Ten great spring breaks in Ireland
Hibernated all winter? Then it’s time to break out and treat yourself to a few days away over the next few weeks when there are tempting offers at hotels all over Ireland
Enjoy the wilds of Connemara from the comfort of Renvyle House in Co Galway
Lough Eske Castle in Co Donegal
Zipit highwire in Lough Key Forest Park, Co Roscommon
Get down in Dublin
Dublin’s newest hotel, The Dean, is custom made to appeal to a younger clientele, the type that finds proximity to a city’s nightclubs a plus rather than a minus. It certainly takes a fresh approach to room specifications, offering styles ranging from cosy “mod pods” and youthful “punk bunks” to a super trendy penthouse suite complete with foosball.
Informality and friendliness are the order of the day here, with the kind of in-room accessories that show it knows its market – amps for gadgets, Netflix on the telly and “classic vinyl” for the turntable. That’ll be the LPs.
Not just street creds, this one has its green creds too – it harvests rain water from the roof to flush the loos.
Mod Pods start from €109 a night, or stay two nights in a Hi Fi room – corner rooms with windows on two sides, a Smeg fridge stocked with goodies and fully loaded Nespresso machine – for a weekend in April from €400 room only.
Blaze a trail in Kilkenny
There’s a reason Kilkenny is one of Ireland’s short-break capitals – there’s so much to see and do. The city has its castle, St Canice’s Cathedral and the restored medieval Rothe House. Further afield are Dunmore Cave, the deer park at Jenkinstown and Castlecomer Discovery Park.
Look up at the ruins of Jerpoint Abbey and down at the slitherers of the Reptile Village in Gowran. For craft, point the car to Bennettsbridge and the Nicholas Mosse pottery studio, while for picture postcard picnics, make for Woodstock Gardens and Arboretum just outside Inistioge.
The five-star Lyrath Estate Hotel, a restored 17th century house on 170 acres of parkland just outside the centre of Kilkenny, is the perfect base from which to see it all.
A mid-week, three-night Family Easter Fun Break, staying on a B&B basis, including one evening meal for the adults and free use of the hotel’s mountain bikes, 22-seater cinema and kids’ club, costs from €525 per family.
Go coastal in Connemara
Enjoy the wilds of Connemara from the comfort of the very civilised country house hotel, Renvyle House, in Co Galway. Whether as a base to explore a section of the Wild Atlantic Way, or a place to stay put and brush up on your golf, tennis or trout fishing, it’s as scenic a spot as you’ll find on the west coast.
Work up an appetite hiking in Connemara National Park next door, take a boat tour along Killary fjord or give yourself an adrenaline rush at Killary Adventure Centre. There are loads of great day trips to make here, from a trip to Inishbofin to a turn around the Victorian walled gardens at romantic Kylemore Abbey. Or just find yourself a quiet nook and catch up on your reading. Three-night mid-week breaks, including breakfast and two dinners, in April cost from €245 per person.
What’s cultivating in West Cork
April sees the reopening of Garnish Island in Co Cork and the gardens seem to celebrate this fact with a glorious display of rhododendrons and azaleas. A gardener’s delight, thanks to its famously mild microclimate, there’s no shortage of great places to explore here including the exotic Bamboo Park and the magnificent 300-hectare Glengarriff Woods Nature Reserve.
Glengarriff is also the perfect base for exploring the Beara Peninsula, taking in Adrigole, Allihies and Castletownbere, as well as the cable car crossing to Dursey Island.
Stay at the Glengarriff Park Hotel, opposite the entrance to the Blue Pool Ferry, which plies visitors to and from Garnish each day, in a family room accommodating up to five people, from €150 per room, per night, room only, in April.
High times in Tralee
For family breaks, Kerry can’t be beaten. Stay in Tralee and make the most of the massive Town Park, splash yourselves silly in the Aqua Dome Waterworld and catch at show at Siamsa Tíre, the National Folk Theatre of Ireland.
Check out the exhibits at Kerry County Museum, tilt at the windmill in Blennerville and explore the new Tralee Bay Wetlands ecology centre which offers sea safaris, pedalo boats and water zorbing.
Stretch your legs along the Dingle Way or the North Kerry Way, both of which start in Tralee, or take quiet local walks along the canal bank or out to Ballyseedy Wood. If the weather’s fine Fenit, Banna and Ballyheigue Blue Flag beaches are an easy drive away.
For added value, stay at the Meadowlands Hotel in Tralee in a family room, B&B from €129, until April 30th, and get free entry to the Aqua Dome pool.
Surf’s up in Sligo
Sligo is one of the country’s top surfing centres and, thanks to the wonder of wetsuits, you don’t even have to wait for summer to come to enjoy it.
Stay in Enniscrone for the perfect break for water babies, with surf lessons on the sandy beach and flume fun at the Waterpoint aqua park nearby.
There are plenty of other sights to see, guaranteed to enchant your own wee folk, including the fairy gardens at Gillighan’s World in Knocknashee. The Eagles Flying birds of prey centre, which opens in April, with shows twice daily, is an hour’s drive away.
Stay at the Diamond Coast Hotel, with packages including two nights B&B and one evening meal, plus a two-hour surf lesson on Enniscrone Beach, from €115 pps. If it an Easter break you want, the same hotel has three-night family break packages from €359.
Appalachian trail in Donegal
You don’t often hear of posh hotels offering “two-fers”’ but the very swish Solis Lough Eske in Donegal is going one further with a three nights for the price of two midweek package that sees you pay from €460 per couple for two nights in a deluxe room – with the third night on the house.
As if you needed an excuse to visit this five-star property with spa, golf and lakeside surroundings. It’s a walker’s paradise. This neck of the woods comes with added bragging rights – hike here and you can say you’ve done a leg of the Appalachian Way.
Yes, in a stroke of marketing genius, it appears the world famous trail that starts in Georgia in the US, ends at the Slieve League cliffs in Donegal and wraps around Lough Eske Castle along the way.
Family value in Cork
Carrigaline is a family-friendly option within easy reach of a number of great visitor spots, from sailing in Crosshaven, to sandy beaches at Myrtleville, Roberts Cove and Fountainstown, and the wildlife park at Fota Island.
Handy for touring, the town is a good base, too, for enjoying the gourmet delights of Kinsale, the Titanic Experience at Cobh and the Jameson Midleton Experience in between.
Round it all off with a unique night out at Movie Junction, Ireland’s only permanent drive-in cinema. And, of course, you’ve Cork city to explore, just minutes away.
Fun Family Nights packages at the Carrigaline Court Hotel cost from €115 for one night for two adults and two children, including use of the leisure centre and, at holiday times, complimentary child minding services.
Work up an appetite in Wicklow
Head towards Aughrim to take advantage of the Brook Lodge Hotel’s spring special – an overnight stay, breakfast, plus a spa treatment, for €100pps, available through April.
Stay longer and make the most of the freebies on site, including orienteering challenges, a treasure hunt requiring you to take pictures on your phone – no selfies, please – and cycling its trails, with bikes, helmet and maps available from reception.
Lose yourself, for a small fee, just up the road at Greenan Maze. For even more added value, time your stay to coincide with the hotel’s great food market, on the first Sunday of every month.
Alternatively, a three-night Easter weekend break, including B&B and two evening meals, one in the organic Strawberry Tree restaurant, costs from €320pps.
Relax in Roscommon
Get away from it all with a break in rural Roscommon, the county whose deserted countryside belies the wealth of fun activities available.
Challenge the grey matter with the quest style Boda Borg game, and the grey flesh with aerial adventure provider ZipIt – both in Lough Key Forest Park.
Head out along miles of hill top miners’ paths and make a date with the Arigna Mining Experience, with guided tours given by former miners.
What with towns such as Boyle and Carrick-on-Shannon to explore too, you’ll need at least three days to enjoy it all, which is exactly what’s on offer at Kilronan Castle on the shores of Lough Meelagh. A three-night B&B stay here with two evening meals costs from €265 pps.