Pol O Conghaile found 12 of the best seasonal specials
Sheen Falls Lodge,
Kenmare, Co Kerry
Roaring log fires, sumptuous sofas and a sense of Christmas wrapping itself like a blanket around you – that's the promise to guests signing up for a five-star break at Sheen Falls.
A two-night package (from €725pp) begins with dinner in La Cascade on Christmas Eve, includes all meals up to St Stephen's Day, and piles on the activities, including sing-alongs, Santa Claus, clay-pigeon shooting and crisp walks in the woods. Children sharing cost €75 per night, and larger groups can be accommodated in one of the hotel's four luxury cottages.
Details: (064) 664 1600; sheenfallslodge.ie
Dunraven Arms Hotel,
Christmas came early for the Dunraven Arms in the shape of Georgina Campbell's 'Hotel of the Year Award 2014'. For customers, the festive fun begins on Christmas Eve, when an all-inclusive package kicks off with a Champagne reception. "We've been doing it for about 25 years," proprietor Louis Murphy tells us. "Park your car, and we'll look after you from there."
Other treats include a visit from the local choir, breakfast with baked Limerick ham (It's worth a visit just to taste it. The chefs slow-cook the ham from 2am so that it's ready for breakfast at 7am.) Plus, there's Santa's arrival on horseback and sackloads of activities such as walking trips, aqua-aerobics and a treasure hunt on Christmas Day. Three nights cost from €675pp, but a fourth night is free if you arrive early on December 23. There's no single supplement, either.
Details: (061) 605900; dunravenhotel.com
Fitzpatrick Castle, Dublin
The festive season isn't all fun and games – particularly, if you're the one taking care of the trimmings. So why not let the good folk at Fitzpatrick Castle take over the hosting while you enjoy a more relaxing Christmas break?
The Killiney hotel has a two-night package (December 24/25) including B&B, carol singing, mulled wine and mince pies, dinner in PJ's Restaurant, a Champagne reception on Christmas Day and a festive lunch from €380pp.
Details: (01) 230 5400; fitzpatrickhotels.com
Castlemartyr Resort, Co Cork
Here's some eastern promise for Christmas. Castlemartyr Resort has a two-night package treating guests to mulled wine and mince pies on arrival, a Champagne brunch, traditional dinners and handsome supper buffets. Golf and horse and carriage rides will whet your appetite for cocktails and carol singing, and the €665pp rate also includes a visit from Santa.
Details: (021) 421 9000; castlemartyr.ie
Cashel House, Co Galway
I love the notion of spending Christmas in Connemara. The 19th-century Cashel House overlooks the coast about eight miles from Roundstone, offering the ideal retreat in which to squirrel your family or friends away for the festive period. A cocktail reception on Christmas Eve kicks off its three-day soiree, which bundles slap-up meals, visits by local carol singers, gifts from Santa Claus, crackling turf fires and afternoon teas in the drawing room. The Blue Book bolthole is also a grand base for brisk seaside walks. Three nights start from €595pp.
Details: (095) 31077;
Ferrycarrig Hotel, Wexford
Here's a thought. Instead of waking up to the sight of a Christmas morning to-do list, why not wake to the sound of river birds outside? Why not saunter down to Reeds Restaurant for a big breakfast, followed by lunch, and dinner – none of which you have to prepare yourself? Classic movies, light entertainment, festive sing-alongs and an activity club are also included in this two-day package at the Ferrycarrig Hotel. Prices start from €340pp, with three days from €499pp, children under three going free, and staggered rates for ages four to 16.
Details: (053) 912-0999; ferrycarrighotel.ie
Not every festive hotel break has to be five-star. Nor does every Christmas package have to cost the earth. Bewley's in Ballsbridge has a three-day deal welcoming guests with mulled wine and mince pies at a reception on Christmas Eve. Gifts from Santa, children's movies and traditional lunches and buffets are also included in rates starting from €299pp (children under 12 sharing with adults cost €130pp, but children under three go free). Bewley's is perfectly positioned for the shopping sales in Dublin and Dundrum Town Centre too.
Details: (01) 668 1111; bewleys hotels.com/ballsbridge/Christmas
The Brehon, Killarney
Killarney always stages a cracking Christmas, and The Brehon, which has just put finishing touches to its 30-foot tree, is a great base. Open fires, mulled wine and festive feasts are all bundled in a two-night package including a six-course Christmas Day lunch from €429pps. Don't worry about the calories, either, because the Stephen's Day programme includes a guided walk in Killarney National Park.
Details: (064) 667 1543; thebrehon.com
Glenlo Abbey Hotel, Galway
Now here's a manor to which you could become accustomed. Once home to two of the legendary tribes that ruled over Galway (the French and Blake families), Glenlo Abbey overlooks Lough Corrib as a spanking five-star hotel. Glowing fires, mahogany bars, library Chesterfields and sumptuous bedrooms all make a great base from which to play golf or explore the Christmas markets in Galway city. Packages include meals, mulled wine and a visit from Mr Claus. Two nights start from €345pps.
Details: (091) 519600; glenloabbeyhotel.com
Harvey's Point, Donegal
If you could choose any location in which to spend Christmas, a hideaway lodged between Lough Eske and the Blue Stack Mountains wouldn't be far off.
Harvey's Point always puts time and care into its residential offers, and Christmas is no exception. A four-day package at the family-run four-star includes B&B, two gourmet dinners and a traditional Christmas Day lunch and supper from €695pp, but that's only the beginning.
Storytelling, cookery demonstrations, wine tasting, treasure hunts and mountain rambles are all being plotted, too.
Details: 074 972-2208; harveyspoint.com
Hayfield Manor, Cork
Stepping into Hayfield Manor is like entering the living room you always wished you owned. A baby grand sits by an elegant staircase, the Christmas tree sparkles, a concierge takes your bags and the whiff of mulled wine, books and leather floats around the manor.
At €995 for three days, residential packages aren't cheap, but this five-star's greatest trick is to offer old-school luxury without stuffiness or intimidation.
The package includes all meals, light entertainment, Santa's gifts and a jazz brunch on Stephen's Day.
Details: (021) 484 5900; hayfieldmanor.ie.
Radisson Blu Farnham Estate, Co Cavan
Christmas in Cavan is starting to sound very tempting. Not only do festive drinks and a thumping log fire await your arrival at Farnham House, but a two-night residential package also offers buffet breakfasts, woodland walks, a Christmas Day lunch and a light buffet dinner from €325pps.
If you want to go the whole hog and hibernate for three nights, that's an option too – at €410pps (excluding dinner on St Stephen's Day).
Meanwhile, up the road in Ballyconnell, the Slieve Russell has three-night packages from €499 per adult.
Details: radissonblu.ie/Farnham-estate-hotel; slieverussell.ie.
NB: Prices and availability correct going to press, but may be subject to change