideaways to historic castles, here are a few options for Christmas 2015.
Fit for a king Lisheen Castle, Co Tipperary
Originally constructed in the 1700s, Lisheen, a castellated tudor-style house, was once residence to the Lloyd family. Burned to the ground in 1921, it was purchased in 1994, by the Everard family, who undertook a complete restoration of the castle. Zane Everard says the castle was a major influence on his decision to study architecture; he now specialises in conservation.
Zane’s mother Joan is an interior designer and oversaw the interior refurbishment by local craftsmen employed to repoint exterior walls, handpaint celtic murals on the vaulted ceilings, and give life to the skeleton the castle had become.
Now fully refurbished, the house has all the elegance of a period country home, in addition to the modern comforts of en suite bedrooms, two kitchens and broadband.
Accommodating up to 14 guests in nine bedrooms, the antique dining table will happily seat 16 for Christmas dinner. Guests can retire to the elegant drawing room, complete with a roaring fire, or sip port beside the stove in the library. The castle is available for private hire for 14 people for a week over the Christmas period for €6,980. lisheencastle.com
Gypsy retreat Inish Beg Estate, near Skibbereen, Co Cork
Located on a private island, accessed by a bridge near Skibbereen, is Inish Beg, a vast 100-acre estate, 42 of which are an organic farm. Inish Beg House was a sporting estate owned by the McCarthy Morrogh family in the late 1800s. Kay McCarthy Morrogh was born here, in 1908, and went on to become private secretary and close companion to Gen Dwight Eisenhower, 34th president of the United States.
The house is private and home to Paul Keane and family, who purchased the estate in 1997. “We had builders here for 10 years, and the woodlands were inaccessible,” says Keane, who added 10 self-catering units to the estate.
One of these is the award-winning Boathouse. Set at the water's edge, with more than 50 species of birds in the surrounding woodlands, the Boathouse was designed by architect Anthony Cohu and is filled with custom furniture designed by Luc Racine. Sleeping eight in four bedrooms, the property's walls of glass overlook the estuary. Guests have use of the indoor heated swimming pool and steamroom located in the walled gardens, which are listed in the 100 Best Gardens in Ireland. Boathouse rental is available from December 28th and costs €425 per night; other units are available over the Christmas period.
Keane has also built a Gypsy Retreat (€110 per night), with two reconditioned Roma caravans. "It's for lovers of bling," he says of the chandelier and cut glass fitout of the retreat. One of the wagons is for sleeping, the second for cooking and relaxing, with an outdoor Victorian roll top bath for bathing (but guests also have access to the indoor pool). inishbeg.com
A gothic castle Fanningstown Castle, Adare, Co Limerick
Originally dating from the 12th century, Fanningstown Castle is just outside the picturesque village of Adare. With vaulted ceilings and gothic fireplaces added in the 19th century, it accommodates 10 in five bedrooms, and has a drawingroom, library and diningroom and large modern kitchen.
Home to the Normoyle family since 1936, they have restored the castle over the years and now offer private rentals. Less than 5km from Adare, it's perfect for those who want a Christmas hideaway within easy reach of restaurants and traditional pubs. Available from December 23rd-26th for €1,500. fanningstowncastle.com
Georgian manor Castlecoote House, Co Roscommon
Taking it’s name from the 16th century ruin on the grounds once owned by Sir Charles Coote, this Georgian manor was home to the Gunning family, who it is alleged won the property in a game of poker. The Gunning daughters, who were famous for their beauty, were shipped to London by their mother and celebrated in the court of King George II, promptly marrying into London aristocracy.
Castlecoote was purchased in 1996 by a local Roscommon man, who spent years restoring the house to its former glory under the guidance of architect Brian O'Connell. Restored with historical accuracy in mind, the property now houses 16 period fireplaces, and 61 hardwood sash windows. Sleeping 10-12, it has a full-sized billiards table and two tennis courts, with golf and horse-riding nearby. Weekly rate over Christmas is €4,500. elegant.ie
City slick Flat 37 Fitzwilliam Place
For a couple in search of some urban festivity, this apartment in Fitzwilliam Place is all about luxury in a unique period building. Operated by Sarah Lamb of Hunter-Gatherer, these flats are rented short term to film stars who want the luxury of a five-star hotel combined with the privacy of a home. “Most of our clients are in film and are fed up of hotel living. Our service offers them a home away from home in cool urban areas,” says Lamb.
This first-floor one-bedroom apartment, complete with an original lit-en-bateau, screams opulence, from free-standing copper bath to open-fire in the bedroom. Having an east-west orientation, the 77sq m (830sq ft) flat is flooded with light and would make an ideal alternative to a five-star hotel during the Christmas period. Its central location means everything is in walking distance. Prices €250 per night, with a four-night minimum stay. hunter-gatherer.ie
To the lighthouse Galley Head and Blackhead Lightkeeper’s Cottages, Clonakilty and Belfast Lough
For those in need of an escape from urban life and the mayhem of Christmas, these restored lightkeeper’s houses are a reminder of what life was like for those who once protected passing ships on our stormy coastlines. Today, they are operated by the nonprofit Landmark Trust, which since 1992 has been transforming historic buildings into self-catering accommodation.
In Clonakilty, Perched 40m above the sea on top of coastal cliffs, lies Galley Head Lightkeeper’s House,which is split into two properties. One is available over Christmas, sleeping four in two bedrooms, with modern kitchens and open fires. A perfect spot for storm watching while tucked up in bed. Or for the more adventurous, local activities include fin and humpback whale-watching. Prices €418 per weekend. On the shores of Belfast Lough is the Blackhead Lightkeeper’s House, which is also split into two properties. One is available over Christmas, with two bedrooms sleeping five. (This property is cliff-facing and not suitable for children.)
A coastal walk leads to the Victorian town of Whitehead for evening digestifs. Weekend prices from £294. irishlandmark.com
Silver Birch House Glengarriff, Co Cork
For families with grandchildren, rental properties that can accommodate large groups are thin on the ground. In Glengarriff, on the shoreline is Silver Birch House, a modern converted property in two wings which can be opened up to accommodate up to 22 guests. With 11 bedrooms, nine of which are en suite, the property boasts three kitchens and the main diningroom can sit the entire party of 22 for Christmas dinner.
An all-important games room features a pool table, indoor soccer, and darts board, perfect for keeping children entertained, while adults enjoy post-dinner drinks in front of a roaring fire with Glengarriff harbour as a backdrop.
Interiors are stunning and feature open fires, a sauna and excellent cooking facilities. Price for December 21st-28th is €3,960. cashelfean.com
Chalet break Chalet No 14
If money is no object, and a white Christmas on the slopes is a prerequisite, this chalet is the last word in luxury. Verbier, the most exclusive resort in Switzerland is a popular winter playground for the rich and famous, with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and young European royals regular visitors on the slopes.
Originally a hotel, the property was purchased by current owner David Pearson, who, with local Swiss architects and London based interior designers transformed the property into the most exclusive rental property in the Swiss resort. Sleeping up to 26 in 13 bedrooms, the chalet includes a spa – with a 10m pool, steam room, plunge pool and jacuzzi.
The master has its own cedar hot tub on a private terrace. Facilities include a cinema, games room, on site staff of 15 and chauffeured 4x4's on standby day and night. Available from 20th to 27th December at a whopping £62,400 (€87,7131) reduced from £97,500 (€137,051) skiverbierexclusive.com
Macalla Farm, Clare Island
Finally, if the thought of Christmas sends shivers down your spine, get away from it all at Macalla Farm, a retreat on Clare Island. Just off the coast of Westport the centre is running a 5 night stay for €680 from December 22nd to 27th, to include all accommodation, meals (all vegetarian so no turkey), ferry from Roonagh Pier and 25 hours of yoga and meditation. macallafarm.ie