Baby it’s cold outside: 10 great Irish winter escapes from the Blue Book
It’s not too late to book a winter escape – here are 10 luxurious places to rest and rejuvenate during the colder months
The 18th century Glenlo Abbey in Co Galway
Picture a crackling-bright open turf fire by your side while you curl up on a cosy couch and sip on a creamy hot chocolate or hot whiskey and let yourself exhale. This is the kind of winter escape on offer at some of the Blue Book’s destinations around the country where you can rest during the manic run up to Christmas, or relax and rejuvenate in the New Year.
We’ve selected winter escapes for those seeking everything from gourmet dining, luxury spa treatments or simply unwinding by the fire all day. Treat yourself and loved ones with a break or brighten up someone’s year with a voucher.
BUSHMILLS INN, CO ANTRIM
Inglenook turf fires, hayloft snugs and a secret library to while away an afternoon with a hot drop of local whiskey and delicious food are all part of The Bushmills Inn experience. Located in the village that is home to the world’s oldest distillery, Old Bushmill’s Distillery, between the Giant’s Causeway and Royal Portrush Golf Club, it is the perfect luxurious winter getaway for a cosy retreat.
This multi-award-winning hotel and restaurant has a range of packages and treats on offer that stretch from Christmas into the New Year. Originally a coaching inn dating from the 1600s, this four-star boutique hotel and restaurant lovingly showcases the heritage of the building, with everything you would expect from a modern hotel.
The food is renowned for showcasing the best of local produce. For their one-night Winter Warmer, available throughout December and January, you will enjoy a mince pie and nip of mulled wine on arrival, a four-course set dinner in the award-winning restaurant and full Irish breakfast cooked to order (from £90 per person). Their two-night weekend retreat, available all winter, includes a la carte dinner credit of £50 per room in their restaurant and full Irish breakfast (from £170 per person). Their one night New Year’s Eve package includes a New Year’s Eve seven-course gala dinner and full Irish breakfast (from £200 per person). (Available 31st Dec only).
DUNBRODY HOUSE, CO WEXFORD
This stunning 1830s Georgian Manor House Hotel sits amidst 300 acres of peaceful parklands. It is renowned for its superb service and warmth and is an ideal place to get away from it all. Begin your evening with an aperitif of their winter cocktail, a Moscow Mule, on their comfy couches by open turf fires while the chandeliers that twinkle with candlelight set a soothing tone before dinner.
Dine in the Harvest Room Restaurant where chef Kevin Dundon has created a fantastic menu showing off the best bounty of the season. Dishes like Goose and Chestnut Soup, Loin of Venison with Mulled Wine Jus, Fresh Monkfish with Curried Mussels with delicious winter vegetables like celeriac, beets and tender sprouting broccoli. Finish with the sweet treat that’s perfect for sharing, the Chocolate Kiss.
After a good night’s sleep and a late lie-in there is no rush or panic for breakfast as you can have it served until noon and enjoy it in front of an open turf fire. If you are feeling energetic venture out to explore the Hook Peninsula, or you might want to snuggle up in front of the fire with a good book. For real indulgence head to the Spa and try their Signature Hot Oil Elixir full body massage. Dunbrody house offers a wide range of packages including Winter Weekends (Two nights B&B, one dinner) from €225 per person sharing, the CHILL Spa package from €175 per person sharing and their Cooking up a Storm (cookery school) package from €225 per person sharing.
GLENLO ABBEY, CO GALWAY
There is something about the drive through the cast-iron gates towards Glenlo Abbey Hotel when the beauty of Lough Corrib begins to reveal itself that lets you know that you are in for a very special experience. The hotel, which dates from the 18th Century, is four kilometres from the buzz of Galway city centre and close to the beauty of Connemara.
Waking up to the west of Ireland landscape views here is the perfect tonic to relax in the run-up to Christmas or savour a little break in the New Year. Glenlo have put together lots of lovely, fun events and packages for the festive season and into 2018. They have lots of options for dining and relaxing throughout the hotel, including the Pullman Restaurant on The Orient Express and three elegant receptions rooms in the main House where you can enjoy a relaxing drink, afternoon tea, or just relax and read the newspapers.
If you feel like a festive breakaway in that lull in-between Christmas and New Year, Glenlo’s Twixmas offer is a great way to do it. Begin your festive Twixmas in the comfort of your luxurious room or beside the cosy log fire in one of the elegant resident lounges. On the afternoon of your choice, take the time to indulge in a festive Hansel and Gretel Afternoon Tea and for an extra-special dining experience, enjoy a delicious festive meal on one evening in the River Room Restaurant.
This package costs from €349 per person sharing and includes two nights of luxury accommodation and full Irish breakfast each morning.
ARDTARA COUNTRY HOUSE, CO DERRY
There is a cosy fire in almost every room at Ardtara Country House so it is the perfect place to curl up at the hearth with a good book and one of their delicious liquor coffees or glass of fine wine. Just a short drive from the Heaney Homeplace, this elegant 19th century mansion is surrounded by ten wooded acres in the heart of Northern Ireland.
Chef Ian Orr has created a stunning menu in the hunting-themed Clark restaurant and a stay here is perfect for someone looking for exceptional food. On December 14th Ardtara will have their Victorian Christmas with overnight stay and dinner where you will arrive to Ardtara in the afternoon and relax by the glow of the open fire in one of the lounges before enjoying a three-course dinner that evening with lots of festive treats including mulled wine, mince pies, gingerbread men and cinnamon coffees. All this with a choir and pianist performing throughout the evening. Tickets £39.95 per adult, £24.95 per child (without accommodation).
The dinner and bed and breakfast package is from £89.50pp. For a New Year getaway try their fantastic deal to enjoy midweek nights and Sundays in January and February 2018 which is £99 bed and breakfast per room (based on two people sharing).
HAYFIELD MANOR, CO CORK
This showstopping five-star hotel sits elegantly within a private walled garden so you have tranquillity for your stay, as well as the benefits of Cork city on your doorstep. From the moment you cross the threshold of Hayfield Manor there is a luxurious feeling of sophistication coupled with the warmth and traditional charm of a country house.
There are lots of sumptuous spots to relax and get cosy throughout the Manor and they are offering a number of pre- and post-Christmas packages. Their luxury escape includes two nights luxury accommodation in an upgraded Superior room with full Irish breakfast and a four-course dinner on one evening in either Hayfield Manor's gourmet restaurant, Orchids or the popular Perrott’s Garden Bistro. You will also receive €50.00 credit towards treatments at The Beautique Spa per person.
Residents enjoy exclusive access to the indoor swimming pool, outdoor Jacuzzi, steam room and gym. You will also get to enjoy their award-winning afternoon tea for two in the beautiful surroundings of Orchids Restaurant from €340pps. For their Festive five-star break you will enjoy a one-night stay in December with a delicious gourmet meal from the festive menu in Orchids and a full Irish breakfast. Residents also enjoy exclusive access to the Beautique Spa from €384pps.
MARLFIELD HOUSE, CO WEXFORD
We all love to be spoiled from time to time and there is nothing quite like the feeling of luxurious surroundings and accommodation to make something an extra special stay. The beautifully restored Regency period Marlfield House which is surrounded by acres of stunning gardens and woodlands is exactly that kind of getaway.
They are running lots of festive offers in the run-up to Christmas like their annual Christmas recital featuring renowned Wexford Mezzo Soprano Deirdre Masterson and a host of other singers on December 10th. You can book in for the lunchtime or evening performance and tickets are €65 including a delicious lunch and €70 to include dinner.
To truly make a night of it, packages including bed and breakfast are from €159pps. For a really luxury getaway in the New Year Marlfield’s Post Christmas Madness escape includes a luxury overnight stay in Duck Lodge, located on the grounds of Marlfield House with private parking overlooking the countryside. The package includes their country house breakfast and dinner in the award-winning Duck Restaurant from €145 per person sharing post Christmas until the 6th January.
The recently renovated Duck Lodge is a contemporary cottage with two double bedrooms, luxurious bathrooms, mini-bars, open-plan Miele kitchen, lounge and dining area with open fireplace, multi-channel TVs and Wi-Fi. You can enjoy room service menus from the Duck Restaurant and the Conservatory Restaurant or just pop up to either restaurant or the house itself for afternoon tea or a spot of lunch.
THE MUSTARD SEED, CO LIMERICK
Located in the heart of the Limerick countryside, The Mustard Seed is a wonderful option for a winter-warming break away with lots of comforting and relaxing features like their log fire in their library.
The wonderful staff at this beautiful Victorian country house promise to “cosset” you and let you truly unwind away from the madding crowd. For a very special evening with family or friends try their Tidings of Thursdays held on Thursdays in December (7th, 14th and 21st).
Before being seated for dinner, guests will enjoy a glass of bubbles with canapés beside a blazing fire in the library or in the conservatory where the sounds of Christmas classics will be performed by the resident pianist. After a delicious four-course dinner there are plenty of cosy spaces to relax and linger afterwards. You will undoubtedly be tempted to check in – and you can. The classic four-course dinner, to include welcome bubbles and canapés, is €60 per person and they offer an overnight rate of €55 B&B per person sharing. The Mustard Seed is closed for Dec 24th, 25th and 26th but open for all other dates.
RATHMULLAN HOUSE, CO DONEGAL
From the moment you walk into Rathmullan House, you feel yourself breathing out any stress and breathing in sheer relaxation. This stunning Georgian house epitomises all the finest things you could want from luxury accommodation, but when you’re cosied up by one of their roaring fires with a gin and tonic you almost forget that you aren’t at home.
The beautiful Donegal location is by the sea and you enjoy a bracing walk on the beach just beside it before enjoying one of the Christmas lunches and afternoon snacks they offer in the run-up to Christmas. They are currently offering a Winter Nights by the Fire offer of two nights bed and breakfast with dinner on one evening in their award-winning Cook and Gardener restaurant (for €185 per person sharing).
Cook and Gardener has garnered well-deserved praise for their use of locally sourced produce, as well as produce from their own walled organic garden. This is the type of meal people travel hours for, such is the quality, and it is absolutely worth it. On December 16th-17th it will hold the Donegal Designer Makers annual Design and Craft Fair, featuring some of Donegal’s leading designers and artisan craft makers. It is worth booking in for their incredible Christmas lunches or afternoon tea while you are there.
CASTLE LESLIE ESTATE, CO MONAGHAN
Steal away from the manic rush of the festive season to the truly unforgettable Castle Leslie Estate in Monaghan. It is one of the last great Irish castle estates that is still being run by its founding family and, as they say themselves, it is “just 80 minutes from Dublin, 60 minutes from Belfast, and a million miles from anywhere.”
You can feel yourself exhale from the moment you enter this glorious estate that is surrounded by woodland and lakes. This year they are offering their festive Twixmas break with two nights accommodation between Twixmas in the Lodge with a hearty Irish breakfast each morning and a delicious three-course dinner in Conor's Bar (dinner is served on either December 27th or 28th only) from €190 per person sharing in the Lodge and €205 per person sharing in the Castle. They are also offering their Winter Overnight Escape offer in December and January with one night’s accommodation, a full Irish breakfast and five-course dinner in their 2 AA Rosette award-winning restaurant, Snaffles, from €110 per person sharing in the Lodge and €120 per person sharing in the Castle.
Snaffles has included the best of the season on their menu with dishes like Roast loin of Estate venison. Their Winter Country Getaway special is two night’s accommodation with a full Irish breakfast each morning, and a candlelit dinner in Snaffles restaurant on an evening of your choice from €185 per person sharing in the Lodge.
A: Castle Leslie Estate, Glaslough, Monaghan
T: 00 353 47 88 100
VIEWMOUNT HOUSE, CO LONGFORD
Snuggle up and settle in to a relaxing break by the open fire with a special Bourbon egg nog or Cinnamon Cocoa espresso martini at Viewmount house this winter. This magnificent 17th century country house is a true treasure of the midlands surrounded by beautiful gardens and peaceful countryside.
It is the perfect place to recharge this winter and enjoy the open fires, charming service and incredible food by one of Irelands’ best chefs, Gary O’Hanlon in VM restaurant. O’Hanlon is renowned for his exquisite cooking and being passionately pedantic about using local produce and the best of what is in season, with fish from the north-west coast, dry-aged beef and incredible game.
For pre- and post-Christmas midweek specials they offer two overnights in their suite including breakfast and a delicious five-course dinner on one night (€440). Or two overnights in their suite including breakfast with early-bird menu on one night (€390.00). For two night’s accommodation in a double room including breakfast with five-course dinner on one night (€380.00) or two night’s accommodation in a double room including breakfast with early bird menu on one night (€330.00). These prices are all based on two people sharing. For an extra special winter treat make sure to book into their famous Room 6 which has an open fire that is lit for guests.
For more information, visit irelandsbluebook.com