This Thursday, October 1, Ireland's 'Stay and Spend' scheme kicks off.
It's designed to encourage us to get out and visit Ireland's beleaguered hotels, B&Bs and restaurants… and get a 20pc tax rebate in the process. But with an app to download and receipts to file, is it worth it?
A tax credit may not have the appeal of an immediate discount or cash-in-hand, but money is money. Getting a tax rebate next year is the equivalent of finding cash in your coat pocket when you pull it out of the wardrobe. And if you have a pricier staycation in mind - like a family midterm break or Christmas getaway - it's well worth choosing a registered hotel and getting a hefty discount of up to €125pp in the process.
At the time of writing, there were no official numbers on how many businesses have registered for the scheme to date. But listings on the revenue.ie website, where restaurants and accommodation providers can sign up, are growing every day as the launch date looms - with an increasing number of hotels signing up last-minute.
What do hoteliers make of it? "Any initiative that's going to try and enhance demand, we should be part of," says Paul Broderick, general manager of the Pembroke Kilkenny. "It's a good scheme. I just hope that people make the most of its flexibility. My fear is that people will keep their whole spend until next April, and not really stimulate demand."
Restaurants have proven a little more difficult to tempt. Do they think it will work as well for eating out? "Absolutely," says Zoe Ewing-Evans, co-owner of Two Pups Coffee in Dublin. "If people want to treat themselves to a meal out, knowing that they'll ultimately be getting 20pc of the cost back will definitely encourage people to eat out a little more."
Here are some ideas to get you started.
Total cost: €318
Tax saving: €63.60
Where to stay: The Old Ground Hotel has a two-night 'Ennis Gives Extra' package with dinner included on one evening from €159pps. And for the other night's meal? Well, Visit Ennis may just take care of that - it's giving a €40 voucher to the first 10 people to book a two-night stay in one of seven hotels in October (so, 70 vouchers in total). We love its #EverybodyLovesEnnis hashtag, and the voucher can be used in various restaurants and shops in Ennis.
What to eat: If you snag a voucher, go for dinner in Henry's Bistro, where hearty mains like lamb shank and pan-fried hake cost around €20. henrysbistroandwinebar.ie
While you're there: The Burren National Park is just a 15-minute drive away for a hike or an amble around.
Details: oldgroundhotelennis.com; visitennis.com
Total cost: €418
Tax saving: €83.60
Where to stay: After signing up for the Stay and Spend scheme, the Radisson Blu Letterkenny came up with a few packages based on trends staff had spotted since lockdown - some guests were coming for extended stays, using the hotel as a base camp for exploring the wilds of Donegal; some keeping things more local. They have a three-night package with one dinner from €209pps.
What to eat: One dinner is included, and comfort food is king - think mains like fish 'n' chips or chunky burgers (from around €15, if you're not on the package).
While you're there: Drive up to the otherworldly Glenveagh National Park, just a half-hour away, to explore the castle and take a hike along the lakeshore.
Details: (074) 919 4444; radissonhotels.com
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Total cost: €780
Tax saving: €125 solo; €156 for couples/split bills
Where to stay: If you like to hunker down when you're away, Renvyle House is the perfect place to do so. Most guests in the autumn and winter months tend to stay close to home, filling their days with fly-fishing, boating and tennis. Oh, and it's pet-friendly, so you can bring your four- legged friend along if you book in advance. An autumn midweek package offers five nights (including one complimentary night) with breakfast from €390pps.
What to eat: Two dinners are included in the package above, so you can work your way through seasonal delights like Connemara lamb, pan-roasted quail and beetroot mash. Otherwise, a four-course dinner costs €55.
While you're there: Renvyle has an outdoor heated pool for swims or aqua-aerobics, or head out to nearby Killary Fjord for a boat tour.
Details: (095) 46100; renvyle.com
Total cost: €310
Tax saving: €62
Where to stay: Feeling crafty? Maximise your spend by booking a package that includes external activities that wouldn't normally apply to Stay and Spend. The Pembroke Kilkenny has a staycation offer that includes tickets to Kilkenny Castle and one other local heritage site, including Rothe House or St Canice's Cathedral, as well as Tower Smithwick's Visitor Experience once it's reopened. The package costs from €155 in October, including breakfast.
What to eat: Feck it - make the most of your rebate with a Michelin-starred dinner in Lady Helen at Mount Juliet, at €90pp for two courses; mountjuliet.ie
While you're there: Browse around the Butler Gallery and its collection of contemporary art. It's located in the rebooted 19th century Evan's Home. butlergallery.ie
Details: (056) 778 3500; pembrokekilkenny.com
Total cost: €655
Tax saving: €125 solo; €131 for couples/split bills
Where to stay: Aimsir may be the hottest restaurant opening we've seen in recent times, bagging two Michelin stars in its first year. The good news is that it's part of Cliff at Lyons, so if you book the Aimsir Restaurant Overnight Experience (from €655), you'll get a lovely overnight stay combined with the tasting menu in the restaurant. Bookings are like hen's teeth, but the next batch of reservations opens on October 1. So, act fast!
What to eat: The new Aimsir Lounge experience is a chic bar with indoor and outdoor seating, and snacks like Irish cheeses and house-cured meats from €18.50pp.
While you're there: Book into the outdoor thermal experience for a private session in the al fresco sauna and wood-burning hot tub. Or walk along the canal.
Details: (01) 630 3500; cliffatlyons.ie; aimsir.ie
Total cost: €175
Tax saving: €35
Where to stay: You get more bang for your buck outside of typical tourist areas, and Gleesons Townhouse is a great little countryside spot in Roscommon town. The rooms strike a balance between being traditional but without a sense of stuffiness, and the autumnal packages incorporate quirky additions like a whiskey-tasting paddle in the new whiskey bar. Plus, dogs are welcome. Two-night B&B packages with one dinner start from €175.
What to eat: There's a strong emphasis on hearty, home-cooking using the best local ingredients (hello, Roscommon lamb...). If you're dining outside of the special offer, expect mains to cost from €16 to €25.
While you're there: Take a complimentary bike for a cycle on one of Roscommon's bike trails.
Details: (090) 662 6954; gleesonstownhouse.com
Total cost: €625
Tax saving: €125
Where to stay: One of the few properties (so far, at least) to create a package specifically around the Stay and Spend scheme, Co Clare's Doolin Inn has launched 'Double it in Doolin', which includes a complimentary €125 gift voucher for the inn upon departure, to be used either by yourself at a later date or to be given to a friend. The package itself is jam-packed, too - it includes a three-night stay with breakfast, two four-course dinners and a rather jazzy Burren cheese plate with wine in your room upon arrival, from €625 for two people.
What to eat: If you spot the warm smoked Burren trout on the menu, snap it up. If dining beyond the package, mains at Anthony's restaurant cost from €18 to €26.
While you're there: The package includes two tickets to the Cliffs of Moher, so that's one day's activity sorted.
Details: (065) 707 4421; doolininn.ie
Total cost: €1,200 (accommodation)
Tax saving: €125 solo; €240 for couples/split bills
Where to stay: Splitting a swish self-catering property between friends can work out to your advantage, if you make sure the bill is separated and you claim the rebate on individual receipts. The historic Fanningstown Castle sleeps up to 10 and is regal countryside living at its finest, with roaring fires, period features and an excellent kitchen that combines farmhouse vibes with modern appliances. Rent the whole place for three nights from €1,200.
What to eat: Nip around to Adare Manor for dinner at the Michelin-star Oak Room restaurant. A three-course menu is priced from €100pp; adaremanor.com
While you're there: Visit the one-of-a-kind Foynes Flying Boat Museum nearby. flyingboatmuseum.com
Details: (061) 395 989; fanningstowncastle.com
Total cost: €625
Tax saving: €125
Where to stay: The Blue Book's Killarney Royal Hotel has an Autumn Adventures Staycation package that will take care of your total spend in one swoop, with €625 buying three nights in a deluxe room for two, full breakfast each morning, tea and scones in the lobby on arrival, afternoon tea on one day and dinner on two evenings in either The Candle Room Restaurant or The Royal Bistro. Phew!
What to eat: Make the most of the local seafood and tuck into Dingle Bay crab or smoked salmon from Kenmare. If dining outside the package, mains on the hotel's Royal Bar & Bistro menu range from €14-€16.
While you're there: Head out for a walk in the Gap of Dunloe and, if you have any spend left (and can get your order to the €25 mark), Kate Kearney's Cottage is also registered.
Details: (01) 676 9914; irelandsbluebook.com
Total cost: €590
Tax saving: €118
Where to stay: Dunfanaghy is one hell of a backdrop, so a property has to be pretty special to outshine its surroundings. Breac House does just that - a modernist build that's still homely and welcoming. The rooms come with a private outdoor space and huge windows with views of the stunning Horn Head. Each corner of the guesthouse seems to be blessed with beautiful design notes, like locally-woven tweed throws or oak window seats. The rest of this year is fully booked, but rates in 2021 are €295 per night (with a two-night minimum stay required).
What to eat: It's not yet registered with the scheme, but the wood-fired pizzas (from €12) in The Rusty Oven are fabulous, with toppings like caramelised pear and walnut.
While you're there: Head up to the peak of Horn Head, or walk to Trá Mór for fresh air and incredible views.
Details: (074) 913 6940, breac.house
Total cost: €300
Tax saving: €60
Where to stay: Dublin breaks are a little uncertain at the moment, but when the city returns to the looser restrictions of Level 2 (soon, we hope!), The Wilder Townhouse is a great shout for a peaceful city getaway. It's in a central location just a stone's throw from the Iveagh Gardens, but tucked away on a quiet street so you're not plagued with road noise. And the building, a Victorian redbrick townhouse with a quirky and super-stylish interior, is an absolute beaut. The Fall on the Wilder Side package includes one night's B&B and two cocktails for €150.
What to eat: Head around to The Greenhouse for a blow-out, two-Michelin-starred lunch starting from €75pp - the autumnal truffled grouse is life-changing; thegreenhouserestaurant.ie
While you're there: Head to the newish Museum of Literature Ireland, just a few minutes away; moli.ie
Details: (01) 969 6598; thewilder.ie
Total cost: €568
Tax saving: €113.60
Where to stay: Gregans Castle Hotel is the perfect spot for an autumn walking holiday. You can spend your days roaming the great outdoors, making the most of the impossibly pretty blue skies and nippy air, before returning back to the cosy hotel and eating all around you. It's running a midweek 'Refuge and Burren Walk' package this autumn and winter, which includes two nights with breakfast, a six-course dinner and a guided Burren walk with local farmer Shane Connolly, from €284pps. There are some dog-friendly rooms available, if you enquire in advance, too.
What to eat: You're in for a treat in Gregans - with dishes from head chef Robbie McCauley like Aran Island monkfish with cauliflower and salsify, or East Clare rabbit. If you're not on a package rate, set menus start from €79.
While you're there: Pay a visit to the Burren Perfumery, for a scent that'll remind you of your holiday.
Details: (065) 707 7005; gregans.ie
Total cost: €890
Tax saving: €125 solo; €178 for couples/split bills
Where to stay: This year has been pretty awful. So why not finish on a high note and celebrate Christmas in style? And there's no place as magical as The Shelbourne at Christmas. Between the gigantic tree, the twinkling lights and the festive flowers, even the Scroogiest of souls will be converted. And if you're bringing the kids along, there might just be a special visit from the big man himself… The Christmas one-night stay starts at €445pps.
What to eat: The package includes a five-course Christmas lunch or dinner in The Saddle Room, which means not only will your turkey be impeccable but you won't have to even think about the washing-up. If you're not on a package, the usual set menu costs €59 for three courses.
While you're there: Take a walk along Grafton Street on Christmas Day... or prep for the Stephen's Day sales.
Details: (01) 663 4500; theshelbourne.com
Total cost: €610
Tax saving: €122
Where to stay: Some fabulous hotels in Kerry are already registered with the scheme (as well as some great restaurants), so a mini-break in the Kingdom would be an excellent idea. The Europe makes for a luxurious getaway, with a killer spa and unbeatable setting overlooking the Lakes of Killarney. It has a two-night package including a swish dinner in the Panorama Restaurant as well as complimentary indoor tennis and horseriding, from €610.
What to eat: Nab some oysters in the restaurant, if only to try the quirky yuzu and chilli dressing. If you're not on a package, mains range from €20 to €37 here.
While you're there: Drive out to Killarney National Park for a walk... it's unusually free of tourists.
Details: (064) 667 1300; theeurope.com
Total cost: €470
Tax saving: €94
Where to stay: Kinsale is another hot spot in the Stay and Spend scheme, with plenty of local guesthouses and restaurants signed up. Make a base at the Blue Haven Kinsale and you can snag a bargain in the autumn and winter months - its 'Golf, Dine and Stay' offer starts at €235pps and includes a gourmet evening meal and golf at the famously beautiful Old Head Golf Links.
What to eat: Make the most of the views at the Old Head Golf Links and grab a meal there after your round - it's not included in the scheme, but it's a stunner of a spot. Mains in the restaurant cost from €15 to €18.
While you're there: Rent a stand-up paddle board for the gentle waves at Kinsale Beach.
Details: (021) 477 2209; bluehavenkinsale.com
Total cost: €360 (accommodation)
Tax saving: €72
Where to stay: If you're heading away with the kids, every little bit helps. The Ferrycarrig Hotel has some great packages for midterm, starting at €360 for two nights, which includes accommodation in a family-size room overlooking the River Slaney, and access to the playground and swimming pool (though bear in mind, time slots will have to be booked for the foreseeable future).
What to eat: Keep things simple in the hotel's Reeds Restaurant. Dinner isn't included in this package, but mains on the nightly bar menu range from around €15 to €24 - you can claim for this too.
While you're there: Pop over to explore 9,000 years of history at the Irish National Heritage Park. irishheritage.ie
Details: (053) 912 0999; ferrycarrighotel.ie
Total cost: €356
Tax saving: €71.20
Where to stay: With possibly the best views of any Galway hotel, the Galmont Hotel strikes that perfect balance between city and seaside. It has some great offers for the slower months, including an 'Autumn Dine Staycation' including two nights' B&B and one dinner in Marinas Restaurant from €178 per night. And while the thermal suite is currently closed, the spa is open for treatments, so you can pop in for an Elemis Biotec facial while you're there.
What to eat: The Dough Bros (above) are part of Stay and Spend, so pick up a couple of Peter Stinger pizzas and a garlic firebread for €27.50; thedoughbros.ie
While you're there: Get some sea air with a walk along the Salthill prom (and a dip in the sea if you're brave).
Details: (091) 538 300; thegalmont.com
Tax saving: €70
Where to stay: If it's luxury you're after, you can't go wrong with the InterContinental Dublin. There are some great offers, with a three-course dinner included from €350. If you want a little more flexibility, the Magical Moments package (from €279) includes a bottle of Prosecco on arrival, a full (decadent) breakfast and, crucially, a late checkout of 2pm, so you can take your time lazing around in the morning or avail of your 10pc discount in the spa.
What to eat: Seasons Restaurant is exceptional, with Irish classics like Lambay crab and Skeaghanore duck. If you're not on a package, two-course set menus start from €40.
While you're there: The Terrace Garden is a beaut, so factor in a stroll or a sit-down with an al fresco coffee.
Details: (01) 665 4000; intercontinentaldublin.ie
Tax saving: €125 solo; €154 for couples/split bills
Where to stay: If you fancy a cosy winter getaway, Ballyvolane House is a great shout. You can curl up by the fire with a good book, stomp around through the fallen leaves and sink into a hot bath with an ice-cold G&T (Bertha's Revenge gin is made right on site). This Bed and Bertha package includes two nights and two dinners, breakfast (served until noon) and a bottle of gin to take home.
What to eat: The menu here is all about homely, comforting food - think roasts, game and homegrown vegetables. Expect plenty of foraged ingredients, too.
While you're there: There are some great trails that start on the estate and loop around to Ballymacsimon.
Details: (025) 36349; ballyvolanehouse.ie
Cost: €349 (accommodation)
Tax saving: €69.80
Where to stay: Right on the grounds of Westport House Estate, Hotel Westport is ideal for families. Head away during midterm and you can make the most of the Haunted House in the basement of Westport House, before booking a slot in the pool for a splash-around. The two-night Halloween offer starts at €349, with kids under three free; older kids between €25 and €35 per night. Kicking off on November 1, the town's Winter Wonderland will look slightly different this year, but will still be filled with the festive spirit kids adore. Staying at the hotel will get you exclusive access and a bonus trip to Tinsel Town the following day, plus you get to travel to and from there on the Winter Wonderland Express Train.
What to eat: It's not included in the package rate, but dinner in the restaurant starts at €35 for four course. There's also a pop-up restaurant on Friday and Saturday nights run by the chef from Cian's in Westport.
While you're there: Rent some bikes and cycle around the bike paths on Westport Estate - ideal for little legs.
Details: (098) 25122; hotelwestport.ie
You can find all of the registered businesses on Revenue's website here.
You can search by county, which is handy if you want to head to one city or region for a break. New additions are popping up daily, and registered businesses will sport a snazzy window sticker from October 1.
1. Two Pups, Dublin €
You don’t need to spend big to make the most of the scheme — every little bit helps. When Dublin’s restriction ease, make a beeline for Two Pups and order a slap-up brunch feast of loaded French toast, avo and eggs along with excellent coffee and sweet treats for afterwards. Mains from €8-€12. facebook.com/twopupscoffee
2. BuJo, Dublin €
Offering some of the best burgers in the city, this spot out in Sandymount is a must-visit, especially if you’ve got teenagers in tow. Its regular specials include top-notch artisan ingredients (think smoked applewood cheese and home-made sriracha) and they also do great vegan burgers, if that’s your thing. Burgers from €8.50, and the thick milkshakes are the stuff of legend. bujo.ie
3. Eithna’s by the Sea, Co Sligo €€
Out in gorgeous Mullaghmore, Eithna O’Sullivan (above) whizzes up the best local seafood in a brightly painted bistro in the harbour. Expect all the classics, like fat, meaty lobsters dripping in garlic butter, or platters heaving with crab claws, prawns and mussels, along with quirky touches such as seaweed bread and wild garlic pesto (mains from €25). eithnasrestaurant.com
4. Tartare, Galway €€
There’s a casual vibe to this café and wine bar, but that doesn’t mean the food is anything less than spectacular. Opt for the Tartare Feast (€45pp) and you’ll be in for a serious treat, with a huge array of dishes put before you, like oysters, beef tartare, venison and mussels. tartaregalway.ie
5. Canteen Marlin, Dublin €€€
Another big opening for the city —Dublin foodies are going bonkers for the new spot from top chef James Sheridan (see page 22). It has a great-value early bird, but if you want to go all out, then the tasting menu (€65pp) pulls out all the stops. Think salt-aged Feighcullen duck and cod braised in seaweed butter. Plus, you can eat al fresco in the luxurious (heated) terrace area. marlinhotel.ie
6. The House, Co Waterford €€€
Probably the only Michelin-starred restaurant in Ireland with a view so stunning it’ll make you weep, the restaurant in the Cliff House Hotel, in Ardmore is a masterclass in pure pleasure. There’s a strong emphasis on seafood, and you can gaze out over the sea as course after course appears in front of you, each delicately beautiful and singing with flavour. cliffhousehotel.ie
What is it?
'Stay and Spend' is a new scheme that allows taxpayers claim back 20pc of their spend on accommodation, food and non-alcoholic drink in hotels, restaurants and other qualifying businesses.
When does it start?
The scheme runs from October 1 to April 30.
How much do I have to spend?
You have to spend at least €25 per transaction to qualify for the 20pc tax rebate. You can spend up to a maximum of €625 (including VAT) over the lifetime of the scheme - getting up to €125 back in tax credits. For married couples who are jointly assessed, the maximum spend is a total of €1,250 (i.e. giving €250 in tax credits). Couples who are not jointly assessed must claim as individuals.
So how do I claim?
Proof of spend has to be verified with receipts. Taxpayers can download the Revenue Receipts Tracker mobile app and upload photos of receipts up to the €625 cap. You get the credit back the year after the expenditure - so in 2021, at the earliest.
Do you have to be a taxpayer?
You need a PPS number to claim - ie there must be an income tax or USC liability against which the tax credit can be set. Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe says up to 2.7 million people will be able to avail of the scheme, but many unemployed, those on low wages, pensioners and others on State benefits are likely to miss out.
What if a bill is split between friends?
If claiming separately, be sure to get individual receipts that show the share you spent - and upload the receipt.
How can I check if a hotel or restaurant has signed-up?
Revenue has a list of participating businesses by county here. Businesses should also display the logo, and you can expect to see more offers in the coming days and weeks.
Any other tips?
Only food and accommodation expenditure qualify for the scheme, so don't budget for claiming back on services liks spa treatments. Alcohol is not included, but you can claim for non-alcoholic drinks. staying in a hotel? Charge it all to your room so you have fewer receipts to upload!
NB: All prices based on two people sharing and subject to availability and change. Drinks, tips and extras not included in the total prices. Always check the latest Covid-19 guidelines and policies before travel.