The best travel deals in January, from five-star hotel stays to spa packages

Starry stays, garden delights and getting scrubbed to within an inch of your life

Starry stay

You might have missed it amid the tinsel, but Carton House celebrated achieving five-star status in December. When it comes to hotels, stars are about a checklist: from practical to lavish; rather than general loveliness, but the Kildare spot ticks the boxes on all fronts.

The checklist itself, findable at, is nerdy fun for those who get their kicks spotting doormen (they are, strangely, gender specific) and free daily newspapers.

They even note a preference for cast iron baths. All this does explain why some spots opt out of star-chasing and instead comfortably settle into the upmarket boutique niche.

Anyway, fair dues to Carton, where it's richly deserved, and where you can stay from €290 B&B per room. Or take the deal that gives you back €50 each to spend on site at €355, and find you're saving money already.


Art trip

Okay, so it's obviously too late for the winter solstice at Newgrange, but the Boyne Valley is still brimming with things to do. January is your last chance to see the marvellous Nano Reid exhibition, Adamantine, at the Highlanes Gallery in Drogheda, which closes January 22nd.

Reid was the first Irish artist to represent this country at the Venice Biennale in 1950, sharing the spot with Norah McGuinness. She grew up in Drogheda, painting the town and its environs with the same passion and flair that Manet and the lads had done with Paris, only her work is wilder.

The exhibition is free, but book in advance at and make sure to stop for a snack at the Five Good Things cafe on site. Stay at Scholars Hotel just up the road, where singles start at €89, with doubles from €109.

Glorious galanthus

Just when the shiny “new” part has worn off in the new year and your resolutions are already starting to disappoint you, up pop the snowdrops, offering a natural boost. Carlow’s Altamont Gardens have “Snowdrop Month” throughout February, where you’ll see swathes carpeting the ground that had seemed nothing but muddy just a few short weeks before.

Galanthophiles – that's the fancy term for snowdrop lovers – are spoiled for choice across the county, with more on view at Huntington Castle, Shankill Castle, Burtown House (don't forget to make time to eat at the Green Barn), and the Snowdrop Gala at Ballykealey House on February 5th, which costs €90 including lunch, lectures and afternoon tea. Info on all at Stay at the Mount Wolseley, where you'll get a deluxe double from €114 B&B per room in their winter sale,

Garden of Ireland

Still on the subject of the sustaining joys of nature, garden visits are just the job when you're trying to get outdoors and be healthy, but aren't quite ready to climb a mountain – or perhaps if your mountain climbing days are behind you. . . Wicklow's Mount Usher is bliss in the county known as the Garden of Ireland. And if walks, a river, lawns and planting aren't enough, there are also shops, and an Avoca food market and cafe; €5/€9 admission at

Stay at the Glenview Hotel with its own woodlands walks and mountain views, where its January sale gives you B&B from €115 per room, or for €193 add dinner for two. Bookings must be made before the end of January, for stays until March 31st,

Want more? The National Botanic Gardens has a 21-hectare (52-acre) Wicklow outpost at Kilmacurragh. Famed for its rhododendrons (admittedly not coming into their own for a couple of months yet), and including a cafe, it's delicious;

You, but better

There's no shortage of hotels offering to scrub you to greatness this January. The Heritage hotel in Co Laois has its perennial favourite, the Sunshine Ritual, which starts with "the ancient ritual of bathing" (put like that, doesn't a dunk in the tub start to sound only epic?), and concluding with a sea salt polish and massage. You'll be smooth as anything for €110, with rooms from €90 B&B per person sharing;

Meanwhile, Kildare's lush Cliff at Lyons is suggesting outdoor baths with its "Winter Warmer" experience. And if that sounds like an oxymoron, hold hard – it's actually rather lovely. Imagine a pair of copper hot tubs in a little walled garden, where you get soothed with salts, flowers and seaweed before diving into the sauna – so it's more like something Scandinavian, only in a very pretty part of Ireland indeed. Including breakfast and dinner at The Mill, it starts at €625 for two;