Romy and me: Discovering Ireland's dog-friendly hotels
Can't bear to leave your beloved pet at home while you holiday? Ireland has some great dog-friendly hotels, as Bairbre Power (and her little Yorkie) discovered.
The sign inside the front door of The Twelve Hotel in Barna, Co. Galway, said it all – I only wish more Irish hotels would adopt such a pet-friendly policy.
"Dogs are welcome in this hotel...
"We never had a dog that smoked in bed and set fire to the blankets. We never had a dog that stole our towels and played the TV too loud, or had a noisy fight with his travelling companion.
"We never had a dog that got drunk and broke the furniture or abused our team members... So if your dog can vouch for you, you're welcome too."
The number of Irish hotels with pet-friendly policies is relatively small, but thankfully, it is growing.
In France, le petit chien is welcomed with open arms, from posh restaurants to top star hotels, even chic department stores, but in Ireland, the dog at your heel usually gets a dismissive 'mutt' look.
Lots of families wouldn't dream of celebrating big occasions without their adored family pet and it can be heartbreaking – and hugely expensive – to kennel them for summer holidays.
In our house, holidays in Ireland are planned around our VBF, Romy. Fun, faithful and always well behaved, our four year-old Yorkie loves the car and when she sees those weekend bags coming out, she emphatically books her place by leaping enthusiastically into the bag before there is even a toothbrush packed.
While this fast terrier loves her walkies around Dublin city centre, the best strolls we've enjoyed together have been on holidays, especially adventurous forest walks on a long lead.
Romy's latest rite of passage came last weekend when we explored sandy beaches together in Connemara. She raced along the water's edge, checked out the seaweed, surveyed the scenery and then revelled in our post-walk ritual of a 99 ice cream – rewarded with the tip of the cone.
Although Romy has a pet passport, after all that trouble, and expense, we still haven't found the ideal route to bring her to mainland Europe. So, for the moment, our terrier is staying on terra firma in Ireland and here are just some of the places we've discovered together.
Castlemartyr Resort, Co Cork
Why: It's like home away from home. The suites available for guests with dogs have their own private garden so you can watch TV or read indoors while doggie sunbathes in the sunken garden. There is a door from your garden leading out onto the estate so you don't have to keep going through the hotel.
Bow-wow factor: This five-star hotel welcomes any dog, regardless of size, weight or breed, as long as they are cute, adorable and well behaved. They won't be lonely and will be met, on arrival, by the hotel's resident Irish Setters, Earl and Countess. There are great walking trails and you can pop down to the local village or head for the local beach.
How: B&B rates per person are available from €180 per night plus €50 (per stay) for your dog. You need to contact the hotel directly to ensure availability of this room type.
See: castlemartyrresort.ie. Tel: 021 421 9000
The Twelve, Barna, Co Galway
Why: Because dogs will appreciate the local beach walks as much as you will and the space in your marvellous suite.
Bow-wow factor: Welcome doggie bag including a treat, toy and clean up bags.
How: Rates start from €160 per room, per night including accommodation and breakfast in a pet-friendly suite, of which there are two in the hotel. No charge for doggie.
See: thetwelvehotel.ie/pet-friendly. Tel: 091 597000
The Lodge at Ashford Castle, Co Mayo
Why: Your dog will love exploring the estate, dining on your own private terrace and rambling around Lough Corrib.
Bow-wow factor: Exclusive VIP (Very Important Pet) menu available from the kitchen – catering for dogs and cats.
How: Rates start from €160 per room with €10 extra per dog (max 2) for overnight stay with breakfast (deposit of €500 required until check out).
See: thelodgeac.com. Tel: 094 954 5400
Sheen Falls Lodge, Kenmare, Co Kerry
Why: Dogs are just as important as the two-legged guests at this stunning five-star property located at the head of Kenmare Bay and on the Ring of Kerry, just over the bridge from Kenmare, a short walk or bicycle ride away.
Bow-wow factor: Dogs cannot stay in the rooms, but on-site kennels are located in a large outhouse directly beside the hotel where doggies can rest their head in the comfort of their own bed, spoilt with a silver bowl and doggie treats.
How: There is a nominal one-off fee of €25 per pet. Owners can stay for €590 per room, covering two night's accommodation in a luxurious and spacious room with full Irish breakfast and dinner for two on one evening in La Cascade.
See: sheenfallslodge.ie Tel: 064 6641600
Hotel Dunloe Castle, Killarney, Co Kerry
Why: Walkies, lots of them! There is so much to discover here as the five-star hotel has a 65-acre estate, 20 acres of which is gardens, and a ruin to explore. Dogs can stay in a luxurious kennel or in one of the dog-friendly guest rooms.
Bow-wow factor: It's all about people and doggies unwinding together. You are greeted to the kingdom of Kerry with a welcome pack full of yummy goodies, including a pet toy, pet treat and clean-up bags. There's a food and water bowl with floor mat, pet beds and a doggy throw (to cover the sofa with, should that be your pet's preferred sleeping place).
How: Rates from €180 per room per night, b&b. Plus, a charge of €10 for your dog to stay per night.
See: thedunloe.com. Tel: 064 664 4111
Tankardstown House, Slane, Co Meath
Why: Your dog will feel extra welcome after meeting Millie, Choo and Mika, the resident pooches who are always excited to have new friends come by.
Bow-wow factor: The main house is only for two-legged creatures, but dogs are more than welcome to stay overnight in one of the Courtyard Cottage Suites.
How: There is no charge for dogs and cottage rates start from €90 per person B&B midweek.
See: tankardstown.ie Tel: 041 9824621
Killyhevlin Hotel, Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh
Why: Great location and there's an abundance of forests, hills, trails and pathways to explore, so bring a long lead. The beaches of Co Donegal aren't too far away either.
Bow-wow factor: Four-star comfort for doggie, who is allowed to stay in the room, but the welcome pack is for humans only.
How: There is a £45 fee for your dog to stay, which covers a deep-clean after your departure. However, doggies are free if you are staying at one of the Killyhevlin chalets, which cost £615 for seven nights, Saturday to Saturday during July and August. There is a £50 non-transferable, non-refundable deposit upon booking.
See: killyhevlin.com. Tel: 0044 28 6632 3481
Hilton Belfast, 4 Lanyon Place, Belfast
Why: Because the location is brilliant, right in the heart of Belfast.
Bow-wow factor: The policy here is size-ist, so they welcome dogs up to 10lbs to stay in rooms.
How: Rates from €105 per room. No need to take out the wallet or credit card as there is no charge for bringing your little pooch along. And better again, there is no deposit required. Nice one.
See: hilton.com/belfast. Tel: 0044 28 9027 7000 and hilton.com/templepatrick
Powerscourt Hotel, Enniskerry, Co Wicklow
Why: Very swish environs for Fido and the walks on your doorstep include Powerscourt Demesne – the path up to the waterfall is a must.
Bow-wow factor: Luxury all the way, no bringing your own bed or bowl.
How: Rates from €105pps, with a charge of €50 per stay for your pooch.
See: Powerscourthotel.com. Tel: (01) 274 8888
Ballyvolane House, Castlelyons, Co Cork
Why: Dogs will appreciate the rambling grounds, a walk in the wood and splashing in one of the three lakes on the estate.
Bow-wow factor: Your pooch will be welcomed by the friendly and chilled-out doggies of this Hidden Ireland property. Your four-legged friend is also welcome to join you for a spot of glamping in one of Ballyvolane's 'bell tents' or 'pig arcs'.
How: No extra cost for dogs but you need to bring your own dog bed. B&B rates start from €150 for two people glamping and €198 per room in the main house. Very large dogs can be catered for in one of the barns.
See: ballyvolanehouse.ie, hiddenireland.com. Tel: 025 36349