Monday 20 January 2020

Lucinda O'Sullivan: 7 Irish spots the well-heeled flock to for the 'wicked month' of August...

It's time for the great escape... Lucinda O'Sullivan suggests where to go to be in with the 'in' crowd

Coumeenoole Beach, Dingle Peninsula. Photo: Getty
Coumeenoole Beach, Dingle Peninsula. Photo: Getty

Lucinda O’Sullivan

Just as New Yorkers flock to Martha's Vineyard or the Hamptons - and Parisians desert their capital for the French Riviera for the "wicked month" of August - Dubliners and other city dwellers will be decamping to the coast, the lakes or even the islands, which are back in vogue, particularly with Star Wars filming here.

High-flyers, both male and female, will shed the Canali, Armani and Roland Mouret power clothes in exchange for designer leisurewear.

Make no mistake though, there's nothing casual about this month of keeping up with the Joneses in the holiday rental - even better if it's a 'second' home.

More than ever, for families with young kids and teenagers, it's all about healthy activities and ensuring the kids are occupied from morning until night - keeping their faces out of their phones and out of mischief.

Keeping the children busy is a top priority
Keeping the children busy is a top priority

Sailing is huge, and socially suitable of course. Cycling, swimming, hiking, surfing, climbing, kayaking, snorkeling, it's all about terroir as the foodies might say - if it's on soil or sea it's hot.

Glamping, too, is huge, with new locations opening all the time. Popular spots include Ardmore Pet Farm and Mini Zoo and Burren glamping.

There will always be those obsessed with being the 'perfect' parent. But there's also the pressure to be as good as little Johnny's mum and dad when notes are compared in September and the really cool kid has been to Borneo foraging!

These holidays are as well organised as a military operation. Mum's massive SUV is packed to the gunnels with all the wet gear required for the de rigueur watersports, hill-walking and biking etc. The Aldi pizza oven, the small Green Egg BBQ (they have a bigger one for home), the Labradoodle and the au pair will be packed in last.

Glamping at Dromquinna
Glamping at Dromquinna

Mum, of course, will have had every necessary beauty treatment to see her over the month of holiday socialising without letting the side down.

Heaven forbid she might be stuck in the same holiday hotspot as her biggest school-gate rival, running into her every day looking less than perfect. The botox will have been freshened, the tan done, the eyelashes tinted, and all of the digits will be freshly 'mani-pedied'.

The Brown Thomas sale will have been trawled for little silk tops for the evenings to go with the oh-so-casual designer jeans and the crate of activewear already packed.

So, now that their finally ready to make their 'holiday' debut, where do the hot shots go to summer?

Brittas Bay, Co Wicklow

Brittas is an obvious one for the SoCoDu set. Only 40 minutes down the N11 to 4km of sandy beach and rolling sand dunes - it's a no-brainer for the younger brigade.

The mums move down to the mobile home with the kids, often with gran in tow, and dad commutes or joins them on Friday nights. It's become a bit of a midweek wives' club, with lots of Prosecco and fairly competitive barbecues, but they are there to support one another.

The frontline Jack's Hole is the most exclusive place, where the older set hold off on the G&Ts until after noon.

The Types: Young SoCoDu families and the older affluent brigade. Business people. Hotel owners. Accountants.

The Activity: Walking the beach, taking the sun, swimming.

The Bar: Jack White's Inn.

The Restaurant: The Bay Cafe.

The Sunny South East

Rosslare is a long-time destination for Dubliners with holiday homes. It's a rather lovely oasis, with Kelly's Hotel being the social focal point - their SeaSpa is hugely popular. With a great beach and great golf, it tends to be multi-generational, with lots of linens being worn by the more mature, well-turned-out ladies.

The Types: Lots of Dubliners.

The Activity: Swimming, golf, walking.

The Bar: La Marine at Kelly's.

The Restaurant: Wild & Native.

West Cork

All of West Cork is magical from Kinsale through Glandore (where businessman Anthony O'Reilly once had a holiday home, entertaining the Duchess of York), Rosscarbery, Skibbereen (where Jeremy Irons and Sinead Cusack have Kilcoe Castle) to Schull and Ballydehob (a foodie haven) and on to Bantry. Baltimore, however, is the place to find Cork's Merchant Princes and a fairly posh Dublin summer-home crowd, too. It's all about sailing here - how big is your yacht? It's affluent traditional money. You'll see lots of red jackets - Helly Hansen/Musto - particularly during Calves week (August 7-10). The kids are like waterbabies, occupied with sailing courses, and it's pretty much heaven.

The Types: Captains of industry, lawyers, NI legal eagles, doctors, plastic surgeons, politicians.

The Activity: Sailing, sailing, sailing.

The Bar: Bushes Bar.

The Restaurant: La Jolie Brise for pizzas; Mews for the special night.

The Kingdom

Kerry is also fab. It's the stuff of movies, indeed it has been with Ryan's Daughter putting Dingle on the international map in 1970 and the latest Star Wars film bumping up Dingle's reputation for another generation.

It's not so much about sailing in Kerry, it's more about swimming at the fantastic local beaches. Kenmare has a cachet about it: lots of stuff to do with lots of great restaurants, two five-star hotels (The Park and Sheen Falls), bars and shops. It's definitely a winner with holiday renters as well as holiday-homers. Glamping at Dromquinna Manor is very popular, as are the holiday lodges on the Parknasilla Resort & Estate.

The Types: Doctors, lawyers, teachers, professors, bankers, academics.

The Activity: Swimming, rock climbing, cycling, walking, golf, bird watching, visiting the islands.

The Pub: The Purple Heather.

The Restaurant: No 35. Mulcahy's; Packie's.

West Clare

There's still something wild about the vibe in West Clare that people love. It's a feeling of being near the edge of Ireland, from the Burren to Doolin, for those who love Irish music, to Lahinch, which is a paradise for golfers and for surfers. The growth in the watersports business has seen lots of new cafes and bars opening, not to mention a Michelin star at the Wild Honey Inn in Lisdoonvarna and the five-star Trump Hotel & Golf Links at Doonbeg owned by @POTUS.

The Types: Limerick, Galway and Dublin folk. Teachers, musicians, farmers. Gym rats, surfers, cyclists, golfers.

The Activity: Golf, surfing, cycling, walking, bird-watching, traditional seisuns.

The Pub: Pot Duggan's/Morrissey's Doonbeg

The Restaurant: Randaddy's for casual fun/Wild Honey Inn for a Michelin treat.


The awesome dark ruggedness of Connemara makes it the only destination for some. It has always been big with Dubliners down through the generations - their parents took a house in Clifden or Roundstone, and they've continued the tradition. Roundstone does attract a rather affluent posh crowd, who perhaps think they're a cut above buttermilk. Renvyle House Hotel, right out at the point, with its country house feel, is, and always has been, hugely popular with families.

The Types: Lawyers, doctors, bankers, developers, high-flyers, artists.

The Activity: Swimming, walking, cycling, hill-walking, fishing.

The Bar: O'Dowd's.

The Restaurant: The Fisherman's Pub & Ranji Room at Ballynahinch Castle.


Sligo has raised its profile very successfully over the past few years. Enniscrone and Strandhill are popular with surfers and outdoorsy types, who also catch waves up at Bundoran. Mullaghmore is popular with families, where the kids can avail of sailing courses. The Sligo Food Trail has also been a huge success, resulting in lots of new businesses and cafes coming to the fore.

The Types: Dubliners, Galwegians, accountants, teachers, families, sporty young bucks.

The Activity: Surfing, swimming, sailing, food trails.

The Pub: The Draft House.

The Restaurant: Hooked.

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