Is it possible to bring your dog on a short hotel break in Ireland? Absolutely, as Bairbre Power and Romy (her Yorkshire terrier) discover.
Easter in Connemara is always a treat, from that special light that illuminates the Twelve Bens and lifts your soul to walking around Derryclare Lake in brave, darting sunlight.
Our base was Glenlo Abbey Hotel, the historic property located two miles from Galway city, which has introduced new 'Pamper your Pooch' packages this season.
Sitting on a hugely scenic property running down to the Corrib, the hotel offers lots of interesting walking and jogging trails. Our favourite was the very doable 30-minute round trip to the jetty where the Corrib Princess boat will take you out onto the lake. We wrapped up our afternoon with tea in the conservatory, where dogs are allowed, located near the dog kennel where canine guests sleep.
This was very much a 50:50 holiday deal for Romy and myself. She was pampered during the day with lots of walks and treats - there's a welcome pack to greet your canine friend - plus, there was grooming available from John Madden of thedogcompany.ie, who also offers boarding kennels nearby if you want to investigate Connemara further, and perhaps sail to Inishbofin for an overnight.
I was pampered with a luxurious room and dinner was at the Pullman Restaurant where two carriages from the Orient Express have been converted into a restaurant. Dating back to 1927, these carriages were used on the Monaco/Istanbul/St Petersburg route, and as I enjoyed chef Gary Burke's French cuisine, I lost myself in nostalgia about former diners.
Best of all, the Leona and Linda carriages (pictured top right) were parked literally under my bedroom window so Romy got a bedtime walk and I walked off my wine.
Bairbre Power and Romy
If you are feeling energetic, Glenlo has a nine-hole parkland course where seven of the holes boast a water hazard - that's fun! There's also a driving range if you have stress to release, as well as kayaking and archery. All in all, there's a blend of activities for the pet loving holidaymaker who doesn't want to leave the doggie at home.
It was our second holiday in the west in the last eight months - last August, we stayed at Ballinderry Park, which offers a unique experience for both for humans and dogs. This early Georgian house is a Hidden Ireland property and George Gossip, the owner, is a consummate host. He is an accomplished cook with a particular interest for game, so don't make the mistake we made and arrive too late for dinner. Ring before noon on the day and book dinner, which costs €55, and should, based on our experience of breakfast (with those tasty, big mushrooms) be utterly fabulous.
Being a country farmer, George has three dogs of his own. So while Ballinderry Park welcomes pets, they will be accommodated in an outdoor kennel in the yard next to the house, which provides luxury country accommodation.
The house has been stunningly restored with interiors in bold, yet soothing, period colours - just the thing to sooth the soul after a pre-dinner walk with your dog through the grounds.
George is an excellent host, so join him in front of the fire for a glass of wine and chat about the locality and its history. Dip into his library of books and free your brain from the distraction of Twitter, mobile phones and the internet. This is old-school charm with hot water bottles under your blankets. I loved it and so did Romy.
For years, our favourite Sunday car trip was out to Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow to the Powerscourt Estate and gardens, where my children would often enquire: "Mum, did our Power ancestors live here?"
"Of course they did," I'd fib, but eventually, I fessed up that the historical house - voted into the top ten in the world by Lonely Planet - and the gardens and waterfall, where we spent so many dreamy Sunday afternoons, were all owned by the Slazenger family. Recently, we returned to the estate to stay a night at the Powerscourt Hotel Resort & Spa, which is part of the Autograph Collection of hotels run by Marriott.
Often put out when she sees the suitcases coming out and is then dropped off with her dogminder Sinead, this time Romy was not just coming with us, she was staying in our hotel room too.
The five-star resort allows small dogs to stay and our suite offered a splendid view of the Sugarloaf mountain. Greeting us when we arrived was a comfy dog bed and bowl, and Romy quickly settled in.
With so much territory to explore, Romy quickly dictated the pace - down the river walk beside the Dargle river, which is usually reserved for Powerscourt Estate members only. Quick left and we were back to the tree-lined drive beside the golf course and the historic Powerscourt House and gardens was a five-minute stroll along the wooded avenue.
The rain got the better of us and when Romy sprawled out for a sleep, we ordered up room service, which was excellent.
Next day, we discovered the pool and spa but, as this was Romy's break too, we didn't hang around too long and headed off on yet another walk, finishing off the day with tea for Romy and myself in the lobby.
Glenlo Abbey Hotel
SLEEPING ARRANGEMENTS: Dogs are not allowed to sleep in bedrooms at Glenlo Abbey Hotel and stay in a special dog kennel in the hotel's walled garden.
COST: Zero cost for your dog to stay and no limit on the size of dog. Information on grooming from thedogcompany.ie
IT'S A NO: To dogs in the hotel but they are allowed with their owners in the conservatory.
OWNERS: Humans can avail of the 'Escape to the West' two-night package from €189pps, which includes a two-night luxury stay in a Classic King or Twin Room, breakfast each day and one dinner on a night of your choice, complimentary transfers to and from Galway train station, if required, and a mini afternoon tea experience on one afternoon.
GETTING THERE: Located two miles from the centre of Galway city, the five-star hotel in Bushypark overlooks the Corrib and sits on the N59 road to Clifden, the gateway to Connemara. Citylink services available. Taxi into Galway €12 approximately. A swim at Salthill is a 15-minute drive away.
CONTACT DETAILS: (091) 526 666, glenloabbeyhotel.ie
Powerscourt Hotel, Co. Wicklow
SLEEPING ARRANGEMENTS: Dogs at the five-star Powerscourt Hotel Resort & Spa can stay in your room.
COST: €50 for your dog per stay.
It's a NO: To dogs over 10kg, so the rule is no bigger than a collie. Dog aren't allowed on the Sika terrace or in restaurants serving food but they can join you in the lobby.
OWNERS: Prices for humans vary on room choice and time of year. There's a special 'Pampered Pooch' package available and a June offer of €145pps to include an overnight stay for two people with dinner in Sika restaurant, 20pc off ESPA treatments and complimentary access to Powerscourt Gardens. An upgrade to a Mountain View Suite would be from €200 per person sharing, midweek. After all that wooden landscape, you can make a dart down to the coast for a sea walk and be home in time for a cuppa in the lobby.
Getting there: Located on the Powerscourt estate, Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow, close to the N11, the luxury five-star resort is about a 30-minute drive from Dublin and 30 miles from Dublin airport. COntact details:
(01) 274 8888, powerscourthotel.com
SLEEPING ARRANGEMENTS: There's kennelling for the dogs at Ballinderry Park, which has four bedrooms catering for humans. cost: No charge for the dogs. IT'S A NO: To dogs in the house.
OWNERS: Humans cost €80-100pp per night and there's a €20 single supplement. The €55 dinner is not always available Sunday or Monday, winter weekends by arrangement, and group bookings possible at all times.
Getting there: This Hidden Ireland property is located at Kilconnell, just four miles off the M6 near Ballinasloe, Co. Galway. It is open April-October for B&B, and dinner is also available.
CONTACT DETAILS: (090) 968 6796, ballinderrypark.com