From cosy castles and classic country houses to hip hotels and chic townhouses Pól ó Conghaile picks his top Irish getaways to welcome in 2010.
The Ice House, Co Mayo
Built in 1859 to freeze and pack salmon caught on the River Moy, Ballina's Ice House has been transformed into an ambitious boutique hotel. Its two-night New Year's package includes a room with a view over the river and Belleek Forest beyond, with a 'lazy' breakfast in bed on both mornings. There's also a Champagne afternoon tea on arrival, a six-course gala dinner on December 31 and, when you're done ringing in 2010, complimentary access to the hotel's thermal suites and outdoor tubs.
Details: The Ice House (096 23500; icehousehotel.ie) has this two-night package from €295pp.
Culloden Estate & Spa, Co Down
An Ulster Scots welcome is promised at Culloden Estate this New Year's Eve, where celebrations kick off with a Champagne and canapé reception in the Chancel Lounge. From there, it's on to a six-course banquet, (including an address to the haggis, no less) with a toast by all. If you've any inhibitions left at that stage, you can proceed to shed them during an evening of Rat Pack classics, culminating in a countdown to midnight which will link up with a live broadcast from Edinburgh Castle.
Details: The Culloden Estate and Spa (048 9042 1066; hastings hotels.com) has this Hogmanay Package for £195/€217pps for a one-night stay and £275/€306pps for a two-night stay.
The Ritz-Carlton, Co Wicklow
Along with the Castlemartyr Resort, Enniskerry's Ritz-Carlton became an instant symbol of Celtic Tiger extravagance when it opened in 2007, arriving just as the economy imploded and receiving poor reviews for its restaurant. The correction is underway, however, and there is undoubted value in this New Year's package, which includes two nights' B&B, a four-course dinner at the improving Gordon Ramsay restaurant and buffet brunch on New Year's Day. The hotel's river walk will blow off any remaining cobwebs.
Details: The Ritz Carlton (01-274 8888; ritzcarlton.com) has this two-night package from €370pps.
The Barbican Gate, Co Antrim
Fancy celebrating New Year in your own cutesy castle? The Barbican Gate, set on a mossy bridge over the Glenarm River, dates from 1825 and includes all the gothic windows, vaulted ceilings, slab floors and stone turrets a courting couple could ask for. The gatehouse to Glenarm Castle, it's a storybook hideaway combining dark basalt and light sandstone in the Romantic (what else?) architectural style, and features a spiral staircase within. Best of all, there's only one double bedroom...
Details: The Irish Landmark Trust (01-670 4733; irishland mark.com) has the Barbican for five nights from December 29 to January 2 for a total price of £400/€446.
Cashel House Hotel, Co Galway
Voted the Good Hotel Guide's top Irish country house last year, Cashel House is a family-run four-star squirreled away in the heart of Connemara. Its New Year package includes two nights' accommodation and two dinners, and 2010 will be ushered in with a Champagne toast in the company of the McEvilly family. Connemara is splendidly desolate in winter, and a walk, bike or drive through the landscape promises a crisp and invigorating start to the New Year.
Details: The two-night package at Cashel House Hotel (095 31001; cashel-house-hotel.com) ranges from €375pps in a standard room to €455pps in a garden suite.
Harvey's Point, Co Donegal
Developed organically over 20 years, Harvey's Point has grown from a small guesthouse to an award-winning 76-bed hotel, but at heart remains a homely (sometimes even kitschy) family business. Big cabaret events are a speciality, so you can expect all the stops to be pulled out for the New Year's Eve Gala Dinner Party -- guests are invited to ring in 2010 with a red carpet and bagpipe reception, a six-course feast and dancing "until the wee hours" with the hotel's resident band.
Details: Harvey's Point (074 972 2208; harveyspoint.com) has a two-night package including dinner and the Gala Dinner Party from €365pps. A three-night package costs from €525pps.
Ballymaloe Country House, Co Cork
The sun never sets on the Ballymaloe Empire, it seems. Myrtle Allen's grand country house still lies at the heart of it all, however, and its New Year's Eve package is a good opportunity to find out why. The two-night special includes B&B, dinner and afternoon tea and cake, along with a celebratory drink and dancing on New Year's Eve (for the first time in yonks, the event is not black tie). On New Year's Day, you can join the local hunt as it departs from Ballymaloe, or watch it all from behind a glass of mulled wine.
Details: Ballymaloe Country House (021 465 2531; ballymaloe.ie) has this two-night package from €403pps. A three-night package is available from €605pps.
Radisson Farnham Estate, Co Cavan
The Radisson's habit of building hotels around old country houses doesn't always pay off, but when it does, the results are impressive.
Farnham Estate has been name-checked on a Condé Nast hotlist, and its New Year package features welcome drinks, dinner in the Botanica Restaurant, entertainment in the cellar bar and fireworks with sparkling wine at midnight. Don't miss the buffet breakfast served until 11am the next morning -- it's the Radisson's real USP.
Details: The Radisson Farnham Estate (049 437 7700; farnham estate.ie) has a one-night package on December 31 at €197.50pps. An Additional night's B&B costs €90pps.
Carrigaline Court, Co Cork
Want a two-night, New Year's blow-out for only €129pp? The Carrigaline Court Hotel, a four-star getaway around 15 minutes from Cork City, has exactly that. Its package kicks off with a live pianist and a four-course table d'hôte meal in the Bistro, and afterwards guests are invited to ring in January 1 in the company of a DJ at the Collins bar.
TripAdvisor reviews are mixed, but leisure facilities including a 20m pool are included in the price, and accompanying children cost just €25.
Details: The Carrigaline Court (021 485 2100; carrigcourt.com) has this package, including two nights' B&B and one dinner, from €129pps. Children up to four go free; those aged five-11 pay €25pp.
The Fitzwilliam, Dublin
Five-star discounts have been one of the top travel stories of 2009, and they look set to continue into the New Year. Calling the Fitzwilliam Hotel for a special offer on December 31, we were quoted €250 for B&B in an upgraded room (with four-poster bed and views over St. Stephen's Green), plus the festive dinner at Citron Restaurant, for two people. The hotel also has a shopping package running to January 31, including two nights' B&B and a €50 Brown Thomas voucher.
Details: The Fitzwilliam (01-478 7000; fitzwilliamhoteldublin. com) has this New Year's offer from €125pps. The Christmas Shopping package is available from €160pps.