100 of the best places to stay in Ireland
Find your ideal break, from campsites to quirky hideaways, blow-the-budget spots to thrifty getaways
Bubble dome at Lough Finn, Co Fermanagh
51 Degrees North @ Crosshaven House, Co Cork
Crosshaven House, an elegant 18th-century Georgian country house, overlooks the harbour village in Co Cork. From ground level up are luxury bedrooms and lounges. On the bright basement level is the more adventurous 51 Degrees North. Original white-washed walls and barrel-vaulted ceilings contrast with bright, bold local art. Three nautical-themed dorms have New England-style hand-crafted bunks, each its own power outlet and USB point. Modern bathroom facilities, including a sauna, are shared between dorms, as is a country-style kitchen complete with Aga. However, it will be hard to resist local pub dining options. The most surprising element has to be the private, sound-proofed cinema. If you are still suffering from big-house envy, book a suite upstairs for about €200-€250 per night. €190/night for dorm for four.
1 Church Bay Road, Crosshaven, Co Cork.
Bookeen Hall, Co Galway
Bookeen Hall has welcomed a congregation since the 1820s and now you can stay in the former Church of Ireland chapel. It might be overwhelming to think of spending a night in a place of worship – with a small graveyard for company – but it feels more like a tranquil retreat and is just 20 minutes from Galway. The bell tower makes a perfect reading room, and the chapel, with its large Gothic windows, is now a surprisingly bright, contemporary two-bedroom bolt-hole.€105/night. Sleeps five.
Having spent centuries protecting ships from our rocky shores, all of Ireland’s lighthouses are now unmanned. But the beacons remain and offer some of the most rugged, unusual places to stay thanks to the Irish Landmark Trust. At Wicklow Head Lighthouse, guests sleep in the actual lighthouse tower. High arched windows, 27 in total, set into 1m thick walls ensure inspiring views of the Irish Sea. For the highest vantage point, you’ll need to scale 107 steps to the kitchen. Furnishings throughout are minimalistic – bringing furniture up the winding staircase isn’t an easy task. All around the coast the trust offers restored lighthouse keepers’ cottages. Blackhead Lightkeeper’s House, Co Antrim, is sure to wow with breathtaking panoramic views and paraphernalia, while SJ Schooner at St John’s Point, Donegal, offers views of the almost pink sand on Coral Beach.Wicklow Head Lighthouse, Dunbar Head, Co Wicklow. Two-night policy: €564/two nights, sleeps four and a dog.
SJ Schooner, Dunkineely, Co Donegal. Two-night policy: €398/two nights, sleeps four.
Blackhead Lightkeeper’s House, Whitehead, Co Antrim. Two-night policy: £340/two nights, sleeps five.
Chez Shea Gypsy Wagon, Co Kerry
Nestled in the hills of the Healy Pass on the Beara peninsula you’ll find Marie and Ger’s carefully restored gypsy wagon on their small farm. Visitors rave about the attention to detail in their restoration of the two-person wagon, as well as the secluded setting, scenery, breakfast and welcome. Also on site is a vintage caravan, which sleeps two. The toilet and shower facilities, shared between both units, are in a nearby custom-designed container building. Make sure to make time for Marie’s vegetarian breakfast and ask to be introduced to their native Kerry bog ponies.
€58/night. Special rates available if you are booking the wagon and caravan.
Fehanaugh, Lauragh, Co Kerry
Cockoo Wood Hexagon, Co Mayo
This cabin is the perfect hexagon-shaped love nest, just 5km from Westport but secluded on land that is half orchard, half woodland. Hens kindly provide fresh eggs, and goats roam the adjoining field where the owner, Irma, lives. If you are feeling active, head for nearby Croagh Patrick, Clew Bay or the local native woods. If the weather intervenes, light the stove and enjoy the bright, modern, one-room space with your other half or solo, as a re-energising retreat or writer’s paradise.
€80/night. Bookings April-October have a three-night minimum.
Cockoo Wood Hexagon, Westport, Co Mayo
Craughwell Castle, Galway
A 600-year-old medieval castle, complete with turret, winding staircases, stone fireplace, the odd cobweb and a sunken bath in the livingroom. What more can we say? Guests have use of the top two floors of the castle, including a master and mezzanine bedroom and access to the parapet. Owner and host Peter describes himself as an eccentric stonemason. The space reflects both aspects – the space is stuffed with clashing colours, textiles and stonework.
€130/night. Sleeps five.
Craughwell Castle, Craughwell, Galway
Finn Lough Resort, Co Fermanagh
Enjoy star-gazing? How about trying it from an oak four-poster bed in a spherical, transparent bubble? Finn Lough’s forest domes feature snow-globesque 180-degree transparent walls to gaze at the skies over Lough Erne. Stay in your bubble to enjoy the freestanding bath, fluffy robes, armchairs, telescope and record player. Venture outside to sample the resort’s outdoorsy activities (bush crafts, tennis, kayaking, walks) and The Restaurant, which emphasises local, seasonal produce for brunch or dinner. Fear not, your bubble won’t be burst. The domes are open all year, but January to March offer the clearest views of the Milky Way. There are also luxury suites and cottages on site.
From £195 (€226)/per night per dome.
Finn Lough Resort, Letter Road, Leggs, Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh
Pod Umna Glamping Village, Galway
Cosy up like peas in a pod in this glamping village tucked away in the centre of the riverside town of Portumna. A selection of eco-pods, bell tents and a shepherd’s hut are dotted around a quiet, landscaped plot, accessed via an old courtyard with picnic benches and lots of parking. Pods are deceptively large, well insulated and sleep up to five people. Some have traditional wrought-iron beds. Bell tents can sleep up to six people, while the shepherd’s hut is perfect for two. Owners Dick and Liz Ridge are excellent hosts (try Liz’s scones if you can) and there are lots of packages available to add activities such as paintballing, go karting or a boat trip on the Shannon. A large, well-stocked playroom in the main building is great for rainy days. Pods from €80 per night, bell tents from €100.
Pod Umna Glamping Village, Dominick Street, Portumna, Co Galway
A Martello Tower, Dublin
You don’t always have to sacrifice modern luxuries when staying in a historic property. The Martello Tower in Dalkey, which dates from 1804, features a decked viewing area to enjoy views of the coast, spiral staircase and modern appliances. However, you might not want to use many of them considering the many eateries in Dalkey. Farther north and set in Red Rock, Sutton’s Martello Tower offers maritime-inspired interiors within exposed brick walls. The two bedrooms are in the lower level with the best views reserved for the mid-level balcony and 360-degree views from the kitchen.
Dalkey: €450/night. Sleeps two.
Sutton: From €420/two nights. Sleeps four.
Dalkey Martello Tower, Dalkey, Co Dublin
Sutton Martello Tower, Red Rock, Sutton
Riversdale Barge Holidays
Yearn for open waters but lack the skill or adrenaline to tackle the waves? Opt for a more relaxing floating experience and hire a barge to explore Ireland’s Inland Waterways. Slowly chug through the countryside on your own barge, watching wildlife and birds on the riverbank as you picnic in open air – or in the galley if the weather turns. Wide-beam barges, a modification of the traditional narrowboat, feature double beds, flushing toilets and wood-burning stoves and can cater for families or small groups.
Prices for two nights range from €360 (two berth) to €450 (eight berth). Bank holiday three-night rates: two/four berth: €420; six/eight berth: €500.
Riversdale Holidays, Ballinamore, Co Leitrim
UNDER €45 A NIGHT
Geaglum Cottage and caravan, Derrylin, Co Fermanagh
A restoration revelation, with gorgeous thatch-roof cottage and traditional wooden caravan all in one package. This is knitted hotwater bottles, egg cups and 1950s children’s story books territory that somehow manages to combine kitsch with classy. Walk along leafy lanes to the shores of Lough Erne, making it kayakers’ heaven. Check out canoeni.com for details of Lough Erne Canoe Trail and hire one, as some companies do drop-offs. Or just drop off by the caravan’s pot-belly stove caravan or the cottage’s huge open fire and bliss out on a budget. Sleeping five, you can get this for as little as €35 per person per night.
11 Geaglum Road, Derrylin, Enniskillen, Fermanagh
Fuchsia Lane Farm, Terryglass, North Tipperary
The owners of these converted outhouses, now cosy cottages on their 150-acre farm, must have a lot of friends on Facebook, because they welcome you like a long-lost member of the family into their fuchsia-filled fold – without smothering you, of course. They will direct you to cycle trails along the Shannon, Portumna Forest Park or secret swim spots on Lough Derg. Perfect for couples or families and also pet-friendly. They won a 2016 Irish Responsible Tourism Award, but win mine for best farm fáilte you could hope for. Cost is €250-€390 for two-person cottage for a week. Cheap as chips, given that the hospitality is priceless.
Fuchsia Lane Farm, Terryglass, north Tipperary
The Old Schoolhouse, Cross, Loop Head, Co Clare
I stayed here while cycling around Loop Head Cycleway. For those who don’t want to lash round the Loop in a day, this is the perfect stop-off, about halfway, in the village of Cross. Although you won’t be, when you see the elegantly converted schoolhouse, and top-notch pancake breakfast to fill those hollow legs. If you haven’t discovered a love of the Loop yet, hire a bike in Williams Hardware, Kilkee, and treat yourself to a few days out there. It’s magical. And with single rooms from €45 including breakfast, too cool for school.
The Old Schoolhouse, Cross, Loop Head, Co Clare
Shepherds’ Huts, Blackstairs Eco Trails, Borris, Co Carlow
Who can resist a shepherd’s hut, surrounded by woodland and watched over by the magnificent Blackstairs Mountains? Especially at €65 per night for two people. Although the other person would need to be someone you are happy to snuggle up to, it has to be said. But these blue and painted (and heated) beauties are the height of cosiness. And they are just 50m from the barn, with all the facilities you need. The owner, Mary White, also leads excellent guided walks every second Sunday. But if you want to know where to go exploring on your own, you couldn’t do better than Mary. She’s a font of natural knowledge.
Blackstairs EcoTrails, The Old Rectory, Killedmond, Borris, Co Carlow
Generator Hostel, Smithfield, Dublin
The rest of Europe converted hostels from cringe to cool a long time ago, and thankfully the Generator chain has brought theirs to Dublin. With a hipster, industrial feel to it, you don’t have to do the dorm thing, although if there are four of you, it is hard to resist the budget bunk room at €20 each. Even the best double is €65 per night, per room. And there’s a ladies’ jacuzzi room, which sleeps 10. Bet that has heard some stories. With comfy sofas, an airy bar and a great location, this certainly is a very buzzy budget place to stay.
Smithfield Square, Dublin, Ireland 01-9010222, generatorhostels.com
Westport is fab for kids, with high jinks at Westport House around the corner, the Western Greenway bike trail nearby and piracy tales of Gráinne Mhaol all over the place. A five-day summer family package here for two adults and two under-12s, including breakfast and five evening meals, costs €999 in July – or, to put it another way, just €50 a day each. And that’s for a four-star hotel with a pool.
Castlebar Street, Westport, Co Mayo
Fota Island Resort
Even if there wasn’t a safari park next door, Fota Island would be a great place for a family break. The fact that there is, complete with lions, tigers and giraffes, is just a bonus. And if you’re worried your own wildlife will be doing their best impression of a screech owl, opt for a self-catering holiday home. They still get to use all the hotel facilities, including pool, while you get to slip off to the spa. A week’s stay self-catering in a Fuchsia Woods Lodge, arriving June 24th, costs €1,969. And if you have teens, tell them: yes, there’s wifi.
Fota Island, Cork, Ireland
For a five-star family break that won’t break the bank, this elegant hotel is hard to beat. A five-night B&B package, including one dinner, a family pass for Kilkenny’s Medieval Mile museum, on-site kids’ club with morning and evening activities, plus swimming pool, resort bikes, walking trails, private cinema, games room and a brand new playground, staying in a de-luxe family room sleeping four, from €1,288, arriving on a Sunday in June or July.
Paulstown Road, Kilkenny
For a family break Killarney can’t be beaten – just ask any of the gazillion families that visit it from overseas each year. And with the heritage farm at Muckross, boat trips on the lake and the amusements in the centre of town each summer, it’s not hard to see why. The Aghadoe, with its spectacular location overlooking the lakes, has a two-night family break for four, with nightly cookies and milk for the kids plus pizza delivery right to your door – perfect if you don’t want fine diners to be hit with a fidget spinner – from €658 in July.
Killarney, Co Kerry
Check the clan into the famous equestrian property’s Old Stable Mews, a series of self-catering lodgings in a stone-cut courtyard, tucked away in a – heretofore – quiet corner of the estate. There to greet you will be a welcome pack of beer and wine for grown-ups plus ice cream and chocolates for the kids. In the living room you’ll find sweets, popcorn, snacks and family movies. A five-night family break package here includes breakfast each morning at the Lodge at Castle Leslie, and a three-course family meal on one evening, costing from €1,000 in July.
Glaslough, Co Monaghan
This 16th century property – set on its very own private island, accessed via a very short car ferry – has just 19 bedrooms, so a big extended family could easily invade the lot. Alternatively, appropriate one of the three-bedroom self-catering lodges instead. There are 45 of these, each modern and sleek and sleeping six, with private verandas from which you can see, if not elephants at a watering hole a la Treetops in Kenya, at least some of the estate’s deer. Great for children of all ages, with a kids’ club, tennis and playground, plus falconry, clay-pigeon shooting and croquet. A three-night lodge break in July, including family pass for a nearby museum, from €550 in July.
The Island, Ballinakill, Co Waterford
With dedicated children’s activities such as baking classes, arts and crafts, discos and board games, supervised movie time, a pool, archery, kayaking, tennis courts and a fairy trail amid its 500-acre estate, Parknasilla is a terrific option for families. Stay in one of its self-catering lodges and you can enjoy all the facilities while keeping a lid on costs. A week’s stay in a Courtyard Lodge, sleeping four, costs from €1,225 in mid-June.
Sneem, Co Kerry
Trump International Golf Links & Hotel Doonbeg
We know how much family means to American president Donald Trump because of all the jobs he gives his. Spoil your own as best you can with a self-catering break at The Donald’s Co Clare property. Prices start from €590 a night for a four-bedroom luxury cottage with underfloor heating. Kids get their own menu and even their own tiny Trump bathrobe.
Doonbeg, Co Clare
Sheen Falls Lodge
Thatched cottage doesn’t do justice to the beautiful villas at Sheen Falls, particularly as there is nothing teeny tiny about Bay Villas, four-bedroom properties that are beautifully furnished, with double bedrooms, open-plan kitchen and dining room, plus patio with views out over Kenmare Bay. Prices start from €950 a night, with a two-night minimum, for a Bay Villa sleeping eight.
Kenmare, Co Kerry
Hodson Bay Hotel
Who says you have to be beside the seaside to enjoy a watery break? In the midlands you can have a fabulous holiday, complete with sailing, watersports and Ireland’s largest inflatable waterpark, on your doorstep, with zip-lining and super-safe Greenway biking a short drive away. A week’s Total Family package this summer includes seven nights B&B and six evening meals for a family of four, including supervised kids’ camps, from €1,316.
Roscommon Road, Athlone, Co Westmeath
BLOW THE BUDGET
The Hideaway at Ashford Castle
For total romantic seclusion opt for Hideaway cottage, a luxuriously converted boat house on the grounds of Ashford Castle that only became available to book last year. It is totally secluded, backed by woodlands and fronting on to the lake. Guests may be hidden away, but you still get all the services of the castle, private dining, your own personal assistant and the option of al-fresco meals on your personal pier. From €3,000 a night.
Cong, Co Mayo.
Start saving now and keep your eyes peeled for the much-anticipated reopening of Adare Manor later this year. The hotel, one of the most beautiful in the country, is being fully revamped, while the 840-acre estate has all the country house pursuits you’d expect, including fishing, falconry and archery, as well as ones you might not, such as classic car driving. Midweek prices for November start from €325 for a classic room, but why not go the whole hog – with fireplaces so big you could roast one on a spit – in a Dunraven Stateroom from €7,665 for a week.
Adare, Co Limerick
Dublin’s Merrion Hotel is the last word in city luxury even for a standard room, but if you’re planning something super-special, check out its Town & Country Platinum Package. It includes chauffeur transfer from the airport, three nights in a suite, a five-course tasting menu at Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, a private art tour and a spa day, followed by a helicopter ride to Ashford Castle for three days of country pursuits. From there you’ll be chauffeured back to the airport, where the long-term car park will never have looked so depressing. From €7,947 per person based on two sharing.
Upper Merrion Street, Dublin 2, Ireland
With great wealth comes great choice. Should you explore Ballyfin in a golf buggy, by boat or in a pony and trap? At bath time should you opt for the relaxing rose petal or the restorative seaweed? By day do you fancy fishing, clay-pigeon shooting or, one of our lesser-known native sports, croquet? There’s really no end of decisions to be made except when it comes to where to stay. Always command the best room in the house, which in this case is the Sir Christopher Coote Suite, from €1,910 a night this summer.
Ballyfin, Co Laois, Ireland
Belmond Grand Hibernian
India has its Palace on Wheels, Italy its Orient Express and now Ireland has its own luxury train travel option, the Belmond Grand Hibernian. For a land-based voyage that takes you back in time as much as around the country, it can’t be beaten. Get on board for a grand tour that takes in Dublin, Cork, Killarney, Galway, Westport, Belfast and Waterford and gives you plenty of time to disembark, as on a cruise, for everything from museums and galleries to big house tours, boat trips and, of course, a jaunt on a jaunting car. From €8,108 based on two sharing.
Lough Erne Resort, Fermanagh
You don’t have to be part of the global elite attending the G8 (who stayed here in 2013) to enjoy luxury in the lakeland district of Enniskillen, although of course it always helps. Looked at another way, this beautiful spa is the cheapest way possible to transport yourself to Thailand, manned – or, rather, womanned – as it is by authentic Thai masseuses. Facilities include a light therapy sauna, crystal aroma steam room, exotic rain shower, deep-sleep room and infinity pool – and that’s before a therapist comes to collect you for your treatments. The Thai Spa Escape package includes all this and a floral footbath, oriental shoulder and scalp massage and a personalised facial, for €155, until the end of June.
Lough Erne Resort, Belleek Road, Enniskillen, Fermanagh
Ice House Hotel, Co Mayo
Chill out at the Chill Spa, where everything is designed to take advantage of the views out over the river Moy. Rest your eyes on it while making the most of its thermal garden, outdoor barrel sauna and outdoor hot tubs. Forget the weather, and all your aches and pains, while up to your neck in bubbly – the hot tub kind, the other can come later. By the time you read this, the hotel should have added outdoor seaweed baths, too. Inside there are light and dark relaxation rooms and Voya treatments on tap. The two-night Stay and Chill package, including dinner on the night of your choice, costs €274 per room per night.
Ice House, The Quay, Ballina, Co Mayo
Seafield Hotel, Wexford
This swish hotel’s award-winning Oceo spa has a thermal suite with hydrotherapy pool, outdoor vitality pool, hamam suite, rasul chamber for steam and mud treatments, plus aromatherapy suites, monsoon showers and an ice grotto to tighten those pores. Products are from Payot, Neom Organics, Vita Liberta, Elemis and more. For the blokes there’s a hot-towel shave and full-body massage from €99, or opt for a couple’s package for the same price each, available Monday to Thursday. Stay over in spacious rooms, many with sea views and of course, being Ballymoney, you’ve miles of golden sand on your doorstep.
Ballymoney, Seafield, Gorey, Co Wexford
Monart, Co Wexford
Monart is in a league of its own. A five-star destination spa with a range of treatments and classes, it’s a little bit of Arizona in the sunny southeast. Sleep and relaxation is part of the treatment here, which alone will be music to frazzled ears. Three-night breaks cost from €329 per person sharing, including one dinner, a 30-minute treatment, unrestricted access to the thermal suite and as many scheduled classes as you can fit in without stressing – which is strictly forbidden.
Enniscorthy, Co Wexford
Cloona Health Retreat, Co Mayo
Not a spa in the strict sense, but if you ask some of the country’s most successful captains – and captainesses – of Irish industry where they go to for a mind-and-body reboot, this one probably tops the list. It works its magic through a mix of yoga, meditation, walking and diet, and it’s located in an old woollen mill restored, of course, by Tibetan monks in the 1960s. And it’s great value, too. A five-day retreat, from Sunday to Friday, costs from €640.
Westport, Co Mayo,
Castlewood House, Co Kerry
Helen and Brian Heaton’s stylish guesthouse – more of a small boutique hotel, really, overlooking Dingle Bay – is exquisite and serves one of the best breakfasts in the country. Porridge with cream, brown sugar and a drizzle of whiskey, Irish Mist or Baileys, followed by chef Brian’s favourite omelette with bacon, spinach and Swiss cheese, and a few treats from the impressive buffet table, will set you up for the day. A recent addition at Castlewood is afternoon tea (€25/€35 with Champagne), served on Helen’s antique china in the elegant drawing room, and featuring recipes created by Tracy Coyne, Great Irish Bake Off winner in 2014. It must be prebooked, and is only available to groups of six or more. B&B single from €75/double €85.
Castlewood House, Dingle, Co Kerry
Newforge House, Co Armagh
Hens roaming free in a well-tended orchard and lovingly cultivated gardens are the introduction to John and Louise Mathers’ Newforge House in Magheralin, Co Armagh. John is a trained chef and Louise is a great baker, so great food is a major part of the attraction at this Blue Book property. Vegetables from the kitchen garden and locally reared meat are features of the three-course dinner menu, served Tuesday to Saturday (£44). The “tour of Ireland” cheeseboard is a highlight, with no fewer than 11 perfectly presented examples on offer when I visited. B&B single from £85/double £125
Newforge House, Magheralin,Co Armagh
Ballymaloe House, Co Cork
Great food that comes from the 300-acre farm on the grounds of Ballymaloe House, along with locally sourced meat and fish, are at the heart of this enterprise. Dinner is a five-course affair, except on Sunday nights, when the Allen family serve a buffet of carved meats and seasonal salads, and the legendary Ballymaloe dessert trolly. Early risers can by arrangement join the daily breadmaking session in the kitchen, or head over to the cookery school to see what’s bubbling in the new “bread shed”, which is sending out superlative sourdoughs. B&B single from €200/double €250.
Ballymaloe House, Shanagarry, Midleton, Co Cork
Marlfield House, Co Wexford
At the Bowe family’s elegant country house hotel you can choose between old-school elegance, with dinner in the flower-filled conservatory overlooking the gardens and 40-acres of grounds, or a more casual supper in The Duck restaurant, cafe and bar. Whichever is your preference, your meal will feature vegetables and salads plucked from the kitchen garden just hours before. The menus promise wild salmon, spring lamb, Bannow Bay oysters, Wexford mussels and beef. Fish is a particular strength here. B&B from €105 per person sharing.
Marlfield House, Courtown Road, Gorey, Co Wexford.
Mount Juliet, Co Kilkenny
The Lady Helen – the Michelin-starred flagship restaurant at this golf and spa hotel – has been joined by a revamped offering, The Restaurant at Hunters Yard. Both are under the stewardship of executive chef Ken Harker, and Peter Culverhouse is head chef at the newcomer, which is an all-day, casual dining option. It’s good to have the second option, but if it is food that has brought you here, you’ll be donning the finery and taking your seat in the Lady Helen, where you can opt for two- or three-course table d’hôte, or the seven- or nine-course tasting menus. B&B in the manor house, from €195 per room.
Mount Juliet Estate, Thomastown, Co Kilkenny.
Knockranny House Hotel
Knockranny’s La Fougère restaurant has had a makeover, with the aim of maximising the dramatic views of Croagh Patrick and Clew Bay and executive chef Seamus Commons has been working on new dishes to fit with the revamp. A wild rabbit dish (most likely shot by Commons himself), features a broth, croquette and carrot. Turbot, shellfish, lobster and seaweed feature in another new composition. The bar-food menu is extensive; try the Kelly’s black pudding cigars with green apple paste and celeriac remoulade. The big, clubby space is a comfortable place to hang out. B&B single from €90/double €110.
Knockranny House Hotel, Westport, Co Mayo
The Brook Lodge & Wells Spa, Co Wicklow
Ireland’s only certified organic restaurant, The Strawberry Tree, is the food lover’s draw at this rural retreat in Co Wicklow, which is also known for its use of wild and foraged foods. The hotel’s full-time forager supplies its kitchens with seasonal ingredients, and if you ask nicely they’ll show you around their walk-in wild foods pantry. They also run one-day wild-food masterclasses (€95, including lunch) and the next ones take place on June 13th, July 20th and August 15th. As well as The Strawberry Tree, BrookLodge also has an Italian-themed restaurant, La Taverna Armento, which sources ingredients from Basilicata in southern Italy. B&B from €130.
The BrookLodge & Wells Spa, Macreddin Village, Co Wicklow
Longueville House, Co Cork
A hotel that has its own farm, river frontage, kitchen garden and orchard has much to offer food lovers. This Georgian country house with its Turner conservatory is set in a 500-acre estate. Longueville House Cider is made on-site, with apples harvested from the 25-acre apple orchard, and a calvados-style apple brandy is also produced. William and Aisling O’Callaghan are both trained hotel managers, and William, who also trained as a chef and worked with Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, presides over the hotel’s Presidents’ Restaurant. B&B single from €85/double €179.
Longueville House, Mallow, Co Cork
The Twelve, Co Galway
Wine lovers arriving at this hotel, just a few miles outside Galway city, are often excited by the scope and breadth of the wine list, lovingly cultivated by general manager and sommelier Fergus O’Halloran. But wine isn’t the only beverage that is on offer here, you can now sample the hotel’s own beer, Stout 1, developed by the bartenders and brewed by Trouble Brewing. The hotel’s fine dining option, West, takes its inspiration from the surrounding landscape, and local ingredients also make their way into the Italian offering at Pizza Dozzina. There is a further casual dining option, The Pins gastro bar. B&B single from €90/double €100.
The Twelve, Barna, Galway
Kelly’s Resort Hotel & Spa, Co Wexford
Special-interest breaks, and full board – here that means, breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner in a choice of restaurants, if you’re able – are the attraction here. Next November, Gary O’Hanlon, of TV show The Restaurant, will be the guest chef for a special-interest cookery demonstration break, and there is also a wine-tasting break planned. On November 15th, proprietor Bill Kelly’s “favourite chef”, Denis Vinet from La Ferme de Victorine in the French Savoie, will cook for one night only at the hotel’s La Marine bistro. B&B from €88 per person, no single supplement.
Kelly’s, Rosslare, Co Wexford
Bullitt Hotel, Belfast
The Bullitt Hotel opened in October and is named for the Steve McQueen movie. It’s the hip, younger sister hotel to the more grown-up Merchant Hotel. DJs rock the Baltic Bar, and dinner in Taylor & Clay – where meat is cooked on an Asador grill – is good value. The cheapest “Dinky” rooms mean just that, though you can choose “Comfy” or “Roomy” for more space. Grab-and-go breakfasts are available if you leave the brown bag on the door handle. Prices per room are from €128 midweek and €151 at weekends.
40A Church Lane, Belfast
G Hotel, Galway
The G Hotel, which opened in 2005, is still a stylish spot if you’re visiting the west. The Philip Treacy pink and bling has survived the test of time and comes out the other end as we enter an era of boom in Galway. The city is preparing for City of Culture 2020. The G is great for cocktails, comfy rooms and high-quality food. While in town, gin lovers will adore the recently opened Tigh Nora on Cross Street, where there are almost 100 gins to try. Midweek breaks with one dinner from €210pps, weekend breaks from €250pps.
The G Hotel Old Dublin Road, Galway
The River Lee, Cork
The stylish River Lee Hotel is part of the Doyle Collection and is a great base from which to explore the city. Sitting right on the river, it’s flooded with light and has large, comfortable bedrooms. There’s a very cool business centre, or if you’re relaxing, a riverside terrace with good cocktails. Breakfasts are some of the best we’ve had in Ireland, and rooms start from €235. While you’re in town, head for a drink at the new cocktail bar Casks on MacCurtain Street and explore some of the great pubs and music venues on the Cork pubs trail, corkheritagepubs.com. Rachel Allen’s restaurant has opened on Washington Street and it has a piano bar for after-dinner fun (rachels.ie).
River Lee Hotel, Western Road, Cork
Bishop’s Gate Hotel, Derry
Bishop’s Gate Hotel is a boutique 30-bed property in the centre of Derry. Lavish interiors and attention to detail make this a must-stay in Derry. Book the restaurant when you make a reservation; it is very popular. Rooms from €140 midweek and €187 weekends.
24 Bishop Street, Derry
1 Pery Square, Limerick
This period townhouse sits on a beautiful square in Limerick’s Georgian quarter, perfectly restored to reflect the era. Yet it is only a step from the buzz of Limerick city centre. Dinner in the Sash restaurant is a lovely country house experience, while the bedrooms include period rooms, club rooms and a top-floor townhouse suite overlooking the city and beyond to the mountains. Explore Limerick from St John’s Castle to Thomond Park, or eat your way around the Milk Market. One-night stays are from €225 per room and €126.50pps with dinner.
1 Pery Square
MORE BANG FOR YOUR BUCK
For value you can’t beat a swish hotel at a good price in a terrific location. And of course, being Galway, there’s loads going on this summer for added value. Check in for the Arts Festival (July 17th-30th), the Film Fleadh (July 11th-16th) or Race Week (July 31st -August 6th), finishing up with the Oyster & Seafood Festival (September 22nd-24th). The Radisson Blu’s Galway Getaway package is a two-night stay with two breakfasts and one dinner, in either its Marina Grill or its top-floor Sushi restaurant, from €215 per person.
Lough Atalia Road, Galway
The Savoy, Limerick
The Savoy is a hard name to live up to in the hotel business but Limerick’s only five-star hotel is up to the task. This luxury boutique property is located in the 1930s cinema building that gives it its name, and it has the kind of polish and lustre one associates with silver screen movies of old. Though sleekly modern, it is resolutely old-school in terms of service levels and classic touches. Two nights in a junior suite, with prosecco and macarons on arrival, plus two dinners, from €199 per person.
The Savoy Hotel, Henry Street, Limerick
Great for girlie getaways; opt for a Suite Sleepover package and you’ll get a night out and a night in. Start off with hot buttered popcorn, homemade marshmallows and a catch-up with movies on Netflix. Next day it’s up and out before dinner and cocktails in its Harpers restaurant. Then dance the night away in a reserved VIP part of Morrisons Late Bar and Disco downstairs, where there’ll be a chilled bottle of bubbly with your name on it. The hotel can organise everything from dance classes to whiskey tasting, with Suite Sleepover prices starting from €180 per person for two nights, based on two sharing.
Ormonde Street, Kilkenny
Castle Durrow, Co Laois
Value is about meeting or exceeding expectations at a particular price point. Castle Durrow does this with unstuffy aplomb. Despite being one of the most beautiful hotels in the country, it won’t leave your bank balance in need of five-star resuscitation. A two-night midweek summer special including B&B, a four-course evening meal, a guided tour with its head gardener and a complimentary discount card for Kildare Village for a total package price of €330. Result.
Castleview, Durrow, Co Laois
Tinakilly House, Co Wicklow
For a classic Victorian country house experience, replete with afternoon tea, high tea (afternoon tea with Prosecco) and supper, Tinakilly is a little oasis of old-fashioned hospitality holding its own in a world of homogenised corporate hospitality. Two-night midweek specials including breakfast, and dinner for two on one of the nights, from €270, subject to availability. For the full added-value experience, fork out a little extra and stay in one of its four-poster suites.
Tinakilly, Rathnew, Co Wicklow
Belleek Castle, Co Mayo
The quintessential romantic castle, this one is made all the more interesting because of the quirky nature of its contents. Not alone does it have a bar made with wood salvaged from the Armada, but guests can enjoy the preoccupations of its owners down through the centuries (it was built in the early 1800s). The result is a medieval castle with a nautical theme and its very own fossil museum – what’s not to love? Midweek dinner B&B rates this summer from €115 per person sharing, including breakfast and three-course dinner.
Garrankeel, Ballina, Co Mayo
Bush Hotel, Co Letrim
Now in its fourth century in the hospitality business, the Bush Hotel sits on a three-acre site slap-bang in the middle of Carrick’s buzzing main street. The three-star property has family rooms sleeping five with game packs and DVDs for kids. Family-owned and proudly independent, it’s a great base for touring Lough Key, Arigna Mines or hiking the area’s ancient miners’ paths, and it counts Friday as part of its midweek packages. B&B from €65 a night.
Town centre, Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim
The Lodge at Ashford Castle, Co Mayo
Its big brother might be on the “blow the budget” wish list, but this one offers a great value alternative, particularly if you’re looking to bring the kids for action and adventure on the same estate. Go zip-lining and tree-climbing, horse-riding or kayaking, before heading back to its Quay Bar and Brasserie for a family dinner, staying over in a luxurious Quay Suite. A two-night package for a family of four, including a full day’s bike hire and zip-lining, costs from €929.
Cong, Co Mayo
Clifden Station House , Co Galway
This one’s a great option for summer holidays with up to three children staying complimentary B&B when they share with two adults. There is plenty to see in the area, from Omey Island and Cleggan to Connemara National Park and Kylemore Abbey. Or stay put and let the Railway Kids’ Club look after them before taking in a movie together in the hotel’s own cinema. A four-night B&B break with dinner on two evenings costs €680 per family of five in early June.
Clifden Station House, Connemara, Co Galway
Ballyvolane, Co Cork
Value is getting more bang for your buck and, when it comes to hotels, doing so in beautiful surrounds. Ballyvolane, a country house and home, ticks all those boxes. A two-night stay, B&B, plus four-course evening meal, guided canoe trip on the Blackwater and picnic lunch, costs from €660. Or bring down the bill a bit by booking one of its de-luxe bell tents and go glamping in style, at around €150 per night.
Ballyvolane House, Castlelyons, Fermoy, Co Cork
Dolphin Hotel, Inishbofin, Co. Galway
If birdwatching, hiking and swimming on remote, quiet beaches is your thing, then Dolphin Hotel on Inishbofin ticks so many boxes. The island is about 8km long by 5km wide. You can do your own thing, go hiking with an expert local guide or go on a birdwatching break run by the hotel, the owners Pat and Jackie being ornithological enthusiasts and conservationists. I went swimming here at the beginning of the season in chilly water, and Jackie magically sourced me a wetsuit, a flask of tea and some cake. It’s that sort of place. Weekend breaks from €119 per person sharing, for two-nights B&B and dinner.
Inishbofin, Co Galway
Inchydoney Island Lodge and Spa, Clonakilty, west Cork
It was actually seaweed that drew me to Inchydoney Island for the first time. Given that it has a seawater pool, with seaweed wraps and massages, plus foraging for seaweed trips by kayak, I was pretty much in Bladderwrack bliss here. The hotel itself must have one of the most magnificent locations in Ireland, overlooking the sort of white strand you just have to take your socks off for, or everything else ideally. It has a surf school on the doorstep, and you can take your pick from myriad surf or turf delights for dinner, too. Seaweed soup is a regular on the menu too. They live and breathe it here. From €178 for two people per night, including breakfast.
Inchydoney Island, Clonakilty, west Cork
Go Explore Hostel, Clare Island, Co Mayo
Rundown for years, this lively spot has been completely transformed by islander Carl O’Grady, who has not only restored a derelict hotel into a hostel with six basic yet modern en-suite dorms but also opened a wonderful restaurant and buzzing pub with plenty of music. Clare Island was very sleepy a few years ago. But no more, because Carl has partnered with Clare Island Adventures to get people climbing, coasteering and generally clambering all over Clare. He has nailed it, and it is so wonderful to see real lifeblood pumping round this stunning island again. Beds from €20 per person per night. Family rooms available.
Go Explore Hostel, Clare Island, Westport, Co Mayo
Inishbeg Estate, West Cork
One of the Carbery islands, located in a tidal estuary of the Ilen river, this is accessible by road bridge, but after that you can forget all about driving. Because this really is an island idyll, with boathouses or wooden lodges to sleep in, stunning gardens to roam around, birdwatching to tweet about, and then, incongruously, a refurbished Roma caravan with an outdoor rolltop bath. It’s all a bit barmy, but in the most beautiful way possible. Just to add to the magic, you can go on a night-time kayak on nearby Lough Hyne, then back to the island for a hot bath in the woods. You get the picture. Accommodation €50-425 per night.
Inish Beg Estate, Baltimore, west Cork
Inis Meáin Restaurant and Suites, Inis Meáin, Galway
I am often asked where my favourite place to stay in Ireland is, and this always wins, hands down. This sublime-stone building – created by Ruairí and Marie-Thérèse de Blacam – has five elegantly understated suites, all with panoramic windows overlooking the island’s maze of stone walls and of course the sea. Ruairí is chef extraordinaire, using all local ingredients, from periwinkles to lobster and homegrown veg that have an Atlantic, salty taste to them. Not surprisingly, it books out a year in advance. It is very special. Sign up for their newsletter, which will remind you that bookings open in September, and then get in quick. It’s pricey yet far from pretentious and worth every penny. And the wait.
Season is March to October, from €528 per suite for two-night stay.
Inis Meáin, Co Galway. Email rather than phone – firstname.lastname@example.org – or sign up at inismeain.com.
Hunters Hotel, Co Wicklow
Shiny, modern hotels are all well and good, but sometimes you want something with a little more history and lots more charm – think open fires, cosy dinners and a snug bar where Daniel Day-Lewis and Steven Spielberg have been known to pull their own pints. Hunter’s Hotel is just the place as Ireland’s oldest coaching inn. It has been in the Gelletlie family for five generations and its creaky floorboards, chintzy chairs and open fireplaces feel a world away from the nearby M11 motorway. Favourite dining options are Wicklow lamb and locally caught fowl and game, all served with fresh vegetables, often from the garden, and their own butter. Request a room with your own fireplace in winter, and in summer sit outside in the abundant gardens and watch for kingfishers.
An extra something: Visit Mount Usher Gardens and the Avoca cafe a mile away for lunch or go seal-watching in Wicklow town. Alan Hegarty’s Fishman cafe, on South Quay, serves simple, fresh fish lunches.
From €75 per person per night B&B. From €90pp including table d’hote dinner.
Newrath Bridge, Newrath, Rathnew, Co Wicklow
Ballynahinch Castle, Galway
It may not be a castle, but Ballynahinch offers everything but the turrets. The Victorian country house combines luxury with a warm welcome, top-class dining in the Owenmore Restaurant and Fisherman’s Pub (under head chef Pete Durkan) and a setting that is something out of a fairy tale: lakes, mountains, woodland and silence. Rooms have been spruced up with Denis O’Brien’s investment in recent years and although it is difficult to leave the house, it is the estate that makes Ballynahinch extra special. Try fly-fishing, clay-pigeon shooting, hiking the 12 Bens or walking through the woodland to the old railway line. For vintage romance, opt for the overnight Vinyl package. You will have your own turntable and records from the Ballynahinch library in your room and a drink to toast your artist of choice. B&B and dinner (served in your room if you wish) is €200pps.
From €135 per person sharing with dinner, B&B. More packages are available online.
Recess, Connemara, Co Galway
Wineport Lodge, Co Westmeath
Best-known as the setting for RTE’s The Restaurant, the Wineport Lodge in Glasson, Co Westmeath, has a far richer history. As far back as AD 542, monks chose the area for the perfect landing place for their cargo of wine barrels from France. Now their favoured landing spot on Lough Ree hosts a secluded cedar-clad lodge, treatment rooms, 130-seat restaurant and rooftop, outdoor hot tub. It is the idyllic lakeside setting of the Wineport that makes it such an appealing romantic getaway and the hospitality, shaped by husband-and-wife owners Ray Byrne and Jane English, seals the deal. An extra something: organise a boat trip on the lake at sunset for the ultimate romantic package, disembarking at the Wineport’s private jetty.
Rooms from €75 per person sharing B&B; suites from €90pps B&B.
Portaneena, Athlone, Co Westmeath
090-643 9019, wineport.ie
Gregan’s Castle, Co Clare
Gregan’s might not be a castle, but it is a stylish 18th-century oasis in the heart of the Burren. The castle, now a private residence, stands across the road. Famed past guests of Gregan’s include JRR Tolkein and CS Lewis, and while they might have returned for the magical landscape, we can add the hospitality of the family-run hotel to our motivations. Walk up Corkscrew Hill behind the hotel to marvel at the views of the surprisingly fertile Burren and return for a drink in one of the most romantic hotel bars, the Corkscrew, before dining in chef David Hurley’s Diningroom, which was recently named the best hotel at Restaurant Association of Ireland awards. Add to the magic with the four-poster bed and private courtyard garden in the Martyn Suite.
From €245 for two people sharing B&B. Dinner €45-€72.
Corkscrew Hill, Gragan East, Ballyvaughan, Co Clare
065-707 7005, gregans.ie
Rathmullan House, Co Donegal
Outside, leafy gardens slope down gently to sandy beach and the sheltered waters of Lough Swilly. Inside, guests are attended to and indulged with well-honed and discrete skill. Rathmullan House might have the imperfect floorboards you expect in a Georgian house, but everything else slots perfectly into place. Each lounge has a different decor, and heavy doors close gently, offering you privacy in what feels like your own country estate. Dine on a menu that focuses on local produce under a fabric-draped ceiling of fairy lights in the Cook & Gardner restaurant. Or for more relaxed romance, try wood-fired pizza in the Tap Room with locally-brewed Kinnegar beer. The soft lighting and turf fires will ensure you fall in love.
From €190 for two people sharing B&B.
Rathmullan, Co Donegal
074-915 8188, rathmullanhouse.com
Delphi Resort, Connemara
Adrenaline junkies flock to this mountainside retreat in Leenane, Co Galway, for its incredible views and expert instructors. The Delphi team’s middle name is adventure, and they cater to everyone from families and kids as young as four right up to seasoned athletes. Hike, mountain bike, zip-line, abseil and kayak – there are more than 20 activities on sea and land to avail of – then retreat to the four-star cabins and accommodation. Adventure breaks start from around €200, including a full day of activities and B&B.
Leenane, Connemara, Co Galway
Dillons Hotel, Co Donegal
This family-owned hotel is right at the centre of Donegal’s action. Use it as a base to explore the Wild Atlantic Way and the stunning Slieve League cliffs (even more breathtaking than the Cliffs of Moher, dare we say). Dillon’s will happily organise day tours to the most beautiful spots, with Fanad Head Lighthouse and the Inishowen Peninsula Tour topping every tourist’s list. The two-day Wild Atlantic Way package starts from €135 per person with B&B and tours included.
Letterkenny, Co Donegal
074 912 2977, dillons-hotel.ie
The D Hotel, Drogheda
Game of Thrones fanatics need look no further than The D Hotel, where the cult TV show is honoured in a special way. Sailing the river Boyne in handcrafted traditional Kerry naomhóg currachs (the boats used in the television series), you’ll be guided through 5,000 years of Ireland’s ancient east, topped off with stories from the Games of Thrones set. Stay from €85 per person sharing, including the tour, one night’s B&B, welcome refreshments and a packed lunch.
Scotch Hall, Drogheda
Faithlegg House Hotel, Co Waterford
Not only is the country house as stunning and serene a setting you could wish for on a breakaway, but the hotel is in cahoots with Oceanics, the activity hub of the sunny southeast. Onsite, the tennis courts, golf clinics, swimming pool and children’s playground will keep activity hungry heads out of trouble. Then book in for a surf tutorial with Oceanics Surf School or, if you’re really brave, try your hand at their coast-hacking day out: scrambling, leaping and traversing along the coastline. You’ll receive a 10 per cent discount on lessons, surf camps, and family fun sessions when you stay at Faithlegg, B&B from €149.
Faithlegg, Co Waterford
Ballyknocken House and Cookery School, Co Wicklow
Those in need of upgrading (or establishing) their culinary skills would do well to book in for a weekend at Catherine Fulvio’s lauded cookery school and B&B. Choose your cuisine – bread baking, Taste of Tuscany, Super Foods, there’s even a kids-and-parents class – and immerse yourself in a weekend of pure country living. You’ll pluck ingredients from their farm and garden and learn to cook from scratch. Feasting on your dishes before curling up in the cosy country house is what keeps Fulvio’s clients coming back. Classes start from €125 while accommodation starts from €110.
Glenealy, Ashford, Co Wicklow
Farnham Estate, Co Cavan
Farnham is a great choice for those who feel they’ve done it all. The Cavan destination has a diverse and unusual list of activities, especially for groups and families. Try a Blind Land Rover Drive, where you navigate a course guided only your passengers. Or go all Bear Grylls and try their Survivor Challenge, a team-oriented day of mental and physical challenges. Off-site, Farnham can happily organise excursions such as off-road mud buggies, flying a hovercraft and canoeing on Lough Oughter. Stay at Farnham Estate from €129 per room midweek B&B and see farnhamestate.ie for activity prices.
Coras Point, Cavan
The Lake Hotel, Kerry
As one of the county’s most respected and sought-after outdoor instructors, Nathan Kingerlee’s Outdoors Ireland adventure centre is a mecca for weekends of team-building and outdoor pursuits. Learn to rock-climb, kayak, canoe or brush up on those mountain skills over a weekend. Stay at the Lake Hotel for proximity and a little luxury after all that exertion. For pricing, see outdoorsireland.com. Stay at the Lake Hotel in June from €110 B&B.
Lake Shore, Muckross Road, Castlelough, Killarney, Co Kerry
The Chimes, Co Sligo
Sligo is the go-to for all things maritime, from surfing in Strandhill to horse-riding on the beaches, windsurfing, sailing, and fishing. The Chimes, a three-storey townhouse in the town centre, is the perfect base for a week of waterside escapades. Stay here and book in Strandhill Surf School to master the waves with the best in the west. See strandhillsurschool.ie for rates and lessons.
Weekly rental rates from €825 during peak season
No 49 John Street, Sligo
Sheen Falls Lodge, Co Kerry
This five-star offers all of the activities you could wish for: kayaking trips, walking excursions, horse-riding, and clay-pigeon shooting. The real draw here, though, are their special experience offerings, namely the chocolate-making courses with nearby Lorge chocolatiers, where you’ll be guided through creating your own sweet treats. Chocolate-making workshops with Lorge start from €25 per person and can be booked via the hotel or directly.
Stay from €290 B&B based on two people sharing in a Classic Room.
Gortnadullagh, Kenmare, Co Kerry
Ferrycarrig Hotel, Co Wexford
Fancy deep-sea diving in the sunny southeast? The four-star Ferrycarrig Hotel is just outside the town, close to Hook Lighthouse, Johnstown Castle Gardens and they even have their own kids’ club. The real excitement here, though, is the proximity to Pier House Dive Centre in Kilmore Quay. Here, you can deep dive up to 60m and explore the shipwrecks that lie below. The area has some of the most spectacular diving in Ireland, with crystal-clear visibility. For diving prices and details see pierhouse.ie.
From €95 in a standard room.
Ferrycarrig Hotel, Co Wexford
Bantry House and Garden
This historic home of the earls of Bantry, dating from 1690, has been the residence of the Shelswell White family since the mid-18th century. Both house and garden have been open to the public since the 1940s and today’s visitors can explore, relax in the tearoom or stay over in the East Wing on a B&B basis. The house is open daily from April to October, and guided tours are given weekly by Sophie Shelswell White.
Rates: double rooms from around €169, including breakfast.
Bantry, Co Cork
027 50047, bantryhouse.com
Temple House is a luxury guesthouse coming in the form of a classical Georgian manor, set in a private estate over 1,000 acres. It overlooks the 13th-century lakeside castle of the Knights Templar, which gives it its name, and has been home to the current owners, the Perceval family, since 1665. The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage calls it a commanding house and a feature of national importance in the architectural heritage of Co Sligo, that is, full of historical, as well as architectural interest. It’s also a lovely place for a wedding.
Ballinacarrow, Ballymote, Co. Sligo
Montalto, Co Down, is a stately mansion with a mere 400-acre estate to enjoy – a great comedown from the time 200 years ago when the estate covered 5 per cent of Co Down. Built by Lord Moira in the 1750s and extensively restored in recent years, it has superb furnishings, a staff who anticipate your needs, and the nine-bedroom suites are extraordinarily comfortable.
The hire of the house including breakfast starts at £3,500 a night.
Ballynahinch, Co Down
Lough Cutra Castle
Lough Cutra Castle on the Galway-Clare border was the home of Lord Gort, who restored Bunratty Castle. Susie Gwyn-Jones has spent many years making the grandest house in Co Galway ever grander. Guests can fish on the largest private lake in Europe, and hike miles of private pathways enjoying the flora and fauna – the Burren is within site of the castle. Prince Charles stayed there in 2015.
Nine bedrooms, with a full staff, can be yours for €31,500 for a week.
Drenagh, close to Benone Beach and Magilligan Strand, is a golfer’s haven, with Portrush and Portstewart just down the road. It is the home of the McCausland family. The gardens are reminiscent of Oliver Messel’s Nymans. The house has a staircase straight out of Gone with the Wind, and the latter-day Scarlett O’Hara can sweep up to any of the eight main bedrooms, and there are four smaller bedrooms as well.
Prices start at £2,100 a night.
Limavaddy, Antrim coast
Rock Farm Slane, Co Meath
Glamping in Ireland doesn’t get much glampier than the Mountcharles family’s back yard. It is home to ridiculously well-appointed yurts with wood-burning stoves and elevated beds and slightly less well-appointed shepherd’s huts and bell tents for those who wish to rough it, relatively speaking. There’s a hot tub, swings hanging from ancient trees, a spacious campfire area for toasting marshmallows and a communal kitchen for toasting toast. There is even a clay pizza oven and a sheltered patio so you can eat al fresco in the driving rain. It’s magical.
Prices start from €120 per tent/yurt.
Slane, Co Meath
Pure Camping, Co Clare
If you’re looking for a retreat on the edge of our world, you’ll struggle to find anywhere better than this Loop Head site, a stroll from a beach and dinky little pier. There are bell tents and eco-cabins or a “wild camping” option in the site’s native woodland. It overlooks the Shannon estuary, and you can expect woodland trails “mindful labyrinth walks”, yoga classes, donkeys, dogs, cats and hens, a dome to hide from bad weather, a sauna and a pizza oven.
Pitches start at €10 per adult per night, while starting prices for unfurnished bell tents is €35 per night. Eco-cabins starts at €75.
Kilkee, Co Clare
Clifden Eco Beach Camping and Caravanning Park, Co Galway
If the weather gods smile, this place will blow your socks off. If they frown, it will blow everything else away. This is Ireland’s first climate-neutral eco-campsite. Bring your own caravan or tent or hire one, and pitch it among the sand dunes. There is nothing as glam as a hot tub, but the facilities are good and its really wild Atlantic ways promise a camping experience to remember, whatever the weather. Pitches start at €13 with rental tents starting at €36.
Claddaghduff Road, Clifden, Co Galway
Port Moon Bothy, Co Antrim
If you want to get away from it all, this spot – a giant’s stone throw from the famous Causeway – is for you. It can comfortably accommodate up to six people. Well, we say comfortably but expect little by way of comforts. There’s a large living area with a wood-burning stove and a bedroom with a sleeping platform but no bed. There’s no water or electricity but there is a composting toilet. Oh, and you can only get here in a kayak. On the plus side, when you’re done roughing it, Bushmills – and its lovely whiskey – is close by.
Cost is £10pp per night. Exclusive use of the bothy can be booked for £60
Bushmills, Co Antrim
Glenregan Wild Camping, Co Offaly
This Coillte wild-camping spot is near Kinnity on the Slieve Bloom Way. It’s on the riverbank by a wooden foot bridge, and, while there are no facilities, the bird life, deer and pine martens make up for that. It strictly adheres to Leave No Trace principles and campfires are banned.
Slieve Bloom Way, Co Offaly
Lough Key Caravan and Camping Park, Co Roscommon
This is an old-school camping experience in a large forest park, and it is where this writer was introduced to the world of camping on two sodden summer holidays in the 1970s. It has been tarted up since, although not so much as to be unrecognisable. It has 51 landscaped pitches, three tent areas, a recreational block and a shower block. There are long walks, a weather-proof Boda Borg experience – think Crystal Maze – high ropes, zipwires and swimming near the marina.
Tent pitches start at €12 per night; motor-home and caravan pitches from €22 per night. Showers cost €2, while electricity is €3 a night.
Boyle, Co Roscommon
Morriscastle Strand Holiday Park, Co Wexford
The best thing about this quaint campsite near Kilmuckridge is the beach and dunes – perfect for rolling down. The possibility of fine weather in the sunny southeast adds to the appeal. It’s good value for money, and if you have access to a tent or caravan, it’s a fine way to staycation on the cheap.
Family caravan and tent pitches, €30.
Nore Valley Camping and Caravan Park, Co Kilkenny
This site has plenty to entertain kids. Many of activities come at a cost, but prices seem reasonable – archery is €5 for half an hour, 10 minutes go-karting is €1.50, as is a trailer ride. A family pass to the adjacent petting zoo is €25. There’s also straw-bouncing, swings and slides, river walks and picnic areas.
Family tent pitches from €13; motorhome pitches cost €11 and caravans €12.
Annamult, Bennettsbridge, Co Kilkenny
Mannix Point Camping Park, Co Kerry
This is one of the most beautiful campsites in the country, with 500m of wild Atlantic coastline and the mountains of the Iveragh peninsula to gaze out over. The showers are hot and the threat of a music session always hangs over the campers’ kitchen. It is also close to the departure points for the Skelligs, which may appeal to Star Wars fans.
Pitches for two adults cost €26, climbing to €30 if children are in the mix
Garranebane, Cahersiveen, Co Kerry
Dromquinna Manor, Co Kerry
There’s no slumming in Dromquinna. There are tents for couples and for families as well as goose-down duvets, linen sheets and covered decks to sip cocktails by night and fresh coffee, croissants and juices in the morning. There is the Boat House Bistro, which even has its own gin menu. In short, it is ridiculously fancy.
Prices starts at €150 per night for two, rising to €185 for families.
Sneem Road, Kenmare, Co Kerry
AN HOUR FROM DUBLIN
Tulfarris Hotel and Golf Resort, Wicklow
Sitting by Blessington Lakes, this location is about as private as you can get. The resort stumbled along for a while in Nama, but has been given a new lease of life since being taken over by the Prem Group. Explore the beautiful scenery around the hotel, and use it as a launchpad to enjoy the lakes. You can take a tour on the lake boat or hire a boat and do your own exploring. One of Ireland’s most famous big houses, Russborough, is just a few minutes away (russborough.ie). Vegan and vegetarian overnight with dinner in the Lime Tree restaurant is from €148.
Two-night stays from €258 with one dinner.
Blessington, Co Wicklow
Dunboyne Castle, Co Meath
Dunboyne Castle, the village of Dunboyne is very close to Dublin. The original house has been tastefully renovated, with a new wing added about 10 years ago. There are lots of nice areas for relaxing with a coffee and a book. The Seoid Spa is lovely with a nice pool with hydrotherapy jets, an outdoor hot tub and a variety of spa treatments. The hotel is busy at the weekends, so book treatments in advance. The Sadlier Bar is perfect for bar food and watching sports, and formal dinners in the Ivy restaurant.
One night midweek from €153; dinner, B&B at weekends from €270 per night.
Dunboyne, Co Meath
Portmarnock Hotel and Golf Links, Co Dublin
The former seaside home of the Jameson whiskey family has recently been refurbished and is a lovely blend of light and colours. You do not have to go far to feel that you are away, with the beach so nearby. The light is fantastic for photographers and the golf links for golfers. The award-winning spa uses Elemis and Carita products.
Two-night stays with two rounds of golf and two spa treatments from €378, one-night stay with dinner from €287.
Portmarnock, Co Dublin
Powerscourt Hotel, Wicklow
The view when you walk into the Powerscout Hotel is stunning, the triple-height atrium framing the Wicklow mountains beyond. The five-star hotel is just a short stroll from the Powerscourt estate, which has the most beautiful grounds to wander in. There is also a lovely shop and cafe for afternoon teas. The spa is a perfect respite from the city. There is also golfing, fishing, hiking, 4x4 off-roading, cycling and the waterfall.
One-night dinner, B&B and tickets for the gardens costs from €342. Midweek B&B from €252.
Enniskerry, Co Wicklow
Carton House, Kildare
A perfect sporting estate for the active: there’s golf, fishing, cycling, walking, zip-lining, tennis and more. Surrounded by trees and lush parkland, it is the perfect place to let the kids run free. Carton has fantastic sports facilities, which have been used by many teams over the years. In honour of the British and Irish Lions, there will be an exhibition of memorabilia of the tours at the hotel.
Midweek dinner, B&B from €270 for two or family breaks from €560 for two nights and one dinner; discounts of 10 per cent for extra nights.
Maynooth, Co Kildare