Fancy a treehouse, barge or ringfort for the holidays? Pól Ó Conghaile lists Ireland's most unusual places to stay...
Had enough of hotels? Sick of self-catering houses? What about staying in a barge, yurt, medieval castle or lighthouse for the holidays?
As tourism numbers grow, more and more small Irish businesses are taking punts on unusual accommodation that stands out from the crowd.
Why? Well, tourism is on an upswing, for starters. But beyond that, the growth of Airbnb has not only shown us that people are willing to pay to stay somewhere different (its PR stunts have included a night at the Guinness Storehouse and a 747 Jumbo Jet), but created a nifty platform to service them.
Here are 12 unusual places to stay in Ireland to get you started...
Cottages For Couples in West Cork does exactly what it says on the tin, offering a quirky selection of escapes near Skibbereen. The character buildings also include three treehouses taking the form of cabins built into the forests (none of your bockety old kids' playhouses here - spruce pines literally go through the floors and ceilings). Plus, there's a private deck with hot tubs overlooking the countryside.
Details: From €189 per night at weekends; cottagesforcouples.ie.
The Irish Landmark Trust has several lighthouses where you can either stay in former lighthouse keepers' cottages on site (e.g. Galley Head or Loop Head), or in the structure itself (Wicklow Head Lighthouse, above). The latter has six octagonal floors, metre-thick walls and is surrounded by sea on three sides... though don't expect any modern elevators. There are 109 steps to the kitchen.
Details: From €596 for two nights, sleeping four; Irishlandmark.com
The catch? There’s no working bar (or alcohol). But still, this converted village pub in Aglish, near Terryglass, Co Tipperary, feels just like the real thing – with the old bar and pumps in place, an open fire, Liscannor stone floor, and one bedroom in the old snug. There’s a fairy garden, too… and the actual village pub is just a short walk away.
Details: From €200 per night, on Airbnb.ie.
The Irish National Heritage Park in Wexford has a unique opportunity to experience life in medieval Ireland… in a replica ring fort. It sleeps 6-8, in a building with thatched roof and stone walls within the fort, an open fire to cook (don’t worry, there’s a fridge), and you’ll be given costumes from the period. You can check into one of the most unusual places to stay in Ireland from 2pm and even role play for visitors if you like. It opens year round.
Details: From €400 for six people, irishheritage.ie.
This four-storey, 16-century tower house in Coolbawn has been restored over 10 years - with a great hall and bedroom fit for a king and queen now open to 'overknighters' in warmer months. ‘The Black Castle’ sells itself as an authentic rustic castle experience - i.e. there are no mod-cons, Wi-Fi, heating, showers and so on, but you will find luxury beds, thick walls, roaring fires and the evocative glow of candlelight.
Like the sound of this? You can find other tower house stays at Castlebawn (on an island in Lough Derg), or Ballyportray Castle in Co. Clare.
This remote island campsite offers yurts, tepees and tents overlooking the Atlantic from Cape Clear, Co Cork. Yurts are circular Mongolian tents, with beanbags, scatter cushions, stoves, real beds and wooden floors – in these ones, you can see the stars through a clear circle in the roof, and there’s a log-burning stove.
Details: From €90 per night for two at yurt-holidays-ireland.com.
Finn Lough’s Bubble Domes have transparent walls, meaning you can gaze out at the woods, lake and stars from your bed. Inside, the décor is chic, with solid four-posters, cool armchairs and, in some, a bathtub. Book far in advance for this one…
Details: From €250 per night at finnlough.com.
Wooden pods are popping up like mushrooms around the country. Try ‘Top of the Rock’ Pod park in Drimoleague, Co. Cork, Claggan Island in Belmullet, Co. Mayo, or six new pods added at Ardmore Glamping - with earth wool insulation, they’re about 2.2m high and can sleep four on real beds with dining table, wardrobe and fridge. The design is inspired by the Gallarus Oratory on the Dingle Peninsula, they say.
Another option, the ‘CroPod’ in Glencolmcille, Co Donegal (above) is built into the earth with a grass roof trampled upon by sheep! Owner Greg Stevenson runs ‘Under The Thatch’, a holiday rental company specialising in unusual properties.
Just opened at Kevin and Catherine Dundon’s Dunbrody House is this wooden cabin in the woods, with one double and two single rooms from €150-€195 per night (ex. breakfast). The Blue Book bolthole is aimed at girlie or romantic getaways (breakfast not included) in Wexford. Read more about the cabin at Dunbrody here.
Details: From €150 to €195 per night; dunbrodyhouse.com.
Did you know you can rent barges to tour Ireland's inland waterways? Riversdale Holidays offers rentals from two days on barges like The Sub (above). Another option is ‘Scéal Eile’, a wide-beam barge at Dublin’s Grand Canal Dock with its own fireplace, fitted kitchen and shower/bathroom. It's listed from €185 per night on Airbnb.
Details: riversdaleholidays.ie; from €360 for two days.
The Clissmann family offer these colourful caravans on their farm near Ashford, Co. Wicklow for glamping (from €90). You can also take to the roads with a horse pulling your holiday home… sleeping up to five people (from €940 for a week). Hikers may like to know they do donkey-walking holidays too, where you can walk and have the donkey carry up to 15kgs of luggage from B&B to B&B in the Wicklow wilderness. See visitwicklow.com for more to do in Wicklow.
John and Francis Brennan's Dromquinna Manor overlooks Kenmare Bay, with luxury tents starting from €150 per night. Think full double beds, luxury cottons and duvets, Voya toiletries and hamper breakfasts delivered to your door on a peachy site with private verandas overlooking the sea. Fancy a real splurge? A new ‘Hideaway’ (above) costs from €350... it may be the most expensive tent in Ireland.
Details: From €150 per night; dromquinnamanor.com.