Seven great Irish escapes to rent when lockdown lifts

From tiny boltholes to rambling cottages, these spruced-up holiday homes are ready to rent

We all need a break, a break from looking at the same four walls and garden fence to get a fresh perspective. The staycation is back and savvy shoppers trying to make the best of it are booking Irish holiday homes in gorgeous locations with plenty of sky overhead and water views.

Rosie Campbell, director at Unique Irish Homes, has been inundated with requests for properties from staycationers looking for rentals to escape to once travel restrictions lift in late July. “They’re anxious about getting away. They want to have different walks. They’re tired of the walks in their own neighbourhood.”

Demand started at Easter with bookings for June and early July - many of which have had to be pushed into August because of restrictions. On the positive side, rentals cancelled by international travellers are available and are being snapped up by Irish holidaymakers, who, she says, can have a different approach when it comes to booking.

The Irish are relaxed about their holidays and this can extend to house rules, she says. “If a house says it sleeps nine, they will ask if you can supply a few pull-out beds to accommodate 12.” If it says no under-12s, she might be asked if  a well-behaved eight year old counts.  American and European visitors tend not to take the same liberties, she says.


'Counties like Monaghan, Leitrim, Roscommon and Sligo are all trending. It might be the Normal People effect'

Joe Gavin, director of upscale rental business Five Star International, says his phone has been hopping. In the past few weeks his business has gone from being a 85 per cent international client base to a 90 per cent Irish client base, and it’s not without additional demands.

“Irish customers make you work hard,” he says. “They’re demanding and want the best. They stay in the best areas of France and Italy and want to do the same here.” He says they prefer Cork and Kerry, which explains why there is so much more choice in the holiday rentals in these two counties. Both offer the holy trinity of holidaymaker demands: scenery, sea and gastronomy.

But this year they’re not concerned about where the nearest restaurant or pub is, Gavin says. “Instead they want to get away from it all. They want views from the properties and decent outside spaces from where to enjoy them. They expect the garden and outdoor area to be up to scratch.”

They also want swish bathrooms with power showers and all bedrooms en suite while decent coffee machines are considered standard, says Gavin, who also has to field questions about crockery and whether there is enough for entertaining.

Siobhan Byrne Learat, who runs Adams & Butler, an agency representing owners of big rental homes, has noticed a trend for family reunions with grandparents renting a property so that they can spend time with their children and grandchildren, she explains. Some early birds have been in touch to book long and short stays and there are lots of inquiries about bikes, she says. “They’re also exploring beyond the southwest and Connemara and Wexford with counties like Monaghan, Leitrim, Roscommon and Sligo all trending. It might be the Normal People effect.”

But whatever the party size and budget constraints and splendid isolation on offer, no one will stay anywhere if it’s not connected to the internet, she says.

Here are seven swish places to book

1. Down on the farm in Co Wexford

Belfry at The Old Boley is a converted granary in the farmyard of an old Georgian estate outside Holmstown, a few miles outside Wexford town. The charming property has rafters and a vaulted roof in the master bedroom that opens out to a balcony that could tempt a modern day Juliet to get her or his Romeo to make some sort of grand gesture. It sleeps up to five in its two bedrooms. Each has a double bed with the second room also having a day bed. It costs €895 a week in August.

2. Shore thing in Co Clare

A four-bedroom period cottage overlooking the water at Kilkee offers contemporary open-plan living space with floor-to-ceiling glass doors leading out to a deck where the sound of the surf can be your dining soundtrack. However, its proximity to water makes it unsuitable for kids. The property, which can sleep up to seven people, costs from about €4,000 in August.

3. Reunification in west Cork

Glengarrif Bay holiday homes comprises five stone cut houses set around the Dromgarrif Estate. Linden House is a stepped property with contemporary glass linking its three wings.

It can sleep a total of 20 in its 10 bedrooms, perfect for an inter-generational family group, and has a smart, contemporary interior with a broken plan living, dining kitchen overlooking mature grounds, Scotts pine trees and outdoor terraces to enjoy the microclimate, warmed by the Gulf Stream. It's set across the bay from the village and costs €3,850 a week in August through Adams & Butler. It can also be rented on a minimum three-night weekend stay for €1,650.;

4. Romantic getaway in Co Antrim

If the two of you want to get away, try Kiln Wing, part of a restored 19th century corn mill on the River Bush in Bushmills, Co Antrim. The characterful property has thick stone walls and after a whiskey tasting at the nearby Bushmills distillery, a 10-minute walk away, you can fall asleep to the sound of water cascading. The property has a minimum two-night stay which in August costs about €370 while a seven-night stay comes to about €887, inclusive of utilities and cleaning fee.

5. Sleek chic in west Wicklow

Set on the outskirts of Blessington, in west Wicklow, the Turkey House is one of four properties reimagined by architect Michael Kelly for gardener June Blake within the farmyard of Tinode House. The two-bedroom residence can sleep up to five, and is situated in what was originally stables and then became the turkey house. It includes a cool cast concrete stairs leading to the living space on the first floor. Any new layout openings in the original granite walls are trimmed with crisp blue brickwork. It costs €210 a night, and €1,470 a week in August.

6. Traditional with a twist in Connemara

Dolphin's Cove, on the outskirts of Renvyle, is like a steroid-pumped version of the traditional thatched cottage. The large house is set high on the hill and is painted a raspberry ripple pink, the colour many of us staycationeers turn when we spend too long in the sun. From the canted window in the living room there are views across the water to Inishturk and Clare Island. The four-bedroom, all en suite property, has a children over 14 only and no pets policy and costs €3,000 a week. It has availability in July but not in August.

7. Architectural gem in Co Meath

If you're looking for a meditative space, head to Loughcrew Lodge. Once the coach house to Loughcrew House and built by esteemed architect Charles Robert Cockerell, it is the place yoga guru Shiva Rea, founder of Prana Vinyasa, stays when hosting retreats at the house. The property has a Greek revival exterior and is owned by antique dealer Niall Mullen. He says the area has a mystical energy. His father Michael used to drag him up Sliabh na Cailleach, our very own witch mountain, to mark the spring and autumn equinoxes. It sleeps up to four. Seven nights, Monday to Sunday, costs €1,200.  

Alanna Gallagher

Alanna Gallagher

Alanna Gallagher is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in property and interiors