10 Best: Christmas escapes
Want to avoid the cooking this year? Pol O Conghaile shares his top getaways for December 25
An Alpine adventure at Aherlow House Hotel, Co Tipperary
Forget the Alps. The Glen of Aherlow offers a stunning backdrop to Christmas right here at home, and Aherlow House has just the residential package to enjoy it.
A three-night break includes a mulled-wine reception and fourcourse lunch on Christmas Day, together with a buffet supper, from €240pps.
It’s a plum spot for postprandials too, with several walking trails braided into Slievenamuck and the Galtee Mountains nearby.
Details: Tel: 062 56153; aherlowhouse.ie.
Jingle bells in Belfast
Pop up to the Northern Irish capital and you’ ll find Titanic Belfast running a Victorian Christmas experience, St George’s Market opening its doors for additional trading on Christmas Eve, and W5, Pavilion and the Odyssey Arena teaming up for Winterfest, which runs right through to January 6.
Hotels offering Christmas packages include the Fitzwilliam (two nights from £230/€286pp) and the Hilton (pictured; roomonly from £95/€118 per night).
Details: gotobelfast.com; fitzwilliamhotelbelfast.com ; Hilton.com/Belfast.
Pop the Cork at Christmas
This year, Hayfield Manor is offering ‘The Ultimate Christmas’ at €945pp for three nights. But if Santa can’t stretch to five-star prices, why not take a pre or post- December 25 trip to Cork instead?
The River Lee Hotel has a ‘Warm Up Winter’ package available until January 31 (excluding December 23-27) at €125 per room based on two people sharing.
The price includes breakfast, 15pc off spa treatments, a 2pm check-out and free parking, and puts you right on the doorstep of Cork’s Christmas markets and the illuminations at Bishop Lucey Park.
Details: Tel: 021 484 5900; hayfieldmanor.ie; or 021 425 2700; doylecollection.com/cork.
Christmas by the coast in Connemara
Nothing says Christmas like cosying up in front of a log fire, all the more so when that Christmas is spent in the far corners of Connemara.
Cashel House has a three-night package from €695pp, including meals, a cocktail reception, carolsinging and a visit from Santa overlooking Cashel Bay, while Renvyle House (pictured) has residential packages from €174.50pp per night.
Its traditions include preluncheon Guinness and oysters on St Stephen’s Day, and a chance to earn those hot whiskeys with a Christmas Day dip in the Atlantic.
Details: Tel: 095 31001; cashel-house-hotel.com; or 095 46100; renvyle.com.
Merry Christmas in Kilkenny
The bad news? Live-in Christmas packages at Mount Juliet, one of three new entrants to Ireland’s Blue Book, have sold out. The good news? You can still spend Christmas in the Marble City, thanks to Hotel Kilkenny.
Arriving on Christmas Eve to a reception of homemade treats and hot chocolate, guests can stay two nights at €369pp or three at €479pp, with prices including meals, movies, a visit from Santa and a chocabloc programme of entertainment.
Our tip? Book the three-night package and you’ll bag a fourth night free on December 23.
Details: Tel: 056 776 2000; hotelkilkenny.ie.
Beat Obama to Fermanagh at the Lough Erne Resort
Get in before the presidential posse with this two-night package, including dinner and carols on Christmas Eve, golf on the Nick Faldo-designed fairways, a fivecourse lunch and a visit from Santa, from £170/€212pp per night.
Details: Tel: 0044 286 632 3230; lougherneresort.com.
Urban Christmas at The Strand Hotel, Limerick
City slickers can open their stockings in the heart of Limerick with this two-night package from The Strand Hotel. Arriving on Christmas Eve, you’ll enjoy a mulled-wine reception, Christmas lunch in the River Restaurant, gifts from Santa, matinees in front of a big screen and other meals and treats from €320pps.
The offer includes 10pc off listed treatments at the Urban Escape Day Spa, and extra nights (with dinner) can be booked at €109pp.
Details: Tel: 061 421800; strandlimerick.ie.
Five-star festivities on Dublin’s Doorstep
A Christmas tree in your bedroom? Santa arriving by horse and carriage?
The K Club’s twonight Christmas package might cost €650pp, but you’ll live in the lap of luxury throughout.
The price includes full Champagne breakfasts each morning, a table d'hote meal on Christmas Eve and a traditional Christmas lunch or dinner on Christmas Day.
Meanwhile, over the Wicklow Mountains in the Ritz-Carlton, prices are even higher at €850pp for two nights. The hotel does, however, boast a life-size gingerbread house and kids’ cinema.
Details: Tel: 01-601 7200; kclub.ie or 01-274 8888; ritzcarlton.com.
Gazump the Grinch in Galway
Why not take your tribe to the City of the Tribes? The Galway Bay Hotel has two-night packages from €329pp, three nights from €465pp and four nights from €565pp, featuring B&B, dinner and a carvery lunch on St Stephen’s Day.
Meanwhile, the Twelve Hotel in Barna is cooking up Christmas lunches, with three courses and a cocktail priced from €25pp.
Details: Tel: 091 520520; galwaybayhotel.net.
On a budget in Bewley’s of Ballsbridge, Dublin
Washing your hands of the Christmas washing-up doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
Bewley’s Hotel in Ballsbridge is offering three-day Christmas packages this year from just €299pp. They aren’t scrimping on the trimmings, either.
Arriving on Christmas Eve, guests will be treated to mulled wine and mince pies, followed by a three-course dinner in The Brasserie.
Over the following two days, you can enjoy most meals, a visit from Santa and merry movies in the hotel cinema — and, of course, you’re perfectly positioned for the Stephen’s Day sales.
Details: Tel: 01-668 1111; bewleyshotels.com.