Bairbre Power: Travels with my Dog
No need to leave Fido behind on your hols – Bairbre Power checks out Ireland's pet-friendly hotels
Walking down the Croisette in Cannes, the view on day one of our French holiday was uplifting. Coiffed, chic locals lined the seafront, sipping their morning espressos, and with nothing to do but relax and walk in the sun, I should have been in good form. But I wasn't. The sighting of yet another petit chien setting off on a promenade with their owner only made me realise how much we were all missing Romy, our Yorkshire terrier.
It's a well-known fact that pets suffer from separation anxiety, but I never expected to be the one suffering with the condition on our first family holiday together in four years.
In France, dogs live the good life and are everywhere to be seen. Shops and cafés cater for them with welcoming bowls of water outside. There are specialist boutiques dedicated to their every need, owners book sunbeds for them on the plage and pet groomers are as numerous as hairdressers for humans.
After two weeks, we were reunited with our much-loved pooch and promptly declared that Romy was booked for the next family holiday.
Romy is now the proud owner of a pet passport, so she can travel to France (by boat only). However, we decided against an 18-hour voyage in kennels, opting instead for a motoring holiday around Ireland, with the roof down and Romy sunbathing in every county.
There were many jokes, but no, we weren't 'doing a Seamus on it'. I refer here to Mitt Romney, the US Republican presidential candidate who packed Seamus, his Irish red setter, in a crate on the roof of his car in 1983 for a 12-hour car journey to Canada – with colourful results and the need for a car wash after a few hours.
Romy looked every inch the Democrat as she took up her position in the back seat of the car and we headed down the M7.
A pit stop at Kildare Village Shopping Outlet was more for iced coffee for the two humans in the front, rather than a toilet stop for Romy, but, smitten by the fashion discounts, we discovered that you can book one of the four secure kennels on site and Romy could rest up while we indulged in some retail therapy (kildarevillage.com; 045 520501).
Heading east from Kildare, we went cross country through Kilcullen, Dunlavin and west Wicklow to the delights of the BrookLodge & Macreddin Village, near Aughrim (brooklodge.com, 0402 36444), one of the most doggy-friendly places I've encountered in Ireland.
Oscar, the gentle golden retriever, padded across the hotel reception to greet us, and he made Romy feel right at home. The hotel has a number of rooms with an outside patio that cater for small dogs, and their lodging fee for dogs is €10 per night. There are outside kennels available at two houses in the adjoining Brook Hall, and there's a doggy house near the stables where a single dog can stay – the owner has a key to check on them.
While we enjoyed some organic fare in the hotel's Strawberry Tree restaurant, Romy tucked into some treats supplied along with a giant bowl and toys. Brooklodge has a leaflet on local walks and you can choose between a 40-minute amble, a leisurely 6-9km walk or the energetic Sean Linehan walk, which takes almost two hours and takes in breathtaking scenery.
Romy was far too well-behaved to even think of chasing owner Evan Doyle's hens or ducks, which have the run of the gardens. Instead, we brought her for a swim at Brittas Bay. In the other direction, Arklow is a 25-minute drive away if you want to walk along the beach.
Next, we pointed our car towards the Kingdom, very excited at the prospect of the 'Pooch Pampering Package' at the Aghadoe Heights Hotel outside Killarney (aghadoeheights.com; 064 663 1766). General manager Marie Chawke is well known for the welcome she extends to adults, and it also applies to dogs, but then I would expect that from a lady with a very lovable bichon frise called Louie. The hotel's dog package is aimed at families like ours, where your pet is a bona fide member of the family and you miss them when you go away.
The package promises "luxury for both human and canine", and while adults can go to the spa, you can send your dog for a €50 grooming session – well deserved after a route march through Killarney National Park.
The pooch-friendly rooms are located beside the garden and your doggy arrives to find a big basket, snug bed, bowl, toys and treats waiting for them. They stay for free when accompanied by adults paying €85 per person sharing for an overnight stay, including full Irish breakfast, or €170 each for a two-night stay with breakfast.
Co Galway has an impressive number of dog-friendly hotels and I chose The Ardilaun in Taylors Hill, where I always stay when going to the races at Ballybrit. The Ardilaun (theardilaunhotel.ie; 091 521433) is a 10-minute stroll from the city and has that rus in urbe – country in the city – feel. Its canine-friendly rooms on the ground floor have French doors that open on to a paved patio, and each room has its set of seats and table where you can sit and enjoy the sunshine while your pet, on a lead, can chilax.
The dog charge is €15 per night – I recommend you ask for room 100, which catches lots of sun and is close to the car park, so you don't have to walk through the hotel.
I was impressed with the welcome sheet for Romy, which had everything from the phone number of a local vet to suggested walks. We enjoyed strolling Salthill and Silver Strand in the sunshine, looking across to the hills of Clare.
They say it's a dog's life, but it's a culinary canine one at the Gibson Hotel (thegibson hotel.ie; 01-681 5000), located at Dublin's Point Village – this makes it ideal if you are going to a concert or show at The Point.
Romy's welcome letter offered her a superior dog-friendly bedroom and a room- service menu to turn heads: casserole of beef with gravy and grains; boiled chicken, pomme puree and carrots; grilled pork and leek sausage with black and white pudding – all were on offer. Lip-smacking tasty, but Romy kept to her dried food, which she happily munched on the balcony after checking out her bed and treats. For dessert, she did what she likes best – sun-bathing.
The Gibson's 'Pampering Your Pooch' deal is offered to dogs weighing less than 15kg and they have to be "potty trained and well behaved, kept on a lead while passing through public areas and not use the bar or restaurant facilities". There is a charge of €35 per night for your dog and a €100 soilage charge if the room is not left the way it was found.
The Dylan Hotel on Eastmoreland Lane, off Baggot Street (dylan.ie; 01-660 3000), has a big terrace area at the front where pet lovers enjoy drinks and meals with their animals.
While dogs are not allowed in the indoor restaurants, well-behaved dogs less than 30kg can stay at the hotel and there is a nightly charge of €100 for your pooch.
Local walks nearby are terrific – down to Patrick Kavanagh's territory on the banks of the Grand Canal over to Herbert Park, or cross county to Mutt Ugly in Ranelagh, where they can be groomed or owners can buy a Leinster or Munster rugby hoodie for dogs.(Mutt Ugly, 111 Ranelagh, Dublin 6; 01-475 9449).
The Four Seasons hotel in Ballsbridge (fourseasons.com/Dublin; 01-665 4000) allows dogs to stay free of charge, but they have to be small dogs, and the five-star hotel will provide a dog bowl and some food.