Rediscover Ireland: 10 countryside escapes for your holiday at home
Ireland abounds with amazing destinations to discover and the good news is it’s easy to find a break to suit you, thanks to Ireland’s Blue Book
Ghan House is a fully restored, family-run Georgian house which dates back to 1727 and is located in medieval Carlingford.
Ireland’s countryside is one of the greatest gifts the island has. From the crash of the Atlantic waves off the west coast to our stunning mountains from the Mournes to the Reeks, there is beauty from coastal coves to the heartlands.
This year, many of us will rediscover Ireland all over again and there really is something for everyone to enjoy. So, whether you’re a lover of fine dining, elegant interiors or want to enjoy the great outdoors on a walking or hiking trip, we’ve got 10 escapes below, each with their own little bit of magic.
A delicious Donegal diversion: Rathmullan House, Rathmullan, Co Donegal
Where: Whisk yourself off to the dreamy surrounds of Rathmullan House in Donegal for a feast to remember. Located a stone’s throw from the beach, this Georgian property is surrounded by peaceful gardens and mature trees. Built in the 1760s, inside comfort and tradition blend perfectly with all the modern luxury you could need. The food here is renowned: sample the famous breakfasts, enjoy fine dining in the Cook & Gardener restaurant, and try wood-fired pizzas in the Tap Room.
Highlight: The delicious food and cosy atmosphere.
Definitely do: Take a dip in the Atlantic surf at nearby Rathmullan beach.
Don’t miss: Glenveagh National park.
For more information, visit rathmullanhouse.com
Perfect for a private party: Dunowen House, Clonakilty, Co Cork
Where: If you want to steal away for a perfectly exclusive experience, West Cork’s Dunowen House is the ideal destination. A private rental property, it’s a wonderful place for a group holiday for up to 23 guests. This luxury 18th-century house has been restored beautifully and pays homage to its rock n’ roll past: Noel Redding, bass guitarist with the Jimi Hendrix Experience, once lived here. Choose a self-catering package: one of the highlights is a pre-booked, catered dinner party.
Highlight: the relaxed, cool, beautiful setting.
Definitely do: The memorabilia in the music room.
Don’t miss: Clonakilty and a walk on the gorgeous beaches.
For more information, visit dunowenhouse.ie
The most tranquil trip: Currarevagh House, Oughterard, Co Galway
Where: Located on 150 acres of woodland grounds overlooking Galway’s Lough Corrib, Currarevagh House is a tranquil haven. Originally built in 1842 by its owner Henry Hodgson’s ancestors, the country house has been under family ownership since. There are no TVs, or keys for the beautifully appointed bedrooms, which all add to the serenity. Henry’s wife, Lucy, who trained under Prue Leith, does fantastic food with dinners that feature locally sourced fish, meat and Currarevagh’s own garden vegetables.
Highlight: Scenery and tranquillity.
Definitely do: Galway city and Connemara are both accessible for day trips.
Don’t miss: Hire a boat and go fishing on the Corrib.
For more information, visit currarevagh.com
The world-class romantic retreat: Ballyfin Demesne, Ballyfin, Co Laois
Where: There is nowhere quite like Ballyfin. From the moment you pass through the gates and approach this incredible regency mansion, it is like a movie set. This five star luxury country house hotel sits by the foot of the Slieve Bloom Mountains in County Laois. After eight years of restoration, Ballyfin, built in the 1820s, re-opened in May 2011. With just 20 bedrooms there is a true feeling of exclusivity. Everything here is world class, from the exquisite food to the stunning décor and the spectacular conservatory. Facilities also include an indoor swimming pool, gym and treatment rooms.
Highlight: Everything is outstanding including the magnificent gardens.
Definitely do: Falconry or a whiskey tasting.
Don’t miss: Nothing – you won’t need to leave the estate.
For more information, visit ballyfin.com
The Ring of Kerry gateway: Park Hotel Kenmare, Kenmare, Co Kerry
Where: A Victorian landmark, this famous Kerry hotel dates to 1897, and thanks to its picturesque location overlooking Kenmare Bay, stunning views are guaranteed. Accommodation is elegant and comfortable and food is exceptional with menus that reflect the best from local producers. As a base to explore the county’s magnificent scenery, including the unparalleled Ring of Kerry which is just 25 minutes away, it can’t be beaten. Also nearby are Reenagross Park and the megalithic Kenmare Stone Circle.
Highlight: The location, the scenery, the food and hospitality.
Definitely do: A scenic cruise around Kenmare Bay too.
Don’t miss: Explore the beauty of the Beara peninsula.
For more information, visit parkkenmare.com
The home from home holiday: Newforge House, Magheralin, Co Armagh
Where: There is always the warmest of welcomes from owners John and Louise Mathers when you arrive at their 18th-century home of Newforge House in Co Armagh. It is set in 40 acres just outside the village of Magheralin and, surrounded by mature gardens and trees, is a little slice of heaven. With just six beautifully decorated bedrooms, it feels like you are part of the house and home, not just an anonymous guest. John’s incredible cooking reflects their country house gardens and his talent and respect for his ingredients leads to simple but sublime dishes, with each mouthful a delight.
Highlight: An ideal romantic getaway for foodie couples.
Definitely do: Local water sports and fishing trips.
Don’t miss: A day trip to St George’s Market, Belfast.
For more information, visit newforgehouse.com
Bliss in the Burren: Gregans Castle Hotel, Ballyvaughan, Co Clare
Where: The mesmerising beauty of nature in County Clare is very special and a stay in Gregans Castle Hotel in the Burren makes it even more memorable. This 18th century manor house sits on the outskirts of Ballyvaughan, overlooking the Burren, with views across Galway Bay. It is the perfect place to experience some of the finest food in Ireland in elegant surrounds. There are no TVs in the splendid rooms and the open fires and décor will soothe your stresses away.
Highlight: The Burren is one of the world’s most stunning natural wonders.
Definitely do: Dine in the magnificent restaurant helmed by head chef Robbie McCauley.
Don’t miss: Cliffs of Moher or the nearby Burren Perfumery.
For more information, visit gregans.ie
The green-fingered getaway: Enniscoe House, Castlehill, Co Mayo
Where: Travel to ‘the last Great House of North Mayo’ and discover the stunning gardens at the classic Georgian Enniscoe House. Pastures, woodlands and lakeside walks combine with pleasure grounds and a carefully restored Victorian garden at the foot of Mount Nephin. The estate has been in the same family since the 1650s and the house dates to the 1790s. It’s of particular interest to gardening enthusiasts thanks to the combination of ornamental gardens as well as working organic market gardens. Plus, you’ll find a huge influence from the gardens on Enniscoe’s delicious menus.
Highlight: The views, incredible food – and, of course, the gardens.
Definitely do: The museum, tea room and shop.
Don’t miss: Trout fishing on Lough Conn.
For more information, visit enniscoe.com
Best for shore leave: Wineport Lodge, Glasson, Co Westmeath
Where: There is nothing quite like sipping an aperitif in Glasson’s Wineport Lodge as you watch the sun set over Lough Ree – chasing that with a fantastic dinner comes close. This hidden gem in Westmeath is more than a hotel and has a comfortable, luxury lodge feel thanks to its secluded setting. You’ll feel relaxed from the moment you drive up. All 29 rooms have amazing views, sumptuous beds and gorgeous balconies.
Highlight: The views, the food, atmosphere and location.
Definitely do: Sip a sundowner and enjoy the beautiful surrounds of Lough Ree.
Don’t miss: Glasson golf club is a short boat trip away.
For more information, visit wineport.ie
For lovers of history and heritage: Ghan House, Carlingford, Co Louth
Where: This fully restored, family-run Georgian house which dates back to 1727 is located in medieval Carlingford. Visitors will experience the history of the town’s gate, its narrow streets, ancient walls and wonderful array of pubs, restaurants and cafés. All the while returning to the comfort of Ghan House run by the Carroll family. The bounty of produce from their three acres of gardens are used in their award winning restaurant with plenty of local seafood and Mourne mountain lamb and beef on the menu.
Highlight: Comfortable surrounds and fantastic food.
Definitely do: A day trip to Newgrange.
Don’t miss: The Carlingford Lough ferry will take you across the lake to the Mournes.
For more information, visit ghanhouse.com
To book a trip that’s perfect for you this summer, visit irelands-blue-book.ie