Dogs allowed: Where to bring your mutt on holidays
If you can’t leave your canine pal behind, here are some hotels with the bow-wow factor
Solis Lough Eske Castle in Co Donegal welcomes dogs, who are allowed anywhere on the grounds – which provide ample opportunity for walks and runs.
From pointy-eared handbag dogs to doe-eyes spaniels, you’ll see canines great and small in hotels and restaurants around Europe, most notably in France, and even in many parts of Britain. In Ireland, our furry friends are a big part of the family and there has been a proliferation of dog-sitting, walking, grooming and doggie daycare services over the past few years. However, when it comes to holidays, Fido is usually left at home, often due to the number of hotels remaining firmly in the “no dogs allowed” camp.
But if the thought the leaving your pooch behind leaves you colder than an autumn evening, we have found a range of hotels around the country where the four-legged guest is as welcome as the two-legged companion.
Leading the pack with its no-nonsense doggie welcome is the Salty Dog Hotel (saltydogbangor.com) in Bangor. Owner Kenneth Sharp says they welcome dogs at the harbour-side hotel and bistro because there is “no real reason not to”. It’s still a rare attitude in the hotel business but he believes “if you do your housekeeping and hygiene properly then there is no extra work”. Dogs can stay in bedrooms for no extra charge and are welcome in the bistro, which has mutty welcome mats and water bowls. There are a few simple rules – dogs need to kept under control and on a short lead in the bistro. That’s it. It’s not surprising it’s popular spot with local dog owners. There is an enclosed garden area, but head for any of the nearby coastal walks to really appreciate the area with your walking companion. Rooms start at £99 per room, with mid-week offers of £120 per room, including a two-course dinner.
In Co Limerick, the Mustard Seed at Echo Lodge (mustardseed.ie) welcomes dogs at no extra charge. “Twenty years ago, we thought a bichon frise was something from the ice cream menu,” says Breda O’Kelly. “Now pets and, in particular small dogs, have become part of so many people’s lives,” she says. Two bedrooms in the country house are allocated to guests bringing pets, each with direct access to the outdoors. “So when your Great Dane is dancing for a run, you don’t need to come through the public areas of the hotel,” says O’Kelly. Those public areas – the diningroom and reception rooms – are reserved for humans. Pet beds and blankets are provided but it is the enclosed garden – with rolling lawns – and country walks that make it a delight for doggies. Once your pooch is pooped (and scooped of course), enjoy fine dining by chef Angel Pirev. Breakfast is not to be missed either and, according to O’Kelly, “the odd sausage has been spotted leaving the dining room in disguise”. The dog-friendly Mews Apartments start from €85 per person sharing.
In the heart of the Wicklow countryside, less than an hour from Dublin, BrookLodge hotel welcomes many canine guests. In fact, it’s usually the two resident golden retrievers – Oscar and George – who do the welcoming, rising from the fire to sniff at new arrivals. Pet-friendly rooms are located on the ground floor and usually reserved for dogs smaller in size. There are also kennels available in the stable area for larger hounds. All dogs must be “mature, well-behaved and kept on a lead”. There are walking maps available at reception. If you are there when the seasonal monthly Sunday market is on, take a seat outside to enjoy live jazz and plenty of doggie watching. BrookLodge has a Winter Warmer B&B package, with one-hour treatment in the Wells Spa, from €110 pps.
A hotel with a certain bow-wow (sorry, we couldn’t resist) is Ashford Castle (ashfordcastle.com) in Cong, Co Mayo. All doggie guests are treated as VIPs (Very Important Pets) and are welcomed at the medieval castle, now part of the Red Carnation Hotel Collection, with a comfy bed, fluffy towels, food and a water bowl in your room. Our dogs favour rainwater but if your pooch is a fussy drinker, he’ll be offered mineral water and a turndown treat at bedtime. Dogs are not allowed in any area of the castle where food or drinks are served, which rules out the castle in full, but exploring the grounds with your dog at your heel does give a definite “lord of the estate” feeling. Of course, you can use the dog-walking service either, as well as dog-sitting and grooming services. There is a €40 charge per dog per night and it must be specified when booking if you intend on bringing your pet. Two warning notes: expect your dog to experience small-dog syndrome when he meets the two resident Irish wolfhounds – Cronan and Garvan. Secondly, you’ll need to ensure your bank balance is healthy before check-in because there is a €1,000 damage deposit required when you are staying with your pooch. This is refunded after a room-check on check out. Rooms at the castle start from about €450 per night rising to €2,500-€3,500 for the exclusive Hideaway Cottage.
The Lodge at Ashford Castle (thelodgeac.com), which is set in the 350-acre castle estate overlooking Lough Corrib, also welcomes pets with similar policies to the main castle. Rooms here start at €150 and there are a number of winter packages available online.
Another five-star castle that welcomes dogs is the Solis Lough Eske Castle (solishotels.com/lougheskecastle) in Co Donegal. Dogs – and cats – are welcome in the Courtyard Guestrooms and Garden Suites, which have direct access to the garden area. Pets are allowed anywhere on the grounds – which provide ample opportunity for walks and runs – but are not permitted in the main building. If you prefer to lounge indoors in the spa, dog-walking can be arranged at €20 per hour. Grooming and health checks can also be arranged through the concierge, as well as a special pet menu. All dogs received a welcome bed basket, blanket, food and water tray. Rooms start from €190.
If you are seeking something off the mainland, head for Clare Island Lighthouse (clareislandlighthouse.com). For almost two centuries, the lighthouse watched over Achill, Westport and beyond from its perch on the craggy cliffs. Now the listed property offers a boutique sanctuary for travellers. Dogs are welcome in the Tower House and Cliff Corner – both have direct access to the lighthouse compound where dogs can run free. Outside the walls, dogs must be kept on leads due to sheep. The lighthouse re-opens on May 2nd, 2018, so there’s plenty of time to get your pooch ready for the ferry. Rates are based on a two-night stay, including dinners: the Cliff Corner is €450pps and the Tower House is €500pps, plus an extra €25 for your dog.
A sign on the gate of the large enclosed garden at Glebe Country House (glebecountryhouse.ie) in Ballinadee, Cork, reminds visitors to keep it closed because dogs are playing inside. At reception, there is a basket of doggie essentials – towels to wipe your dog down, doggy treats and doggy bags. Dogs are welcome, with their owners, and will be sure to meet resident miniature schnauzer Shadow and Charlie the cavachon. Single rooms start at €60 and doubles at €110.
If your mutt is your usual Game of Thrones viewing companion, head for The Inn on the Coast (innonthecoastportrush.com) in Co Antrim. It is situated on the Northern Ireland Causeway Coastal Route between Portrush and Portstewart, so you are situated on numerous coastal walking routes and in easy striking distance of GoT filming sites. The pet-friendly rooms are spacious and on the ground floor. Pets are welcome in the seating area in the foyer and reception and an added welcome touch is the “pet friendly” section of the bar and restaurant. Owners are asked to bring their dog’s own bed and bowls. There is a one-off charge of £15 for one dog and £20 for two, which is added to the rate at the time of booking. Rooms start at £60 for one person and £70 for two.
Gregans Castle (gregans.ie) in Ballyvaughan, Co Clare, offers easy access to the walker’s paradise that is the Burren. Simon and Freddie Haden say they appreciate the need to treat one’s pooch to the occasional night away, so the Gregans Castle welcome is extended “to particularly loved four-legged friends”. Dogs are not allowed to roam the public areas of the luxury country house, but they always have supervised access to the 15-acre grounds. Ground-floor rooms and suites with garden doors are available. On arrival, dogs are greeted with a homemade dog cookie and a walking map of the area. Guests are asked to bring their own doggie bedding. Two nights B&B with one evening meal is €259pps midweek and €295pps at weekends.
If you prefer the bright lights and want to bring your pooch on a city break to the capital, it will cost you. The five-star boutique Dylan Hotel (dylan.ie) offers dog beds, water and food bowls and treats, as well as gift box, created by UK healthy dog food company Bob & Lush. However, bringing your pooch will cost almost as much as bringing your human partner. Luxury queen rooms start at €220 midweek. The overnight supplement per dog is €100, though a reduced rate of €70 per night is on offer during the autumn. The rate includes a deep clean of the bedroom after check out.
If you do splash out and bring your pooch to Dublin – or if you are local – check out The Barbers (thebarbers.ie) on Grangegorman Road, near Stoneybatter. They ran their first doggie brunch in October which included a feast of Orijen dog food, made from Angus beef, wild boar, plains bison, romney lamb and Yorkshire pork. There’s sure to be more where that came from. Pupp (pupp.ie), on Clanbrassil Street, markets itself as Dublin’s “first truly dog-friendly cafe”. The brainchild of Ella Wallace and Paul Froggatt who quit their jobs at Google to set it up, is open for dinners as well as brunch, although the cafe is set to change hands soon.
Wildfowler Inn, Greyabbey, Newtownards, Co Down (wildfowlerinn.co.uk)
At the Wildfowler Inn, dogs are welcome inside and outside, dog bowls are supplied and well-behaved dogs do not have to be on a lead. The menu features locally-sourced produce and fresh fish from nearby Portavogie.
Wicklow Heather, Laragh, Co Wicklow (wicklowheather.ie)
Pier 36, Donaghadee, Co Down (pier36.co.uk)
Situated on the pier in Donaghadee harbour in Co Down, Pier 36 has a cosy but vibrant atmosphere with award-winning food. Dogs on a lead are welcome in the bar area and outside, where a water tap and bowls are available.
Lily Johnston’s Bar and Restaurant, Glenavy, Co Antrim (facebook.com/lilyjohnstonsglenavy/)
Stopping off in this traditional pub is a must. Enjoy a delicious meal in the cosy bar or Parlour Restaurant. Dogs are welcome outside on leads and water bowls are provided to ensure your pet is just as comfortable as you are.
Paws 4 Tea, Dundrum, Co Down (facebook.com/Paws4tea/)
After exploring the Mourne Mountains, stop off at Paws4Tea, which provides refreshments for you and, not surprisingly, your pooch.