Thursday 25 December 2014

Great Escapes from Ireland to Australia

A look at original and luxurious hotel stays in Australia and closer to home, not to mention some extravagant means of travel.

Published 08/06/2014 | 02:30

Highlife: Sydney's 1888 Hotel
Highlife: Sydney's 1888 Hotel
Air France Premiere Suite
Airbus 'residences' service
Pol O Conghaile

A look at original and luxurious hotel stays in Australia and closer to home, not to mention some extravagant means of travel.

Room with a view

Sydney's 1888 Hotel has been dubbed the world's first 'Instagram hotel'. Named for the year Kodak launched its first box and roll camera, the hotel lobby includes a picture frame for selfies and a specially commissioned neighbourhood Insta-Walk. Best of all, Instagramers with more than 10k followers can apply for a free night's stay. 1888hotel.com.au

Departures

It's a case of suite dreams for first-class passengers. Air France recently unveiled a spanking new La Première suite on the airline's Boeing 777-300s. The private space comes with a two-metre lie-flat bed, 24-inch HD touch screen and other treats akin to "spending a night in a palace" (a 77-cm wide palace, it should be said). But hold on to your vanity packs, because Etihad has gone even further. Its new Airbus A380s are being installed with "residences" complete with double beds, private baths and showers. What's that? You want a personal butler? Go on then (he's trained at London's Savoy Hotel, too). Fares are said to start at $21,000 (€15,400) – a snip, if you're comparing it to a private jet.

Travel smart

You don't have to fly first or business class to access an executive lounge. Dublin Airport allows passengers up to three hours from €20pp, regardless of airline or ticket class, with guests able to avail of complimentary drinks and snacks, Wi-Fi, newspapers and flight notifications. Dublinairport.com.

For more travel tips, deals and inspiration, visit independent.ie/travel

Deals & Steals

Bargain: Budget Travel is doing what it says on the tin with flights plus seven nights in Spain's Costa Del Sol from €229pp. Accommodation is at the two-star Doramar Apartments, with a June 15 departure. Call 01 435 0073 or see itaa.ie/offers

Splash: Always wanted to visit Russia? Travel Department has just the ticket. A |10-day escorted tour taking in Moscow and St Petersburg includes flights, four-star |accommodation and several guided excursions with September/October |departures from €1,599pp. traveldepartment.ie

Staycation: The Brandon House Hotel advertises itself as the home of soulful hospitality, and you can put that to the test with a weekend special from €99 for a budget double room, or €109 for a standard. The rate includes B&B and access to the leisure club. Irelandhotels.com

ONE NIGHT STAND

Overnight stays in Ireland

Where: Castlemartyr Resort, Co Cork

Why: There is no doubt that this 5 star country house hotel set on 220 acres of parkland is one of Ireland’s best. It combines a 17th century manor house enhanced by a contemporary wing, with grounds featuring a swan lake, golf course and the ruins of an 800 year old castle. It also boasts generously sized rooms that you could happily ensconce yourself in for the entire weekend. But it’s the welcome that will bring us back. Yes, this is a luxury hotel but it is unpretentious and the staff are warm, accommodating and unlikely to ever utter the words “Will that be all, madam?”

Highlights: Where to start? The dog-friendly policy (enquire for further details) and the two red setters — Earl and Countess — that greet you on arrival; the afternoon tea; the fluffy white cloud beds; the exquisite ESPA spa treatments and products; the Versailles-style gardens, the championing of local produce in the Bell Tower restaurant and the pace of things — time seems to slow down as soon as you cross the threshold.

Lowlights: If you like the buzz of strolling into town to look around the shops then you may feel a touch sequestered. Cork city is 20 minutes away by car. Also, this is a place to dress reasonably respectably for breakfast. So think again if you are considering wearing a white dressing gown, with a copy of the Indo tucked into the pocket.

Best For: Romantic weekends (and proposals); dog-owners, golfers and nature lovers.

Concierge's Choice: For off-site adventures, the front of house team always recommends the Jameson Distillery in Midleton. We recommend the nearby beach at Garryvoe for a summer dip or lunch at Ballymaloe (approx. 15 minutes by car).

Ask for room number: Lottery winners should experience the Presidential Suite; mere mortals should plump for a garden-view room.

Guests of honour: The official line is “We treat all guests with the same level of service and it is against our policy to divulge guest information”. However, Bill Clinton, Bruce Springsteen and, more recently, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West are all rumoured to have stayed the night.

Rates: Summer season rates start from €190 per night, based on a two-night stay with full Irish breakfast and a two-course dinner for two on one evening in the Bell TowerRestaurant.

Contact: castlemartyrresort.ie / 021 421900

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