Ten best: Afternoon Tea spots
Whether you keep your pinkie up or down, Pól Ó Conghaile has the best spots in Ireland to enjoy an indulgent array of cakes and teas
Gregan's Castle, Co Clare
Stuffing yourself with petit pots and mini-cakes can be a calorific business, so why not ease your conscience by working up an appetite first? That's the thinking at Gregan's Castle Hotel, where confections (including rich chocolate torte and orange syrup cake) cooked up by award-winning chef Mickael Viljanen can be combined with a half-day excursion into the Burren. The guided walk finishes up in the hotel drawing rooms... and a spot of guilt-free gobbling.
Details: Afternoon tea at Gregan's Castle (065 707 7005; gregans.ie) costs €17pp. Afternoon tea plus this guided walk is priced at €32pp.
Miss Courtney's Tearooms, Co Kerry
Pinkies raised? Lips pursed? You're ready, then, to begin taking tea in a delightful set of rooms first opened in Killarney by Miss Margaret Courtney 1909. Run today by her great-niece, Sandra Dunlea, Miss Courtney's tearooms offers 17 varieties of loose tea, as well as finger sandwiches, homemade scones and jam on its afternoon tea menu. The place is a teatime time capsule, kitted out with vintage linen, antique china and background music from the 1920s and 1930s.
Details: Afternoon tea at Miss Courtney's (087 610 9500; misscourtneys.com) costs €16, served Monday to Saturday.
Inchydoney Island Lodge & Spa, Co Cork
Afternoon tea comes with no end of etiquette. Should the pinkie be raised? (Absolutely). Does the jam go on the cream, or the cream on the jam? (The latter). Can the body of the cup be held in the palm of the hand? (Absolutely not. What are you, a Neanderthal?).
Thankfully, the Inchydoney resort is a little more casual, encouraging guests to enjoy a swim and a body wrap before nibbling canapés and mini-desserts in their towelling robes, should they so choose.
Details: Inchydoney Lodge & Spa (023 883 3143; inchydoneyisland. com) has this Afternoon Delight package, including afternoon tea and a body wrap, for €55pp.
The g Hotel, Galway
Afternoon tea is a grand excuse to lounge surf, soaking up the atmosphere in Ireland's plushest spaces without incurring the expense of an overnight bill. And there is no better lounge in Ireland than the series of Philip Treacy-designed rooms in Galway's G Hotel.
Think of it as the yin to the Merrion's yang, with guests invited to spice up Connemara smoked salmon and crabmeat brioches with pink Champagne in the saucy salons. It's also one of the few hotels advertising gluten-free options.
Details: Afternoon tea is served at the g Hotel (091 865200; theghotel.ie) from 3pm-6pm Monday to Friday, and 12pm to 6pm on weekends. It costs €27pp or €42 for two people.
Monart Spa, Co Wexford
Thought Monart was a one-trick pony? Think again. Afternoon tea goes spiffingly with all those body wraps, back massages and dry flotation treatments, and it's served up in the Enniscorthy oasis's 18th-century wing (as opposed to the state-of-the-art mud chambers). Fine bone china comes bearing treats such as almond and dark-chocolate fondant, raspberry and pistachio cake and fruit scones. Best of all, you can have it in full dress or fluffy white robes.
Details: Afternoon tea at Monart (053 923 8999; monart.ie) costs €21pp, or €39 for a cake stand for two. A flute of Louis Roederer Champagne costs €14.
The Merrion Hotel, Dublin
Think the Merrion's art collection looks good enough to eat? Its new Art Tea -- with cakes and pastries directly inspired by Ireland's foremost private art collection -- goes a long way towards giving you a taste.
The highlight, served in the plush Georgian drawing rooms, is a vanilla biscuit modelled on William Scott's Frying Pan, Funnel, Eggs & Lemons (you'll think twice about cracking it with a fork), though a Louis le Brocquy macaroon and Jack B Yeats mousse run it a close second.
Details: Art Tea at The Merrion (01-603 0600; merrion hotel.com) is €36pp. Champagne Art Tea is available from €49pp. Tea is served 3pm-6pm daily.
Kilmokea Manor, Co Wexford
"There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea," Henry James once wrote.
And there are few places in the south east more agreeable for the taking of said tea than Kilmokea Manor & Gardens near Campile.
Herbal teas and blood-orange drizzle cake are the perfect complement to the pretty conservatory housed in Mark and Emma Hewlett's walled garden, especially now the surrounding flora is springing into action.
Details: Afternoon tea is free to guests of Kilmokea Manor (051 388109; kilmokea.com). Otherwise, teas (from €2.20) and drizzle cake (€5.50) are served to visitors from 10am-5pm.
Ballyvolane House, Co Cork
After all that Noughties bling, 'granny chic' is making a comeback. The term comes alive at Ballyvolane House, where afternoon tea is served in slightly battered antique teapots and includes fresh herb teas from Justin and Jenny Green's walled garden (try fresh mint, or even a dash of honey from their very own beehives).
Homemade lemon drizzle cake and chocolate brownies complete the picture, and guests can take the spread outdoors if weather permits.
Details: High tea is served at Ballyvolane House (023 36349; ballyvolanehouse.ie) from €6pp, and is available to guests or groups of six people, minimum.
Adare Manor, Co Limerick
The ceremony of afternoon tea dates from the 19th century when Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, asked for light refreshments and tea to be served in her room. Adare Manor continues the aristocratic tradition today, with guests taking sweet and savoury snacks in rooms overlooking the formal French Gardens. There's a modern twist, however -- not least in the souvenir-sized BLTs, bruschetta and vegetable samosas on offer. Whatever would the duchess think?
Details: Afternoon tea at Adare Manor (061 605200; adaremanor.com) is served daily from 2pm-5pm. It costs €26.50pp, with a children's menu available at €18.
The Westbury Hotel, Dublin
There are all manner of afternoon tea options in Dublin, from duck sandwiches at the Four Seasons to Wonkaesque cupcakes at Camden Street's Cake Café. The Westbury has a trump card, however, in its superbly loll-worthy lounge space.
The Gallery is a sprawling, open-plan room in which guests can keep one eye on Grafton Street and the other on a tinkling piano, €1m-worth of Irish art and, of course, their fellow tea-sippers. Watch out for the 'chocolate indulgence special' too.
Details: The Westbury Hotel (01-679 1122; doylecollection. com) charges €26.50pp for afternoon tea. The chocolate indulgence special costs €31pp.