BY THE SEA
Glencolmcille, Co Donegal
Remember that bit in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers when Sam says to Gollum, "Po-tay-toes. Boil 'em, mash 'em, stick 'em in a stew"? You won't be able to stop saying that at the CroPod. This underground shelter with spectacular views over Glencolmcille may be inspired by the archaeology of ancient Ireland, and ingeniously designed to make the most of such a small space, but for all intents and purposes it's a hobbit house. And who in their right mind doesn't want to spend the night in a hobbit house? Two nights costs £249, or about €295.
2. Teach Mhicí
Dooey Beach, Co Donegal
If you were asked to describe the most idyllic seaside holiday home you could imagine, you might come up with something close to Teach Mhicí. Glittering turquoise water, private beach with pristine white sand, Scandi-inspired thatched cottage with turf-woodburner and sea views from every window; it's a little slice of Irish paradise. There is one king-sized bedroom, and another smaller loft over the main living area – perfect for kids. Sleeps four; two nights from €468.
3. St John's Point Lighthouse
Killough, Co Down
Embrace your inner Hemmingway and spend a week in a lighthouse on the rugged coastline of Co Down. It doesn't get much more remote than this, with no wifi, no TV, and a 20 minute drive to the nearest town. In the face of such arresting beauty, you'll be glad not to have a Netflix-shaped distraction in the living room. You get a choice between two charming light keepers' cottages, JP Ketch or JP Sloop. Both have been handsomely restored by Irish Lights and are maintained by the Irish Landmark Trust. Sleeps four; from €422 for two nights.
4. The Beach House
Clone Strand, Co Wexford
A stone's throw from a beautiful, sandy stretch of Clone Strand, this Florida-style beach house is perfect for family getaways. A huge open-plan kitchen and living area is surrounded by the property's defining feature: a stunning wrap-around sundeck overlooking the sea. This is the stuff family holidays are made of – long summer evenings with wine by the barbeque, while the kids mill around until way past their bedtime. Sleeps eight; €2,850 a week.
5. Thatcher's Rest Cottage
Bettystown, Co Meath
A picture-perfect thatched cottage on a 9km stretch of sandy beach, Thatcher's Rest was hailed as the best holiday beach house in Europe in 2016. With vaulted ceilings, oak floors and a fully fitted farmhouse kitchen, the house is luxuriously cosy. The large open-plan lounge has a stone fireplace and a big bay window overlooking spectacular sea views. It's one of six distinct holiday homes all with direct access to the beach. Sleeps six; €1,350; three-night minimum.
6. Collanmore Island Lodge
Clew Bay, Co Mayo
If you're planning a special group getaway, you could do a lot worse than Collanmore Lodge. Here you'll get luxurious accommodation for up to 22 people, a huge hot tub, sauna, BBQ area, and landscaped gardens . . . all on your own private island. Outside the comfort of the lodge there is no end to the activities available, from sumo wrestling and murder mystery games, to kayaking and deep-sea fishing. Between the stunning coastal views and natural tranquility offered by such unspoiled surroundings, there really is no better place to go absolutely bananas with a gang of friends. Contact for price.
7. Wicklow Head Lighthouse
Dunbur Head, Co Wicklow
The Irish Landmark Trust has transformed this 18th century octagonal tower into an extraordinary self-catering holiday home. Surrounded by cliffs and water on three sides, you can admire magnificent views of the Wicklow coast and countryside from arched windows set into walls over a metre thick. With 109 steps to the kitchen, which is on the top floor, you'll need to be fairly light on your toes to consider this one. Sleeps four; from €624 for two nights.
8. Portsalon Luxury Camping
Cashelpreaghan, Portsalon, Co Donegal
Donegal is one of the few places in the world where an experience of the sublime is a reasonable expectation. There's no better way to appreciate the stunning landscape than camping, but you don't have to rough it in a tent. Portsalon Luxury Camping has five deluxe yurts with king size beds and wood-burning stoves. Each has its own fire pit and barbeque area, with picnic tables and benches. Sitting in the summer gloaming, with spectacular panoramic views of Lough Swilly, Mulroy Bay and the Inishowen Peninsula, the sublime feels very much within reach. From €75 to €120 a night, April-September.
9. Happy Campers NI
Newtownards, Co Down
There's an old saying about classic VW campervans: "Everything is quicker, but nothing is cooler". If you're the type of person who gets itchy feet, and wants to see as much of Ireland's glorious coastline as possible, why not take your accommodation with you? Go all-out Matthew McConaughy beach bum in a retro and stylishly refitted campervan. Happy Campers NI have three models available. Each one is decked out in a different style and sleeps two adults and two children. From €342 for two nights to €1,451 for two weeks.
10. Dalkey Mansion
Sorrento Road, Dalkey, Co Dublin
If you've ever dreamt of becoming a Bond villain, sitting and plotting in a gleaming coastal lair with a smug looking cat on your lap, then this place is for you. Or maybe you just want to splash out and see how the other half lives? Either way, this magnificent and extravagant seaside pad fits the bill. Built and owned by Eddie Irvine, it is 5,000 sq ft (464 sq m) of slick lines and muted tones. To keep you and your guests entertained while you quaff cognac and chortle over interest rates, there is a heated pool, sauna, jacuzzi, games room and bar. Cat not included; €1,000 a night.
IN THE CITY
11. Merrion Mews
Merrion Square, Dublin 2
Clip clop your way along Fitzwilliam Lane to one of Merrion Square's original mews houses, still with stabling downstairs. Nowadays there's nary a wisp of straw in sight, but it's still filled with character, comprising three brightly painted bedrooms upstairs clad in tongue and groove, and original floorboards. The living area looks out over what was the stable yard, while the bedrooms look back towards their "big house", one of the last on Merrion Square to still have a garden. Ah, progress. Two nights from €860.
12. Martello Tower
Sutton, Co Dublin
Dublin city is blessed to be located between mountains and sea, and you can see just about all of it from the kitchen of this Martello Tower in Sutton. Built in 1804 to protect Dubliners from Napoleonic invasion, today it is redesigned to accommodate four guests. The property is on three levels, with two bedrooms and a bathroom at the bottom, a living area with balcony overlooking the bay in the middle, and a stunning top floor that gives new meaning to kitchen sink drama. From €1,600 a week.
13. Trinity College Campus
College Green, Dublin 2
When school's out for summer, savvy short breakers head to college. If you're looking for a central location in Dublin you won't find better than Trinity College. The 35 acre campus is an oasis of peace even when the students are in, so it's practically bucolic in summer. When's the last time you made like a tourist and visited the National Gallery? Bet you've never even seen the Book of Kells. Remedy all, and make use of the sports centre for a reduced rate, with rooms available from end of May to late August. From €60 a night.
Long Walk, Galway city
If you're staying in Galway city, opt for this gorgeous houseboat, built in 1933 and refitted in traditional fashion in the Netherlands. Suitable for one or two couples, it has two bedrooms, central heating, a proper galley kitchen plus shower room and loo. Breakfast can be had up front in the wheelhouse, while sundowners are taken on the covered aft deck, whether there is sun or not. From €130 a night for two.
15. Converted Stableyard
Castleknock, Co Dublin
How about a holiday rental with your own pool right beside Dublin's Pheonix Park? Visit the zoo, hire bikes and go Michael D spotting as he sweeps through in a cavalcade. The apartment has four bedrooms and sleeps up to nine people. The swimming pool is heated, and the city centre is right on your doorstep. At the time of writing, three nights in September for a family of two adults and four children costs €1,907.
16. Scéal Eile Barge
Grand Canal, Dublin 4
Want a boring hotel room in a bland hotel? Well, sin scéal eile. Anyone who wants a unique adventure on Dublin's Grand Canal will opt instead for this beautiful barge with its gleaming interior of solid oak floors and polished wood veneer walls. You can stay year-round in comfort thanks to a multifuel stove with back boiler. Though it's just perfect for two, you've no excuse not to bring the kids, because it sleeps six. You can move up and down the canal, all the way to the Grand Canal Theatre to catch a show. Two adults for three nights costs €555.
17. 3 Walls Gallery
Oxmantown Road, Stoneybatter, Dublin 7
For visiting artists, there's no better place to stay in the city than Dublin's smallest art gallery. Every wall and nook of Kathy's Stoneybatter home contains a painting, sculpture or art installation, occasionally on view to the public. Located in a pretty redbrick terrace on the historic Oxmantown Road, in the heart of Dublin's hippest urban village, there's a double room or a couch in the sitting room to rent. Visitors rave about Kathy's hospitality and knowledge of the local area.
18. Barnacles Hostel
Temple Bar, Dublin 2
You don't have to be on a gap year to know that today's hostels are nigh on indistinguishable from budget hotels in terms of accommodation standards, just cheaper. Save yourself a packet for a short city break in Dublin and stay in Barnacles in Temple Bar, right in the thick of things. Yes, it's going to be noisy, but, all going well, so will you. Rooms are en suite, there's a 24 hour reception and a communal kitchen but relax, no one's expecting you to go that far. Doubles from €120 a night.
19. Tree house
St Patrick's Hill, Cork city
Think all tree houses are out in the sticks? Think again. This one is situated right on St Patrick's Hill, a five-minute (downhill) walk to the city centre. It accommodates two people with one bedroom and a bathroom. The tree house is fully insulated and faces south, with great views out over the city. Yes it's in your host's garden, but it's screened off by, well, trees, so plenty of privacy. Breakfast is delivered by tree nymphs via a pulley system, and if you ask nicely they'll send up an ice bucket too. Priced at €150 a night for two in July.
20. Garrison House
Elizabeth Fort, Cork city
Elizabeth Fort is a 17th century star-shaped fort originally built outside the city walls. It has served a number of purposes since, all relating to law and order, which is reason enough to behave yourself in one of the most recently restored period properties reborn as a holiday rental by the Landmark Trust. Both Garrison House, and its semidetached neighbour Parade House, offer a terrific opportunity to stay inside the fort walls, with views out over the city. Sleeps three, with two-night stays from €366.
IN THE WILDERNESS
21. The Woodcutters Cabin
Union Wood, Co Sligo
Down winding country roads, over a small bridge, and tucked away among flora and fauna, you'll find this Union Wood log cabin, 10km from Sligo town. This small-but-perfect accommodation serves as an ideal base for the nearby fishing, hiking and mountain bike trails, but equally provides a quiet reprieve from the world, should you choose to simply curl up with a book, or enjoy a glass of wine on the porch, with nothing but the sound of birdsong to distract you. From €65 a night.
22. Clissmann Horse Caravans Glamping
Rathdrum, Co Wicklow
For a real back-to-nature experience, try a weekend in one of Clissman's colourful horse caravans on their farm. Kids can wander the wilderness freely, picking blackberries, toasting marshmallows and sleeping under the stars, or spend time bonding with their farm animals on one of their donkey walk excursions. Caravans are kitted out with bedding, towels, hot water bottles, cooking facilities, lights, and a barbecue. With Greenan maze and farm, Clara Lara activity park, and Squirrels Scramble climbing centre are all close by, it's a real treat for families who love the great outdoors. Three-night stays from €580.
23. Dunloe Hotel and Gardens
Beaufort, Killarney, Co Kerry
For a wilderness experience that's a little more lush, look to the soon-to-be-reopened Dunloe Hotel overlooking the Gap Of Dunloe. Set on its own 64-acre estate leading to the ruins of a 12th-century castle and River Laune, the five-star property offers all the perks of scenic landscape and countryside proximity, with the benefits of a hotel stay. Midweek B&B rates in April and May start from €210 a room.
24. Coolbawn Quay
Lough Derg, Coolbawn, Nenagh, Co Tipperary
On the shores of Lough Derg, bordered by forests in its own private village resort, Coolbawn Quay is a remote and unique experience. Designed to reflect traditional Irish village life, the ethos here is to do little but soak up the surroundings. Book into one of their stand-alone lodges scattered throughout the village, each with its own private entrance and drawing room, starting from €138 for two a night.
25. Inis Meaáin Restaurant and Suites
Inis Meáin, Aran Islands
This luxury nature lodge has become world famous for its special surroundings and hospitality. Marie-Thérèse and Ruairí de Blacam strive to provide guests with the best insight into island life. The accommodation itself is remote and exposed to the elements, and a stay here is a sure fire way to disconnect with the modern world. Minimalist decor, panoramic views of the ocean, and top quality food are all par for the course. Suites are fully booked for 2019, but 2020 bookings will become available shortly.
26. Ard Nahoo Eco Cabins
Mullagh, Dromahair, Co Leitrim
What began as a small health farm has become an award-winning eco retreat. Choose from the Hawthorn, Holly or Willow Irish timber cabins, decorated with natural paints, furnished with antique finds and heated by wood pellet stoves. Each cabin is equipped with a kitchen, and offers views of the nearby mountains from a private deck. The on-site massage, sauna facilities, and nearby nature trails will ensure you stay grounded. Two nights' accommodation, including an organic welcome pack, starts from €330 over a weekend for up to three people.
27. Lost Cottage
Glenbeigh, Co Kerry
What could be more immersive than holing up in a red-doored Irish cottage in the foothills of Kerry? The Lost Cottage is named aptly, hidden away from any signs of civilisation in the remote lakeside townland of Treangarriv. The Iveragh Peninsula, Rossbeigh beach and Coumeenoole beach (made famous by the film Ryan's Daughter) are your closest allies here, in this two-bedroomed converted cottage. A weekend stay for up to three starts at €1,700.
28. Chléire Haven
Cape Clear, Skibbereen, Co Cork
To experience wilderness on a whole other level, take the 45-minute ferry trip from Baltimore to the island of Cape Clear. From the Mongolian yurts at Chléire Haven, you can watch the landscape change every day. Cosy and comfortable, a stay here is a more natural take on glamping, with nothing but the basic amenities and the elements to contend with. From €150 a night for two people.
29. The Barn at Lake Lodge
Multyfarnham, Mullingar, Co Westmeath
On the banks of Lough Owel, The Barn is a split-level self-catering stay outside Mullingar. Despite its proximity to Dublin, this staycation offers a true escape into nature. Located among forest walks and with wonderful lake views, it accommodates six guests. From €750 a week.
30. Dublin Mountain Retreat
Glenasmole Valley, Co Dublin
This two-bedroom timber chalet in the Glenasmole Valley comprises of an open plan living space, small kitchen, living area and large windows overlooking the Bohernbreena reservoir below. With its own meditation space with a view to the valley, this lofty rental is made for hill and mountain walkers ready to take on the Dublin and Wicklow mountains. From €80 a night.
FOR HISTORY LOVERS
31. Ringfort Stay Over
Irish National Heritage Park, Co Wexford
If you're the type of parent who wants your children to understand how tough you had it growing up, a trip back to the Early Middle Ages should do the trick. At the Irish National Heritage Park you'll stay in a 1,500-year-old ringfort replica, surrounded by an oak palisade with watchtower. Guests sleep in the thatched-roof house, with stone walls and a central hearth. You will be given period clothes and share the fort with two cows, Zeus and April. For an additional €10 per head, food can be arranged – a cauldron of stew to be heated over an open fire. Sleeps six to eight; €400 a night.
32. Lorum Old Rectory
Kilgraney, Bagenalstown, Co Carlow
In the beautiful Barrow River Valley, at the foot of the Blackstairs Mountains, this handsome 19th century rectory exudes a very Jane Austen kind of charm, from the 18th century grandfather clock in the hallway to the gorgeously appointed drawing room. Visitors can enjoy a spot of croquet in the garden or peruse the family library, before the owner Bobbie Smith, a member of "Euro-Toques" (the European Community of Cooks), uses local, organic produce to serve intimate and exquisite meals at the dining room's long mahogany table. Priced at €180 a night.
Glenarm, Co Antrim
Perfect for a romantic getaway, this miniature medieval-style castle built in 1825 sits picture-perfect on an old stone bridge over the Glenarm River. With a freestanding claw-foot bath, wood burning stove and stunning rooftop terrace, you could spend your entire stay within its cosy walls. Poke your head out of one of the many beautifully arched gothic windows, and you'll set eyes upon one of Ulster's oldest villages and the ancestral home of the earls of Antrim. From €308 for two nights. Adults only.
34. Merchant's House
16 Queen Street, Derry
See how the professional and merchant classes lived during the 19th century in this award-winning Georgian townhouse. Built 150 years ago for a naval surgeon, it is one of the few surviving houses of its kind in Derry. It has retained most of its original features, including marble fireplaces and ornate plasterwork. The building is now a Grade B listed property due to its historical and architectural significance. The highlight is the basement: a former kitchen and servant's quarters now home to three tastefully renovated en-suite bedrooms. From €87 a night.
Craughwell, Co Galway
This 15th-century castle, 30 minutes from Galway city, is the most-visited Airbnb in Europe, and it's not hard to see why. Lovingly restored and renovated by Peter Hayes and his partner Eva, it offers something not many other of its ilk can – authenticity. You'll have full access to the top two floors of the castle (the hosts live below), including winding staircase and turret. More often than not, bad weather can ruin a holiday, but here it can make it. Cosy up beside a roaring fire, protected from the elements by thick medieval stone; it's about as close to time-travel as you can get. Priced at €160 a night.
36. Cosy Cabin at Dunbrody House
Arthurstown, Co Wexford
Which is more romantic, a cabin in the countryside or a country house hotel? Opt for Catherine and Kevin Dundon's Dunbrody House and you can enjoy fine dining in the restaurant and then repair to the lux-rustic delights of a cosy cabin in the woods, in one of the most peaceful spots on the planet, overlooking Arthurstown Harbour. The cabin takes this sense of escape to a whole other level, while still getting a perfectly mixed G&T from room service. Wake to birdsong and wander up to breakfast in its Harvest Room Restaurant, hand in hand, of course. Priced at €175 a night.
37. Conroy's Old Bar
Aglish, Co Tipperary
Anyone old enough to remember when the pub was our dating app will see the romantic possibilities in having an entire licensed premises all to yourselves. Conroys Old Bar in Tipperary is available on a self catering basis which, to be clear, means bring your own booze. Just be quick: the pub, which is still taking bookings, is on the market – so this could be your last chance to play Bet Lynch and Alec Gilroy, or Den and Angie. (Ask your parents.) From €200 for two people staying two nights.
38. Wicklow Head Lighthouse
Dunbur Head, Wicklow Town
Cut yourselves off from the world in an 18th-century lighthouse with views from Ireland's Eye to – on a clear day – Wales. You might already be familiar with the iconic building given that Irish Landmark Trust uses as its logo. Spend your days seal-spotting along a beautiful coastal path that leads to a secret stony beach with an old limekiln, the ruined outlines of a penal times church and a holy well of historical significance to the town's fishermen. The fact that you'll hardly see a sinner is all part of the romance. From €624 for two nights.
39. Treehouse, west Cork
Skibbereen, Co Cork
Hide out in the treetops in one of three romantic tree houses at Grove House. Beat your retreat Robin Hood style up tree trunk steps and inside each you'll find kitchen and bathroom, constant hot water and even radiators. It's all open plan, including double bed and roll top bath. Outside there's a large deck overlooking the countryside, with table, chairs and private two person hot tub. What more could you need . . . wifi perhaps? It has that too. From €169 a night.
40. The Boat House
Ballynatray, Youghal, Co Cork
Ballynatray House, a magnificent 18th-century Georgian mansion on 850 acres near Youghal, is a favourite for weddings, when it can be rented in its entirety, but you don't have to make a marriage of it to enjoy some of the beautiful self catering lodgings on the estate. Most romantic of all is its thatched boathouse with contemporary interior. The stylish double room has a roll top bath from which you can look out across the Blackwater. From €185 a night.
41. Acorn Cottage
Madam's Island, Caragh Lake, Co Kerry
Large families can take an island all to themselves by renting Acorn and Salmon Cottages. They're the only properties on Madam's Island a small private island on Caragh Lake in Glenbeigh. Each is a luxury stonebuilt nook sleeping seven, tucked amid oak trees. Living rooms look out over the lake and dining rooms open on to a stone patio with outdoor fireplaces and barbecues for long lazy days, and nights. Get active, with swimming, canoeing and stand-up paddle boarding right on your doorstep. From €2,350 per week.
42. Pink Apple Orchard
Drumkeeran, Co Leitrim
You've a range of quirky camping options to choose from at Pink Apple Orchard in Leitrim, Jesse Johnson's luxury family-run glamping site set in her cider apple orchard. These include a yurt, a teepee, an iconic Airstream, a tree house or a Gypsy wagon. Or go for 'Leitrimshire's Hobbit House', a grass-roofed creation sleeping up to six, and can accommodate a travel cot or toddler bed too. There's an atmospheric wood burning stove and after that you can choose to go electric or please the purists and stick with candlelight. Either way, there's no wifi. Hooray. Two nights for a family of four from €260.
43. Riversdale Log Houses
Knockvicar, Co Roscommon
The Burke family have been in hospitality for almost half a century, so they know a thing or two about customer service. They were also among the first tourism providers here to spot growing demand for eco friendly accommodation. Their lovely log cabins close to the family farm are spacious. Guests have the run of Lough Key Forest Park next door, with bike hire and Zipit high wires, plus the old Arigna mine to visit, guided by former miners. A four bedroom cabin costs €775 a week in high season, sleeping eight.
Kinsale, Co Cork
Family holidays aren't always plain sailing but with this one, you will at least be sailing. Check into a self-catering holiday cottage at the Oysterhaven Centre, a sail training and windsurfing school, and both adults and kids can learn to sail, sea kayak or windsurf either at various times or together. In July and August, the centre runs dedicated sailing and windsurfing camps for 11 to 18-year-olds, leaving parents free to tour the region. Cottages cost €890 a week in high season and sleep six.
45. Kiltale Farm
Kiltale, Co Meath
At Mary and Micheál Lydon's farm near Trim, your kids will love their kids, and their calves, lambs and donkeys. They can help to milk cows and bottle feed lambs, with a big toy-filled play barn, as well as a playground. During summer you can sign the little ones up for its summer camp, and have mornings to yourself. There plenty more to see and do nearby, including a "Floating through time" river tour, Newgrange, and Tayto Park. Weekends from €350 for a family of four.
46. Tranquility Ireland Retreats
Carlingford, Co Louth
Tucked away in the Cooley Peninsula, on the shores of Carlingford Lough, Tranquility Ireland Retreats offers groups a staycation with luxury trimmings. Choose from the Tranquility House, Lodge, Villa and Cottage, plus Sweetpea and the newly built Pandora's Cottage. Combined they sleep a total of 120, but each can be booked separately to accommodate from 15 to 28 people. The rural location and endless outdoor activities nearby are a big draw, but if you're tempted to stay in, optional in-house services range from a private chef and cocktail making classes, to dance tutorials and art workshops. From €1,450.
47. Dunowen House
Ardfield, Co Cork
This 18th-century house is steeped in history. Music-lovers will delight in its connection with Noel Redding, former bass guitarist with the Jimi Hendrix Experience, who lived here for more than 30 years. Today, Dunowen serves as a picturesque venue for hen parties, family get togethers and group celebrations, offering six luxurious suites, a formal drawing room, dining room, and large music and memorabilia room, ideal for parties of up to 18. An Orchard Cottage located in the walled garden can sleep five. Book the house a two-night stay with a dinner party from €180 a person.
Woodbrook, Mountrath, Co Laois
Set among six acres of mature woodland, with a nearby lake and millrace that powered the giant mill 150 years ago close by, a stay here guarantees tranquility. The main house sleeps 13, with five large bedrooms, reception rooms, a library, swimming pool, sauna, and steam room. Just 50m from the main house, their Miller's Cottage has three cosy bedrooms overlooking a courtyard once was noisy with the traffic of grain and flour traders. Activity programmes, team building, and group stays are all catered for here, with rates ranging from €600 to €1,050 a night.
49. Galway Coast Cottages
Barna, Co Galway
This gaggle of seaside cottages in the village of Barns near Galway city centre is influenced by French hospitality – owners Dan and Sarah returned from France to open their self-catering menagerie. A great base for Wild Atlantic Way exploring, family breaks – two on-site Kompan play zones will keep little ones busy – or simply to enjoy all that Galway offers. Cottages from €195 a night.
50. Rocketts Castle Estate
Towns Park, Co Waterford
Fancy a stay in a 13th-century castle with 10 of your closest friends? This former oligarch's Waterford bolthole and polo ground offers features few other group rentals can compete with, including the house's Swiss Tearoom, and fishing, shooting, boating, waterskiing, woodland walks and horse riding. From €300 a night.