50 great places to stay or eat in Ireland
Staying in Ireland this summer? Here are some great eating spots and places to stay
Woodlands House Hotel, Co Limerick
The Fitzgerald family have been welcoming guests to the Woodlands House Hotel for many years. Children are very welcome at Woodlands and will find fun in the Woody’s Club, the pet farm, and may even see fairies on the fairy trail in the grounds. Family rooms for up to five cost from €145 per night B&B.
Woodlands, Adare, Limerick, woodlands-hotel.ie; (061) 605100
The Gibson, Dublin
Coming to Dublin is a fun treat for all the family, especially when you add in some nice explorations. The music-themed Gibson Hotel in the Docklands includes a family pass to Dublin Zoo with its overnight rate of €190 B&B.
Gibson Hotel, Point Village, Dublin, thegibsonhotel.ie; (01) 681 5000
The Park Hotel, Dungarvan
Close to the blue flag beach of Clonea Strand, the Park Hotel has a whole host of fun things for families, and a complimentary evening kids club, so parents can have dinner alone. The hotel is a short walk into lively Dungarvan. Four-night family breaks, B&B and one dinner, from €219pps for adults; children’s meals as taken.
The Park Hotel, Dungarvan, Co Waterford, flynnhotels.com; (058) 42899
Delphi Resort, Connemara
The family that plays together will love this hotel. The children can have fun watching dad try the bog challenge, while mum relaxes in the spa. Lots of water- and land-based activities for everyone. A three-night family stay with breakfast, dinner on one evening, a full day of activities and use of the spa for adults, from €278pps.
Delphi Resort, Connemara, Co Galway, delphiresort.com; (095) 42208
Maritime Hotel, Bantry
The availability of suites is one of the big advantages for families in the Maritime Hotel, where everyone can spread out and you can bring snacks for the children. The lovely pool area is another, and the kids club too. Bantry is a nice town and there are lots of things to do in the area, see visitbantry.ie. Stays in the Maritime suites are from €265 per night B&B.
Maritime Hotel, Bantry, west Cork, the maritime.ie; 1890 300107
The d Hotel, Louth
Bring the family for a day out to Tayto Park or Funtasia Waterpark and make an overnight of it in The d Hotel Drogheda. One-night stay for two adults and two children costs from €220 per night including tickets to the park.
The d Hotel, Drogheda, Co Louth, thedhotel.ie; (041) 9877700
Cliff House, Waterford
If ever a hotel was built for romance it is the Cliff House. Every room faces the sea and some have lovely balconies to sit on and watch the waves and sky change colour. Enjoy Michelin-star dining in the House restaurant; dinner for two and overnight from €450.
Cliff House, Ardmore, Waterford, thecliffhousehotel.com; (024) 87800
One Pery Square, Limerick
Find romance on a Georgian square in Limerick in a house that has been lovingly restored. The beautiful rooms retain their period feel while being comfortable and luxurious. Two nights B&B and one dinner from €179pps.
One Pery Square, Limerick, oneperysquare.com; (061) 402402
Ballynahinch Castle, Galway
The stately mansion that was once the home of an Indian prince is settled into the romantic landscape of river, forest, mountains and ever changing colours. Feel like you are absolutely miles from life. Enjoy the fun in the bar, sitting in the sun on the new terrace, or watching the herons and kingfishers dipping into the river.
Ballynahinch Castle, Clifden, Galway, ballynahinch-castle.com; (095) 31006
Butlers Townhouse, Dublin
Find romance in a Victorian gem in the capital on Lansdowne Road. Butlers Townhouse is perfectly placed to explore the city, or just Ballsbridge. Make it a foodie break and try some of the local restaurants. B&B from €149 per night.
Butlers Townhouse, Lansdowne Road, Dublin, butlers-townhouse.ie; (01) 6674022
Hilton Park, Monaghan
Rowing your loved one around the lake would be a romantic thing to do and this stately manor has its own lake. You can even go wild swimming. Acres of rolling landscapes, and woods to ramble in are the perfect places to work up an appetite for dinner. Two-night midweek breaks from €245pps, with dinner one evening.
Hilton Park, Clones, Co Monaghan, hiltonpark.ie; (047) 56007
The Old Convent, Tipperary
Pass through the Knockmealdown mountains on your way to the Old Convent at Clogheen. Great views of the area will tempt you to take to walking the hillsides. The Old Convent serves an excellent eight-course tasting menu to guests at 8pm each evening for €65. Weekends only, rates from €175-€225 per night.
The Old Convent, Clogheen, Cahir, Co Tipperary, theoldconvent.ie; (052) 7465565
Mount Juliet, Kilkenny
The rolling acres of the finest country estate in Kilkenny will remind you of the past, and maybe a few top golfers too. The course at Mount Juliet is highly rated and will tempt you to a game. Dine in the Michelin-starred Lady Helen Restaurant. Enjoy the spa and explore the woodlands on foot or bicycle. Two nights B&B and one dinner in the Lady Helen from €234pps.
Mount Juliet Estate, Thomastown, Co Kilkenny, mountjuliet.ie; (056) 7773000
Gregan’s Castle, Co Clare
There are spectacular views of Galway Bay from the front of Gregan’s Castle, across the karst landscape of the Burren. Enjoy drinks in the Corkscrew lounge and play with the house cat. The Dining Room has won many awards and two nights, dinner B&B with a guided walk on the Burren will cost from €335pps.
Gregan’s Castle, Corkscrew Hill, Ballyvaughan, Co Clare, gregans.ie; (065) 7077005
Dromoland Castle, Co Clare
The ancestral home of the Kings of Thomond has been a hotel for the past 50 years and you can feel the history in its walls. Discomforts of the past are banished, with luxurious surroundings and excellent food. Wander the 400 acres, feed the ducks, row in the lake or play a game of golf. Two nights B&B and gourmet dinner from €667 for two.
Dromoland Castle, Newmarket on Fergus, Co Clare, dromoland.ie; (061) 368144
Lough Eske Castle, Co Donegal
This picture perfect castle between Lough Eske and the Blue Stack Mountains has a very scenic setting. The grounds are enhanced by a series of sculptures and follies. Explore Donegal and the Wild Atlantic Way. Three nights for the price of two, from €704 B&B.
Solis Lough Eske Castle Hotel, Lough Eske, Donegal, solishotels.com; (074) 9723762
Castle Durrow, Co Laois
Celebrate 300 years of history at the recently restored Castle Durrow in the heart of Ireland. Great attention to details was paid to restore the castle to its original beauty. Spend time looking at the work that has been done to make this a treasure. Delve into the family history in the artefacts and pictures. Dinner, bed and breakfast from €230 per couple.
Castle Durrow, Durrow, Co Laois, castledurrow.com, (057) 8736555
Castle Leslie, Co Monaghan
All the hoo hah of that famous wedding died down and Castle Leslie returned to its quiet sophistication, entertaining and delighting guests. One of Ireland’s few manor estates still in the same family hands for more than 300 years. Choose from the castle, the lodge or self-catering accommodation in the 1,000 acres of undulating Monaghan countryside. Two nights dinner B&B in the castle from €225pps.
Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Monaghan, castleleslie.com; (047) 88100
Hillside Lodge, Co Galway
On a fine day in Hillside Lodge you can take a deck chair into the garden and enjoy the view from the Sky Road of the islands in the Atlantic. It is a 15 minute walk from the capital of Connemara, Clifden. Hillside is a comfortable six-bedroom guest house with some quirky touches and memorabilia from its owner’s music career. Mountain bikes are available for the adventurous. Rooms rates from €70-100 per night including breakfast.
Hillside Lodge, Sky Road, Clifden, Co Galway, hillside-lodge.com; (095) 21463
Hanora’s Cottage, Co Waterford
High in the hills between Dungarvan and Clonmel, the Wall family have been welcoming guests for many years. Five- star reviews all round attest to the consistent welcoming atmosphere and fine food. Take time to explore the Comeraghs and work up an appetite for dinner. B&B from €110 per room per night and four-course dinner from €39.
Hanora’s Cottage, Nire Valley, Ballymacarbry, Co Waterford, hanorascottage.com; (052) 6136134
Woodhill House, Co Donegal
On the outskirts of award-winning Ardara, Woodhill House is a coastal manor house dating back to the 17th century. Explore the highlands of Donegal from here. Woodhill also has a restaurant and bar. Rates from €65pps per night.
Woodhill House, Ardara, Co Donegal, woodhillhouse.com; (074) 9541516
Bel Air Hotel and Equestrian Centre, Wicklow
If horse-riding is your passion, then a trip to Bel Air will be a treat. The stately house has been turned into a very comfortable small hotel with an equestrian centre. You can take a scenic Wicklow Hills ride from €40. B&B from €65pps per night.
Bel Air Hotel, Ashford, Co Wicklow, belairhotelequestrian.com; (0404) 40109
Viewmount House, Longford
A Georgian gem on the outskirts of Longford town, it will make you feel you stepped back in time. The comfortable house has been tastefully renovated The restaurant in the old stables has the original stone walls and is candlelit. Take time to relax in the guest sitting room and just savour the atmosphere. Rooms from €130 per night.
Viewmount House, Dublin Road, Longford, viewmounthouse.com; (043) 341919
Newforge House, Co Armagh
If you like gardens, you will enjoy looking at the one surrounding Newforge House on the outskirts of the small village of Magheralin in Co Armagh. Home grown vegetables and eggs from their own chickens make it to the table here. Take a break from life and relax into the comfort of this lovely period house. Dinner, B&B for two from £180/€227 per night.
Newforge House, Mageralin, Co Armagh, newforgehouse.com; (048) 92611255
Garryvoe Hotel, Cork
On the coast in east Cork, the sea is a stone’s throw from the door. A mixture of old and new works well, with lots of comfort and nooks to read a book. Choose a sea view room and let the waves lull you to sleep. The coast around here is interesting and good for swimming on a fine day. Stay midweek at this popular wedding venue. Rates from €149pps two nights B&B and one dinner.
Garryvoe, Castlemartyr, Co Cork, garryvoehotel.com; (021) 4646718
Moorings, Portmagee, Kerry
You cannot get closer to the Wild Atlantic Way than the Moorings in Portmagee, jump off point for the Skelligs. The Moorings is a bar with restaurant and rooms. Take time to enjoy the town and you may even get to enjoy a trad music session. Rooms from €140 per night.
The Moorings, Portmagee, Kerry, moorings.ie; (066) 9477108
Inishbofin Island, Galway
An island getaway feels like complete freedom and Inisbofin is one of the prettiest off the coast of Connemara. Take the boat from Cleggan pier and feel your worries slip away. Explore the island on foot or bicycle and spot the landmarks from a long history. July midweek offers from €155pps two nights B&B and one dinner.
Inish Bofin House Hotel, Inishbofin, Connemara, Co Galway, inishbofinhouse.com
Sandhouse Hotel, Co Donegal
As the sun sets in the evening it plays light all along the beach at Rossnowlagh and glints off the waves – the best time to be watching. Take to the waves on a surf board and become at one with the sea. The Sandhouse Hotel is an institution in the north west and has a long tradition of hospitality. Two nights B&B and one dinner from €189pps.
Sandhouse Hotel, Rossnowlagh, Donegal, sandhouse.ie; (071) 9851777
Inchydoney Island Lodge, Co Cork
Some of the best beaches in Ireland are at Inchydoney Island where the hotel juts out between two wide, flat beaches. The colours change as the day progresses and the adventurous can take a kayak out on the sea for a night time paddle. The island lodge has one of the few Thalasso therapy centres in Ireland. Rates from €220 per night in summer.
Inchydoney Island Lodge, Cork, inchydoneyisland.com; (023) 8833143
Slieve Donard Hotel, Co Down
There is nothing nicer than taking a walk along the strand before breakfast when staying in this splendid Victorian hotel that lies between the Mournes and the sea. The invigorating sea air will blow away the cobwebs and enhance your appetite for an Ulster fry. Two nights dinner, B&B from £428/€540.
Slieve Donard Hotel, Newcastle, Co Down, hastingshotels.com; (048) 43721066
Places to eat
I loved this small, seriously good restaurant the first time I ate there and it hasn’t disappointed since. They serve small delicious hits of Italian-inspired food where ingredients such as pork belly and smoked eel combine to make intense pleasure on a plate. The red wine stewed prunes and mascarpone are a must-have dessert. It’s a busy place that needs advance booking if you’re planning a weekend visit. The tasting menu costs €35 per person, from snacks through to sweets.
Etto, 18 Merrion Row, Dublin 2; (01) 6788872
Barry Fitzgerald came from the Michelin starred Harwood Arms in London to help set up Etto and has since moved to Leonard’s Corner on the South Circular Road to his own place called Bastible. It’s named after a cast iron pot once used to cook over an open fire. Fitzgerald serves inventive food for lunch and dinner Wednesday to Saturday. On Sundays they do big roasts for a family lunch. Three courses for lunch cost €35.
Bastible, 111 South Circular Road, Dublin 8; (01) 473 7409
The Duck, Gorey, Co Wexford
You could happily visit The Duck, at Marlfield House, with sand-filled shoes after a trip to the nearby beaches of Courtown or Morriscastle Strand. The casual restaurant in a stone outbuilding of Marlfield House is a laid back venue. But do book, because this Duck is not a secret. A summer visit is extra special with more of their ingredients coming from a well-stocked kitchen garden. A posher option is available in the main house, when they’re not hosting a wedding. Starters from €7 with mains starting at €15 and going up to €32.
The Duck, Marlfield House Hotel, Courtown Road, Gorey, Co Wexford; (053) 942 1124
The Tannery, Dungarvan, Co Waterford
If Ireland’s Ancient East catches on as well as the Wild Atlantic Way did, then more tourists will be lucky enough to wind up at the door of a former tannery on Dungarvan’s Quay Street. Paul and Máire Flynn have weathered boom and bust by continuing to do what they do well in The Tannery: combining great ingredients with great kitchen skills to delicious effect. The à la carte has starters around €11 and mains at €27, with budget options for casual eating in the wine bar.
The Tannery Restaurant, 10 Quay St, Dungarvan, Co Waterford; (058) 45420
A great city for bars, Kilkenny’s restaurant scene took a while to take shape. But now Michelin-starred food at prices charged by bog standard Dublin restaurants is what you’ll find in Garret Byrne and Brid Hannon’s elegant restaurant, Campagne. There’s a €33 three-course early bird menu. The à la carte prices start at €12 for starters and go up to €33 for main courses. They team great meat and seafood with seasonal vegetables. Vegetarians can ask for a separate menu.
Campagne Restaurant, 5 The Arches, Gashouse Lane, Kilkenny; (056) 7772858
Sage, Midleton, Co Cork
Kevin Aherne has turned his courtyard into an outdoor room outside his Midleton restaurant, Sage, this year. The talented young chef has put together a great 12-mile menu idea, taking ingredients from a 12 mile radius of his kitchen. The result says much about the riches of the land, sea and producers outside his door. Three courses of the vegetarian menu are a steal at €30, with five courses for €36. The omnivore’s version costs €36 for three courses and €45 for five. The Greenroom, a casual cafe space with the same rigorous approach to good ingredients, serves breakfast, burgers, salads and snacks during the day. Sage Restaurant,
The Courtyard, 8 Main St, Midleton, Co Cork; (021) 4639682
Café Paradiso, Cork
To describe Denis Cotter’s Café Paradiso as a vegetarian restaurant seems a little old hat now that lots of restaurants are taking more than a passing interest in the fruits of the soil. Paradiso has a weekday €23 pre-theatre menu up to 6.30pm, with two courses starting at €33 after that and three courses for €40. Cork’s abundance of cheesemakers are among the the stars of Café Paradiso’s menu. It’s a restaurant before its time with which the world is now catching up. They have two rooms upstairs for overnight stays, with a package of dinner, room and breakfast for two at €220.
Cafe Paradiso, 16 Lancaster Quay, Cork; (021) 4277939
A great Cork cafe that also happens to be vegetarian is Iyer’s on Popes Quay. Chef Gautham Iyer presents Southern Indian street food in a simple cafe setting. Try the samosa chaat, hand-rolled samosas smothered in a chickpea curry and jewelled with pomegranate seeds, or the methi pakoras made with fresh fenugreek leaves. They use lots of seasonal ingredients so a summer visit when the vegetables are at their most varied is bound to be a treat. They might even still have some elderflower cordial from this year’s flowers. Dishes start at around €4.
Iyer’s, 38 Popes Quay, Cork; (087) 6409079
L’Escale, Schull, Co Cork
As reliable as the arrival of the swallows, the dusting down of the tables for L’Escale, Schull’s seasonal restaurant on the pier, marks the start of summer in this west Cork village. The restaurant is the brainchild of seafood exporter Xavier Legris who runs The Fish Shop in the village year-round. They serve lunch and dinner to sun-scorched sailors and red-trousered visitors in a no-frills small French republic where a fresh lobster for under €20 can be eaten with a side of terrific chips and French pop songs on a tannoy.
L’Escale, Schull, west Cork; (028) 28599
The Mews, Baltimore, Co Cork
In winter they leave to travel and learn and in summer they return to the beautiful village of Baltimore to cook. Chef Luke Matthews will have his second summer this year in The Mews, where I had my meal of the year last year. He returns with a larger team, a refurbished stone coach-house and a walk-in wine bar where, if you haven’t been able to book a table in the restaurant, you’ll still be able to wander in and see what the fuss is about.
The Mews, Baltimore; (028) 20572
Packies, Kenmare, Co Kerry
It’s not all about the fish in Packies of Kenmare but that’s one of the highlights of Martin Hallissey’s cooking. The restaurant is in the cosy walls of a former pub in the heart of Kenmare, a proper town with a still-beating heart to it, of which Packies is a big part. Don’t miss Kenmare organic grower Billy Clifford’s strawberries, a highlight of my last visit there.
Packies, Henry St, Kenmare, Co Kerry; (064) 6641508
Café Hans, Thurles, Co Tipperary
It’s a tiny busy place tucked down a side street, but Café Hans in Cashel is worth a small stay in the waiting area if you wander in during a busy patch. The lunch menu consists of the kinds of soups and salads that could be easily plated onto much fancier dishes and served for double the prices. A two-course lunch here is €16. A second outpost, Stef Hans, in the Source Arts Centre in Thurles, is run by a brother of this impressive food family, with a long history of bringing good cooking to Tipperary.
Cafe Hans, Moor Lane Cashel, (062) 61177
The Burren Storehouse and The Wild Honey Inn, Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare
The Burren Storehouse is my favourite kind of casual venue, where there’s nothing casual about the approach to ingredients. It’s a new venture by wife and husband team Birgitta and Peter Curtin, located between her Burren Smokehouse and his Roadside Tavern pub in Lisdoonvarna. So you can team great wood-fired oven pizza with the local craft beer or fantastic seafood from nearby producers and fishermen. Just down the road Aidan McGrath’s meals in the Wild Honey Inn have given the town a gastropub worth the name.
The Burren Storehouse (065) 707 4084 and the Wild Honey Inn (065) 707 4300, Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare
Kai Café, Galway
When you talk to chef Jess Murphy she gets excited not about her own brilliance but the food growers and makers she puts on her menu in Kai. This summer, she’s teaming Cloonconra cheese, an exquisite fresh cow’s milk cheese, with peaches and Burren honey. Connemara bog blueberries go into brunches and pies. Charlie from Broughgammon Farm is supplying goat bacon and Fingal Ferguson is giving them special bresaola and cured pork loin. With two new young women chefs in her kitchen she’s now got a gender-balanced team of 50/50 men and women, which is worth getting excited about too.
Kai Cafe Restaurant, Sea Road, Galway; (091) 526 003
Keeping your Michelin-seeking customers happy while not scaring away more laid-back locals is quite the juggling act and Enda McEvoy manages it beautifully in Loam, his Galway restaurant that received a star in its first year. There’s a €40 two-course menu or a seven course €70 tasting menu for the full blow-out. Or you can head for the bar menu and enjoy Connemara air-dried lamb, house-cured lardo and Gubbeen meats on a large board for €16 with bar snacks like pickled plums, soused herrings and crab and cabbage.
Loam, Fairgreen Road, Galway (091) 569727
Pudding Row, Easkey, Co Sligo
Dervla James brought a food culture and a fan base with her when she returned to her home village of Easkey in Sligo last year to open Pudding Row. The cafe, on the top floor of a tourism centre, opens from Thursday to Sunday, and is packed with tourists and locals alike. Their house-baked cakes, breads and bagels are as sensational as the view past a castle down to the Atlantic beyond.
Pudding Row, Main Street, Easkey; (096) 49794
Harry’s, Donegal and Derry
The formidable Donegal team that is restaurateur Donal Doherty and chef Derek Creagh continue to expand their empire this summer with a new restaurant in Derry city to add to the mothership that is Harry’s Restaurant in Bridgend, Co Donegal and the phenomenally successful Harry’s Shack in a wooden National Trust building on Portstewart Strand. Their formula is simple: today’s fish from today’s boats when it’s to be had and fruits and vegetables picked from their own gardens.
Harry’s Bar and Restaurant, Bridgend, Inishowen, Donegal; (074) 936 8544 and Harry’s Shack, Portstewart Strand, Co Derry
The ripple effect from Stephen Toman and Alain Kerloc’h’s Ox and Ox Cave in Belfast has lifted the chin of everyone involved in the newly thriving food scene in Belfast. Ox is a world-class restaurant serving exquisite food with a gentle friendliness that isn’t always a feature of this calibre of eating. Their three-course £25 lunch menu is a steal and their sister wine bar Ox Cave is equally special for a more casual bite.
Ox, 1 Oxford Street, Belfast BT1 3LA; 0044 (0) 28 90314121
Eastern Seaboard, Drogheda, Co Louth
Without any of the self-congratulation that can go with it, Jeni Glasgow and Reuven Diaz, the husband and wife team behind this great barn of a restaurant, put local seasonal ingredients properly centre stage. Their larder is drawn from growers such as the Sonairte organic centre in nearby Laytown, garlic from Baltray farm Drummond House, and Carlingford oysters, to create lovely celebratory dishes of food. Starters are around €10 with mains starting around €16.
Eastern Seaboard and Grill, 1 Bryanstown Centre, Drogheda, Co Louth; (041) 980 2570
The Fatted Calf, Athlone, Co Westmeath
Feargal O’Donnell has left the roadside pub location in the Westmeath village of Glasson where he first made a name for the Fatted Calf and moved it to a new building in the heart of Athlone. Head chef Dee Adamson has put her own stamp on the cooking which is a mix of good casual staples made with great ingredients and a scattering of exotic touches. They offer a two-course early bird menu for €24.95.
The Fatted Calf, Athlone; (0906) 433371