Twixmas break: Things to do between Christmas and New Year

Joan Scales finds some of the best deals around the country for a quick festive getaway

The days between Christmas and New Year can drag on – and more so this year: Christmas and St Stephen’s Day falls on a Monday and Tuesday, which means just one day’s leave will give you a full week off work. In recent years, taking a break between Christmas and New Year has become popular, and prices are generally lower during this period. Many hotels close for Christmas and are only re-opening on December 27th, and glad to have guests before the madness of New Year’s Eve. We’ve found some good deals for this Twixmas.

The hills of Connemara

Work off that turkey by exploring Connemara from the Clifden Station House. The hotel can organise guided walks and – if you are brave enough – stand-up paddle boarding. Rent bikes in town and discover the hills of Connemara. Bike hire available at Mannion's or electric bikes from Bike Electric on Market Street. Two nights' B&B and one dinner from €260, family rooms from €260-€290. There is also self-catering accommodation on site, three-bedroom apartments from €420 for two nights, clifdenstationhouse.com; 095-21699.

A Cork oasis

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Luxuriate in Cork city's only five-star hotel, Hayfield Manor, with a two-night stay with breakfast and one dinner, between December 26th and December 31st. On arrival, there will be mince pies and mulled wine, served in your room if you like, or beside an open fire in the lounge. Also included in the package, you can spend one afternoon ice-skating at Cork on Ice or have lunch at the Farmgate Cafe in the English Market. Dinner one evening can be taken in Orchids signature restaurant or in Perrott's Garden Bistro. This deal, from €355pps, is available through Irelands-blue-book.ie; 01-676 9914.

Visit Dublin for the sales

Ideally situated between Dublin's two best shopping areas, Grafton Street and Henry Street, the Trinity City Hotel on Pearse Street is ideal for dropping off those bulging shopping bags. The ornately decorated hotel has magnificent curtains, giant velvet sofas, massive ornate gilded mirrors and huge copper animals. It feels like an Arabian desert retreat.

The hotel offers guests a 10 per cent discount on shopping at the Kilkenny Shop on Nassau Street, just a few minutes' away. Overnights from €175 per room B&B, trinitycityhotel.com; 01-648 1000.

Hibernate in Kerry

Sheen Falls Lodge, near Kenmare, in Co Kerry, is a great spot for families.It boasts vast rooms with plenty of space for everyone, and lots of nooks and crannies to hide in with a book. Let the children bound around in the grounds' climbing trees. Nearby Kenmare is a hive of activity with lots of lovely cafes, restaurants, and a great ice-cream shop. Over the Twixmas period there will be supervised games and films while the adults have some quality time. Two nights' bed and breakfast with two dinners, with 50 per cent off a third night, costs from €523pps, children under 12 can have complimentary B&B, sheenfallslodge.ie; 064-664 1600.

Find your home from home

When it comes to self-catering, there are thousands of choices around the country. Trident Holidays Homes is one of the biggest renters of holiday homes in Ireland, and you can expect to pay from €350-€590 for three days in late December, tridentholidayhomes.ie. Relax Ireland has a great selection of houses and apartments around the country, particularly in the southeast, plus a good variety of large houses suitable for extended family groups, relaxireland.com. Airbnb has some extraordinary properties and you may find a stunner to surpass your own pad for a few days, airbnb.com.

An overnight Twixmas escape

Conveniently located just off the M11, Marlfield House, near Gorey, Co Wexford, puts extra effort into its Christmas every year. An overnight with breakfast and a three-course dinner in the Duck restaurant is from €135pps. Book dinner in advance, the Duck will be busy over the period, marlfieldhouse.com; 053-942124.

Take the kids to Belfast

Take the children to Belfast for the pantomime: it's Peter Pan this year at the Grand Opera House, a beautiful ornate theatre, goh.co.uk/peterpan. Stay in nearby Jurys Inn from €274 B&B for two nights for two adults and two children, jurysinns.com. Explore the city, discover Titanic Belfast, spend some Christmas money in the sales or spend a day playing at the fabulous W5 interactive discovery centre. Find more things to do on visitbelfast.com.

A walk back in time in the centre of Ireland

Athlone has had a transformation in recent years and there's lots to entertain the family in the calm days after Christmas. Take a trip back in time at the newly refurbished Athlone Castle or on a Viking boat trip on the Shannon (weather dependent), vikingrivercruises.ie. Go cycling on the Greenway and visit the Glendeer pet farm, glendeerpetfarm.ie, athlone.ie. A trip to Seán's, which claims to be Ireland's oldest bar, should be on the cards, too. Stay in the traditional Prince of Wales hotel from €116 per room for two nights with breakfast, or family rooms from €104 per night with breakfast, minimum two nights, theprinceofwales.ie; 090-647 6666.

Donegal and the Wild Atlantic Way

With some of the most spectacular stretches of the Wild Atlantic Way in Donegal, it is a great choice for some rugged winter scenery. Wrap up in waterproofs and get out and see Fanad Lighthouse, Slieve League Cliffs, and walk the beach at Rossnowlagh. Bring your finery to dress up for a stay in Gatsby House in the lovely heritage town of Ardara. The house echoes back to the glamour days of Hollywood with the Cary Grant Room, the Grace Kelly room etc. It sleeps 10 and costs €1,200 from December 27th-30th, Gatsby-house.com.

Racing at Leopardstown

Christmas racing at Leopardstown is a great social event and the perfect way to blow away the Christmas cobwebs. Stay in the nearby four-star Clayton Hotel from €99 pps B&B and you will have a transfer to the racecourse, general admission tickets and live entertainment back in the hotel, claytonhotelleopardstown.com; 01-293 5000.

Glenlo’s very merry Twixmas

The five-star Glenlo Abbey Hotel in Galway is offering some delightful Twixmas breaks. Begin your stay in the comfort of a luxurious room or beside the cosy log fire in one of the elegant resident lounges. On the afternoon of your choice, try the festive Hansel & Gretel Afternoon Tea and have dinner one evening in the River Room Restaurant. It costs from €349 pps for two nights' accommodation or stay for three nights from €495 per person, glenloabbeyhotel.ie; 091-519600.