The #IndoFab50 is here!
The 2018 tourism season kicks off this weekend, and we’re launching the Fab 50 — a new annual list of the best places to stay in Ireland.
Yes, we’ve got lists coming out our ears these days, but this is different.
After years of recession, when accommodation all over the island put the most basic upgrades on ice, we’re seeing a wave of refurbs and new openings.
To celebrate, we’ve developed a ‘live’ edit that favours new arrivals and properties that continue to evolve and improve (be it a bottom-up refurb, or a brilliant new menu).
That means the list will change from year to year, avoid the usual suspects (unless they’re thrilling us anew, of course) and leave room for the unsung heroes of Irish hospitality, from B&Bs to campsites. It’s also in no particular order.
What does it take to make the cut?
First off, the Fab 50 is a distinctly Irish list. We want that to shine through in the design, stewardship and food provenance of our picks.
It’s also about award-winners that are at the top of their game, places we believe will define and inspire the Irish short break in 2018.
Most importantly, this list is not gathered via Google. It’s an expert edit compiled with trusted writers who have visited and spoken to every inclusion.
What do you think of our picks? There are thousands of places to stay in Ireland — narrowing it down to 50 was a fraught task!
Share your thoughts on Twitter with the hashtag #IndoFab50.
Where: Caragh Lake, Co Kerry.
Why: It’s the pitch-perfect country pile. Squirrelled away down bohareens draped in leaves, this exquisite arts and crafts-style house is a little sister to The Europe and Dunloe Castle, but its detail — dating from 1913 and lavishly restored — trumps both. Think oak wainscoting and casement windows with views over Caragh Lake... perhaps enjoyed with a Dingle Gin from the honesty bar (careful, now). The Edwardian gardens have just finished an extensive two-year enhancement, with consultant Daphne Shackleton. Heads up... it re-opens April 23. — Pól Ó Conghaile
Insider Tip: Pay the premium for a superior, garden-view room in the main house (fired-earth roll-top bath, anyone?).
Details: 066 976 9105; ardnasidhe.com; B&B from €210 per room.
Where: Horn Head, Co Donegal
Why: You know those sleek, curated homes that grace the pages of glossy interiors magazines? With swathes of sunlight and swoon-worthy furnishings? That’s Breac.House. Designed by MacGabhann Architects, its three rooms boast terraces overlooking the sea, kitted out with the best in Irish design — think pottery from Muck ’n’ Muffins, bespoke oak furniture and picnic backpacks from Atlantic Equipment Project. This is the kind of house you’d have if you had no kids/pets/slovenly co-habitants... an interior aficionado’s dream come true. — Nicola Brady
Insider Tip: Don’t miss cocktail hour at 5pm — drinks are mixed up with seasonal shrubs and Irish gins.
Details: 074 913 6940; breac.house; rooms from €225.
Where: Finn Lough, Co Fermanagh.
Why: Spend the night in one of Finn Lough’s Bubble Domes and you’ll be gazing out at the woods, the lake and the stars from your bed. Inside, the décor is chic, with solid four-posters, cool armchairs and, in some, a bathtub. Yep — you can take a bath among the birds and the trees. They’ve just added a new ‘Elements Trail’ spa experience, combining saunas, flotation, salt scrubs and outdoor hot tub, all from an incredible forest location. — NB
Insider Tip: Wear an eye mask if you’re staying in the summer — unless you want a sunrise wake-up, of course.
Details: +44 28 683 80360; finnlough.com; domes from £225/€252.
Where: Patrick St, Kilkenny.
Why: In recent years, Kilkenny Castle’s former Dower House had begun to tire. Step into Butler House (pictured) today, however, and it blooms. An elegant tea room is open for lunch and afternoon tea; there’s a sultry basement bar; sensitive painting and soft furnishings allow the original Adams plasterwork to pop. There are splashes of art from Louis le Brocquy, a new hospitality manager in Deirdre Keating (ex-Dromoland Castle), and the Lady Eleanor Suite, with bay window overlooking 18th-century gardens and remnants of Nelson’s Pillar, is the first of 14 rooms to be revamped. Best of all, Kilkenny Civic Trust — which owns the historic house — is only getting started. — PÓC
Insider Tip: Coeliac? The restaurant has a fully gluten-free lunch menu (on request), including a GF rhubarb and apple crumble (€6.50).
Details: 056 772 2828; butler.ie; B&B from €135-€185 per room midweek, and €170 to €300 at weekends.
Where: Killarney, Co Kerry.
Why: One of the most eagerly anticipated re-openings of 2018 follows a stonking, €6 million renovation. With thoughtful antiques (beautiful writing desks with vintage telephones) and cool new touches (the old cellar now makes up the back of the bar), the hotel looks like pulling off a great style. “I think all areas will feel fresher while retaining a special feel of this historic house — it will still have the odd squeaky floorboard, the reception is an antique banker’s desk and there are plenty of ghost stories still to be told!” says GM Emer Corridan. — NB
Insider Tip: The Herbert Suite is a dream, with sash windows, high ceilings and a massive freestanding bath.
Details: 064 663 1895; cahernane.com; from €120.
Where: Urlingford, Co Kilkenny.
Why: “I was completely shocked,” Eileen Joyce tells me, cradling a cup of tea in her living room. Last May, B&B Ireland named her farmhouse Irish B&B of the year, and nobody was more surprised than her. “We are just a very ordinary Irish family.” But that’s exactly what overseas visitors (90pc of her guests) come to experience. Springview’s old-fashioned rooms and décor won’t be to everyone’s taste, but the dairy farm setting, slap-up breakfasts and homely chats just might. There’s a charm here that wraps you up like a slowly warming sitting room, and if that doesn’t reel you in, Eileen’s beautifully airy scones surely will. “Sure, I don’t even measure what goes into them any more,” she demurs. — PÓC
Insider Tip: Ask for Room 3, with the skylight.
Details: 056 883 1243; springviewbb.com; B&B from €30-€38pp, with children at a 50pc discount.
Where: Slieve League Peninsula, Co Donegal.
Why: “In winter’s deepest, darkest days, where should you go to unwind? To a working lighthouse in Donegal, of course.” Those are the words of Mark Keenan, Irish Independent Property Editor, who stayed at the restored, 200-year-old lighthouse keeper’s cottages at St John’s Point in Donegal. Over a couple of days, he caught his own pollock, strolled on empty beaches, and slept beneath the historic marine beacon sentinel. It’s just one of several lighthouse campuses you can now stay in, thanks to the Irish Landmark Trust’s Great Lighthouses of Ireland project (greatlighthouses.com). — PÓC
Insider Tip: Bring the telescope — if clouds part, you’ll be treated to beautifully clear constellations.
Details: 01 670 4733; irishlandmark.com; two nights from €471 in low season.
Where: Duncannon, Co Wexford.
Why: Is this the best-value B&B+D bundle on the island? Billy Whitty and Joanne Harding’s guesthouse is a tidy, three-roomed, pine-heavy affair near Duncannon, but food is where it comes into its own. A midweek tasting menu might start with a locally caught crab cocktail, before proceeding to, say, a monkfish tempura or slow-cooked lamb rump — all for €35, the price of a main in some city restaurants. Billy is the chef (he’s up early to do breakfast too), Joanne the chatty host, and their guesthouse is the ideal base for exploring the Hook Peninsula. — PÓC
Insider Tip: Try the smoked butter chips. Or the Parmesan truffle chips. And leave room for pud.
Details: 051 389116; aldridgelodge.com; dinner, B&B from €85pp midweek and €90pp at weekends.
Where: Aran Islands, Co Galway.
Why: It could fit any number of categories. Room with a view? Check. Fabulous food? Check. The destination Darina Allen once dubbed “my favourite place to stay in the world” is like Fäviken via the Father Ted opening credits. Ruairí and Marie-Thérèse de Blacam make art out of pure local produce, and their dining room and suites offer stunning views over an Aran Islands moonscape. New for 2018 are a fruit garden, armchairs upholstered with natural felt wool, and a host of Irish language links (check out Scrabble as Gaeilge) for Bliain na Gaeilge. “The whole point is to slow down and take it all in,” as Marie-Thérèse says. That could be a manifesto. — PÓC
Insider Tip: Book ahead. The suites are now entirely booked out for 2018!
Details: Two-night ‘exploration’ rates from €560. The island dinner costs €73pp (inismeain.com).
Where: Kinsale, Co Cork.
Why: The Old Bank House is Georgina Campbell’s Guesthouse of the Year 2018. Georgina herself dubs it a “well-managed boutique guesthouse” and “an exceptionally convenient and pleasant place to stay”, and we’re inclined to agree. Its 17 rooms have a calm and sleek style, without the chintz that some guesthouses are plagued by — think antique furniture but muted, block colours. It’s the perfect, affordable base for exploring (and eating your way around) Ireland’s original foodie town. — NB
Insider Tip: Bring a sweet tooth — you’ll be met with homemade cookies on arrival, and the in-house bakery serves up treats all day, every day.
Details: 021 477 4075; oldbankhousekinsale.com; rooms from €89 on a B&B basis.
Where: Cloverhill, Co Cavan.
Why: Ireland should copyright its dynamic foodie duos — crack teams like Paul and Máire of The Tannery in Dungarvan, Henry and Stephanie at Clonegal’s Sha-Roe Bistro, or Derry and Sallyanne at l’Ecrivain. Gearóid and Tara Lynch bring the mix of creative Irish cooking and polished hospitality to Cavan. Coeliacs, pay special note — Gearóid was diagnosed in 2013, and rebooted his menu (from spring lamb with stuffing to sticky toffee puddings) as a gluten-free dream. Six double rooms will be freshened up again this summer. — PÓC
Insider Tip: Pick up a copy of Gearóid’s My Gluten-Free Kitchen, and bring all that yumminess home.
Details: 047 55555; oldepostinn.com; B&B from €65pp.
Where: Bearna, Co Galway.
Why: Ten years ago, I could see this Bearna bolthole, built as a concept aparthotel during the Celtic Tiger, going out of business. Over the past decade, however, GM Fergus O’Halloran has turned it into one of the best foodie getaways in the west. They grow herbs in the car park. They have an in-house bakery and pizzeria. They have photos of their suppliers on the steps to West, Martin O’Donnell’s excellent restaurant. A pride in its locality, staff that have blossomed with the hotel, and a big community buy-in have helped make it Georgina Campbell’s Hotel of the Year for 2018. — PÓC
Insider Tip: Ask Fergus or Mathieu to recommend glasses of wine to match the tasting menu at West.
Details: 091 597000; thetwelvehotel.ie; B&B from €99, or two nights with dinner from €268 per room.
Where: Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare.
Why: It’s been on foodie wishlists for years, but bookings at Aidan and Kate McGrath’s Wild Honey Inn are set to soar since it won a Michelin star last year for its “robust and confident cooking”. That was Ireland’s only new star for 2017, and the first ever granted to an Irish pub. Forget fancy, intimidating restaurants. This is a warm, welcoming and surprisingly affordable inn dishing up food you’ll be dreaming of for months. The rooms are simple but, after a feast like this, all you want is a bed in which to rub your belly and wait for breakfast. — NB
Insider Tip: Burn those calories with a walking weekend in May — guided walks, meals and B&B from €260pps.
Details: 065 7074300; wildhoneyinn.com; dinner from €50 for three courses; B&B from €135.
Where: Smithfield, Dublin.
Why: Hostels don’t have to be dingy, drab and soulless. Dublin’s Generator is sleek, stylish and gloriously practical — every bed has multiple plug sockets, night-lights and crisp white linen. The private rooms are reasonably priced, while larger dorm-style rooms are great for groups (one even has an in-suite Jacuzzi). Downstairs, you’ll find a buzzing bar complete with a cool whiskey bottle chandelier, and a cinema room where screenings of movies and matches are held. All this for less than the price of a round. — NB
Insider Tip: Book direct on the website and you’ll nab a wrist band offering 20pc off local attractions, including the Jameson Distillery next door.
Details: 01 901 0222; generatorhostels.com; rooms from €50, dorms from €14pp.
Where: Loop Head, Co Clare.
Why: If you’ve tried (and failed) to put up your own tent on a family holiday, consider having everything done for you. At Pure Camping, Trea and Kevin Heapes have three luxurious and furnished bell tents, each sleeping four and kitted out with deck and campfire. There are furnished wooden cabins, too — one of which is new this year. “Families usually come to us from the city,” says Trea. “People who have no time to spend with each other, who are surrounded by concrete and buildings and cars. They want to get away from all that… and the dirtier their children get, the better!” — NB
Insider Tip: ‘Mind Your Mind’ is one of a series of new Wellness Weekends, with meditation and yoga included.
Details: 065 905 7953; purecamping.ie; from €60.
Where: Achill Island, Co Mayo.
Why: When you want to get away from it all, there’s nowhere quite like Achill. But if you want to delve right into the action, then Pure Magic is the place to be. These guys offer a multitude of activities for adrenaline junkies, from SUP to kitesurfing, but you don’t have to partake in anything in order to stay at the lodge. Share a pizza and a glass of wine, enjoy a game of pool or strum on a guitar... it does what it says on the tin. — NB
Insider Tip: Order the Wild Atlantic Way Pizza, which comes topped with Achill smoked salmon. Delish.
Details: 098 43859; puremagic.ie; rooms from €70.
Where: Kenmare, Co Kerry.
Why: When I first heard John Brennan (of the Park Hotel Kenmare and At Your Service) was doing luxury glamping, I thought it would go one of two ways. 1) A triumph. 2) A damp squib. Thankfully, it’s the former, with John bringing his savvy, optimism and attention to detail to one of the island’s best glamping getaways. This May, things go up another gear with the launch of three ‘Hideaways’ on a cliff overlooking Kenmare Bay. Expect antiques, bathrobes, books, Voya toiletries and ‘king-size Wilderness Beds’ with five-star mattresses and goosedown duvets. These ain’t no ordinary tents… — PÓC
Insider Tip: There’s a BBQ area with a campfire, if you fancy doing a gentle Bear Grylls on it.
Details: 064 664-2888; dromquinnamanor.com; double tents w/ breakfast from €150; hideaways from €350.
Where: Upper Salthill, Galway.
Why: Since I stayed at the Nest, one abiding memory has distilled to the surface. Sure, I appreciate its hipster aesthetic. Yes, there are basic-but-smart rooms, fresh pastries from Petit Délice, and a cool communal space where you can mingle before a dive into a city. But most of all, I remember the service. A receptionist met everyone with a breezy blend of efficiency and set-you-at-your-ease attitude, offering sweets before directing me to my room. Simple things, done well. — PÓC
Insider Tip: There’s a vending machine that sells padlocks and O’Donnell’s crisps. Devil in the details!
Details: 091 450 944; thenestaccommodation.com. Rates from €20pp in a dorm sleeping six; ensuite doubles from €40 to €86; 5pc off if you call or email direct.
Where: Drimoleague, West Cork.
Why: Is your life a constant battle to pry phones away from your kids? Well, at this ‘Pod Páirc’ in the wilds of West Cork, you might just win. “One of the key things that parents say about us is that we manage to get them off their devices,” owner David Ross tells me. “There’s so much to see and to do in terms of activities, and I think that is one of the most important factors to our success.” There are seven pods in total, rustic and simple, but endlessly charming. — NB
Insider Tip: A new Farm Hands programme on a Saturday morning allows guests to feed baby animals, gather eggs and go on a hay ride.
Details: 086 173 5134; topoftherock.ie; pods from €55.
Where: Ballilogue, Co Kilkenny.
Why: Ballilogue is a collection of restored cottages in the wilds of Kilkenny, and its owners worked with Irish architect Mark Guard on a restoration that oozes taste — from Patrick Scott artwork to Voya toiletries and Celtsius ceramics. You can book houses individually, or as a group, and new additions include a design and craft shop where guests can buy the homewares and accessories experienced on a stay — think Studio Donegal double-faced wool blankets or Gareth Irwin’s wooden bowels and spoons. — PÓC
Insider Tip: Private dining? Chef Mijke Jansen can cater for small groups or larger parties of up to 28 people. They’ll do grocery shopping, too.
Details: Three cottages sleep up to 22; ballilogue.com. Prices from €390 per house (two-night minimum).
Where: Blessingbourne, Co Fermanagh.
Why: There’s a lot going on in Blessingbourne, from mountain bike trails sneaking through the estate to peacocks roaming the grounds. Accommodation is in converted stables (you can bring your horse along with you, as well as your dog), but the real stunner is the five-star Gate Lodge, with plush sofas, a well-equipped kitchen and a super toasty wood-burner. Blessingbourne scooped a top prize at the Northern Ireland Tourism Awards in 2017 — there’ll be more on the horizon. — NB
Insider Tip: Scoot a mile out the road to pick up some proper chips from Edfield for your dinner.
Details: +44 28 8952 1188; blessingbourne.com; apartments from £120/€134.
Where: Glencolmcille, Co Donegal.
Why: Did you watch Lord of the Rings and find yourself envying the lives of the hobbits? Live out your fantasies in Donegal (hairy feet optional). The CroPod is the perfect hobbit-hole, complete with grass roof frequently trampled over by sheep. It’s compact, yes, but filled with light and home to everything you’d need for a proper getaway, far from the outside world. The owner, Greg Stevenson, is also the founder of holiday rental company Under the Thatch, where you’ll find similarly amazing properties including his newly renovated Beach Byre. — NB
Insider Tip: The nearest village is 15 minutes away, so make sure you arrive with a fridge worth of treats.
Details: +44 844 5005 101; underthethatch.co.uk/cropod; three-night weekend from £251/€285.
Where: Ardfield, Co Cork.
Why: Get ready to tune in, turn on and drop out at this sweet, self-catering bolthole set 10km from Clonakilty. Dunowen was once home to Noel Redding, bass player with The Jimi Hendrix Experience, and tantalising mementoes range from rock auction catalogues to framed covers of Hot Press featuring his name in biro. You can book private catering from €40pp for dinner parties, and a new addition for 2018 is a vintage afternoon tea menu (€20pp), with treats like smoked salmon and dill mini muffins. It sleeps up to 18 across six rooms, but you can combine Orchard House, a three-bed cottage in the walled garden, for a group of up to 23 (rates from €250 for two nights). — PÓC
Insider Tip: Bag a room with a standalone bath!
Details: 023 886 9099; dunowenhouse.ie; from €750 per night (two-night min.); weekly rates from €2,800.
Where: Gorey, Co Wexford.
Why: Marlfield House isn’t new. Far from it. This Regency period house brings centuries of charm to its 19 rooms (along with oodles of Blue Book opulence). What is new, however, is the inspired flip of a coach house, potting shed and gardener’s tool shed into the sublime Duck Terrace Restaurant overlooking the kitchen garden. Seasonal menus are delicious (try the duck confit in autumn, or the ‘beaky bit’ sharing boards any time). Also new is the Duck Lodge, a two-bedroom cottage with open fire, minibars, open-plan kitchen and living room. We’re lovin’ the bold artwork in the bedrooms. — PÓC
Insider Tip: Night in? Order up room service from the Conservatory or Duck restaurants to your door.
Details: 053 948 1124; marlfieldhouse.com; dinner, B&B from €199pp. The lodge sleeps four from €122pps.
Where: Woodford, Co Galway.
Why: Is there a sight more synonymous with quaint country living than a thatched cottage? These gorgeous little homes are the epitome of rural fantasy, but surprisingly hard to find. Enter Daisy Cottage. This beaut was voted best cottage in Ireland by Sykes Cottages, and it’s not hard to see why. The interior is sweet without being fussy, and the pretty patio is perfect for sundowners. And 2019 will see the launch of a new barn conversion — you heard it here first! — NB
Insider Tip: Take a picnic on the cottage’s own powder blue rowboat, and your countryside dream is complete.
Details: 090 974 9859; thehumbledaisy.com; rental from €500.
Where: Shillelagh, Co Carlow.
Why: Drive down the rambling lane to this 18th-century hideaway, and feel the Real World peel away with the rolling Carlow countryside. Lakeen is a Georgian period pile, but it feels both elegant and easy (there’s a table tennis table next to the sitting room, and we didn’t feel afraid to play the piano). It plays like a working family home, in other words, and groups will quickly sprawl around its seven rooms and lounges. A one-bed cottage with underfloor heating has just been added, boosting the capacity to around 19 people. — PÓC
Insider Tip: Spot of golf or cycling? Lakeen gets reduced rates at nearby Rathsallagh Golf & Country Club.
Details: Exclusive rental from €800 per night (two-night minimum). Book on ownersdirect.co.uk or airbnb.ie.
Where: Bushmills, Co Antrim.
Why: Bushmills is on the radar now that Lonely Planet has tipped the Causeway Coast as the world’s top region to visit in 2018. The village has a brand-new accommodation option too, thanks to this ‘Maison’, which opened last year. Owned by The French Rooms restaurant, it’s a gorgeous townhouse overlooking the River Bush, with a Gallic-chic charm. The two bedrooms come with freestanding baths, antiques and cute touches like peekaboo shutters between the bedroom and bathroom (so someone can top up your glass of bubbly when you’re in the bath). — NB
Insider Tip: Rent the second room, so you can head up with a couple of friends and take the whole house.
Details: +44 28 2073 0033; thefrenchrooms.com; rooms from £108/€123.
Where: Gorey, Co Wexford.
Why: Winner of Ireland’s top family-friendly hotel in our Reader Travel Awards 2018, Amber Springs keeps innovating and investing. Alongside mini golf, a petting farm, train ride, go-karting, kids’ club, playzone, virtual reality games room, football, pool and falconry, it recently opened Ireland’s first family suites, comprising a large master bedroom with internal bunk-bed den that sleeps four children. Aside from larger families, it’s a cosy way to keep the family together on hols. Add in good food, helpful staff and local beaches, and you’re guaranteed an excellent value break. — Jillian Bolger
Insider Tip: The kids will love the pizzeria, but line up a babysitter so adults can dine at FARM Steakhouse, serving dry-aged Angus beef from the owners’ farm.
Details: 053 94 84000; ambersprings.ie; B&B from €89 per room, or €125 for two adults and two kids.
Where: Spanish Point, Co Clare.
Why: We love a hotel that keeps evolving, and the Armada Hotel does exactly that. It redeveloped bedrooms in January with cute touches like mini furniture for kids and feature bathtubs. Food-wise, it’s got a butcher on site, its own farm nearby and locally harvested seaweed on the menu. My tip? Make the most of the seaside location with a seaview room, or soak it up in the Ocean Bar and Bistro, with its cool nautical touches and lobster pots hanging from the ceiling. — NB
Insider Tip: Do the cliff walk and get brunch — try the Burren smoked salmon with poached eggs and avocado.
Details: 065 707 9000; armadahotel.com; from €110.
Where: Tralee, Co Kerry.
Why: 2018 marks the 60th year in business for Ballygarry House. Padraig McGillicuddy is the third generation of the family at the helm. “What makes us stand out is our staff,” he tells me. “We have many long-serving members who are here since the 1970s. They’re an integral part of helping the next generation understand what true customer care is.” Throw in lots of fresh flowers, nooks and crannies to hibernate in, a new Restaurant 58 (the grandfather clock once belonged to granddad Gene) the Nádúr Spa and you’re away. — NB
Insider Tip: Borrow a pair of wellies for a stomp around the woods — there are free bikes available, too.
Details: 066 712 3322; ballygarryhouse.com; from €140.
Where: Lough Eske, Co Donegal.
Why: A longtime favourite of Irish holidaymakers, Harvey’s Point has a reputation of solid gold. It’s not hard to see why — TLC, attention to detail and a family-run ethos that nails the personal touch, staff are genuinely friendly and helpful, and many have been working there for decades (which speaks volumes). The lakeside location is stunning (as is the new terrace and bar) and the formal dining top notch. As for the size of those rooms, even entry-level suites are ginormous. — NB
Insider Tip: Get a G&T and head into the Memories room — this new bar overlooks the lake and is cosy as you like.
Details: 074 972 2208; harveyspoint.com; from €198.
Where: Glengarriff, Co Cork.
Why: Since its inception in 1835, the Eccles has seen famous faces pass through its doors. George Bernard Shaw reportedly wrote there in 1910/11, WB Yeats was a regular visitor during the 1920s (the presidential suite is named after him) and, in 2017, Pippa Middleton stayed there for a friend’s wedding. So this West Cork village is firmly in the spotlight — but could Eccles be the next great West Cork resort hotel? It’s reopening this month after extensive refurbishment. — NB
Insider Tip: Take the ferry over to see the gorgeous gardens on Garnish Island — it departs opposite the hotel.
Details: 027 63319; eccleshotel.com; from €70.
Where: Garryvoe, Co Cork.
Why: It’s a tale of several hotels. The Garryvoe has overlooked Ballycotton Bay since the early 1900s, but a time traveller would be forgiven for rubbing their eyes at the place today. The hotel has evolved through generations, most recently adding a new library, bar and Samphire restaurant under the watchful eye of GM Stephen Belton. The four-star somehow manages to fit families, weddings and locals in without disrupting each other, and it’s fun zipping from 21st century (try the black mosaic-tiled pool, or the Douglas Wallace-designed library) to the past (that’ll be the Cave Bar). — PÓC
Insider Tip: Ask for a seaview room, recently refurbished with walk-in rain showers. Oh, and try the calamari.
Details: 021 464 6718; garryvoehotel.com; from €117.
Where: Killarney, Co Kerry.
Why: The Great Southern is back! But did it ever go away? Though branded The Malton for over a decade, many continued referring to it by the moniker harking back to its origins as a 19th-century railway hotel. Since January, it’s The Great Southern again, and two years worth of refurbs by the Scally family (of Hayfield Manor and Killarney Royal fame) include a spanking spruce-up of the Victorian foyer, upgraded rooms and a classical overhaul of the Garden Room restaurant. It feels 163 years young. — PÓC
Insider Tip: For a splash, book the Kennedy Suite, with its freestanding cast-iron bathtub.
Details: 064 663 8000; greatsouthernkillarney.com; B&B from €119 per room.
Where: Rosslare, Co Wexford.
Why: You voted it your favourite place to stay in Ireland in our Reader Travel Awards 2018. Sure, Kelly’s have had decades to perfect their art, but longevity doesn’t necessarily guarantee favour. Family-run for five generations, the Rosslare classic offers every aspect of a perfect holiday — warm staff, a beachside setting, good food, children’s activities, comfortable bedrooms, evening entertainment, excellent wine, novel activity breaks and a good spa and pools. Guests love the relaxed vibes and warm Irish welcome, especially favourable for multi-generational family stays. They keep innovating, too — newest addition? A €2m kitchen refit to make your dining experiences even better. — JB
Insider Tip: The impressive art collection features names such as Picasso, Jack Yeats, le Brocquy and Warhol.
Details: 053 913 2114; kellys.ie; half-board from €115 per person, per night (plus 10pc service).
Where: Drury Street, Dublin.
Why: Brooks boasts one of the best locations in Dublin. Stashed away in the Creative Quarter, a stone’s throw from Grafton Street, its 98 rooms are an ideal base for business, pleasure… and maybe more. Improvements have been a constant since it added the first hotel cinema we know of in 2003 (every Christmas, Elf is a sell-out), with chef Pat McLarnon’s new, Irish-influenced tapas menu among the latest. Rooms are compact, with eclectic designs that never spoil the overarching Brooks aesthetic — all that white oak, in case you’re wondering, is by Beola Crafts. Another surprise is a super little basement residents’ lounge that does its own book of the month. For March, it’s Emma Donoghue’s The Wonder. — PÓC
Insider Tip: Ask bartender Jacek to talk you through a taster of whiskeys from the hotel’s collection (€35).
Details: 01 670 4000; brookshotel.ie; B&B from €180.
Where: Harcourt St, Dublin.
Why: Step into the lobby. Straight away, the blend of pearly lights, slinky brass and splashes of mustard and aquamarine fabric feel like you’ve slipped into a classy city den. This new 152-bed hotel is prepped for leisure guests on weekends, but with corporate titans like Deloitte and KPMG on its doorstep, professionals are the midweek mainstay, and rooms are kitted out with USB chargers, rain showers and smart TVs as standard. Book a superior (€50 extra) with high ceilings in the Georgian wing, grab a chicken peri-peri burger from Elle’s Bistro, and get your work-life balance on. All that, and it’s powered by a river running 50m underground. — PÓC
Insider Tip: Got a grand to spare? Book the presidential suite, with a big balcony overlooking the Iveagh Gardens. On a budget? Seven 10 sq m City Pods open soon.
Details: 01 568 5500; iveaghgardenhotel.ie; from €159.
Where: Castlecomer Road, Kilkenny.
Why: You’d think good, family-friendly hotels would be a no-brainer for every tourist town in Ireland. Top performers like Gorey’s Amber Springs or Fitzgerald’s Woodlands in Adare are not that easy to find, however. Kilkenny’s Newpark is another. It’s just finished substantial upgrades, including a major facelift, a refurb of 60 classic rooms, and the addition of slick new smart TVs and an outdoor terrace with retractable roof (afternoon tea is a steal at €19.95). All this, and it’s got a go-karting track, adventure playground, fairy trail… and sizzling steaks at Scott’s Brasserie. My tip? Check young ones into the kids’ club and make your way directly to the 36-degree, al fresco infinity pool overlooking the gardens. — PÓC
Insider Tip: In summer, you can visit llamas, donkeys and other friendly farm animals on the grounds.
Details: 056 776 0500; flynnhotels.com; summer family packages with one dinner from €159 per night.
Where: Eastmoreland Lane, Dublin.
Why: So you want a sneaky short break. Somewhere off the beaten track, a discreet little humdinger where you can hang your hat and have a little fun. Here’s a five-star fit for any Little Black Book — a boutique nook off Baggot Street where you’re greeted by a doorman in sharp suit (but no tie), can sup cocktails at the sweeping pewter bar (mine’s an Espresso Martini) and sashay between daring artworks (check the Ana Fuentes triptych in the corridor), black marble bathrooms and baroque bursts of colour. When it opened in 2006, the Dylan felt showy. Now it’s a tasteful, established enclave with a unique identity and 28 spanking-new rooms designed by MCA Architects. You know what to do. — PÓC
Insider Tip: Slick new ‘Experience’ suites start from around €400 a night… but all have playful in-room snacks like Ritchie’s Milky Mints and Keogh’s crisps.
Details: 01 660 3000; dylan.ie; B&B from €219.
Where: Titanic Quarter, Belfast.
Why: Like Titanic? You’ll love this. Opened last September next to Titanic Belfast, the four-star incorporates the stunning Harland & Wolff drawing rooms in which Titanic was designed — along with mouthwatering posters, scale models and details like Villeroy and Boch tiles identical to those used in the ship’s pool (they clad the island bar). The tone shifts to a contemporary take on maritime and industrial heritage as you move to the bedrooms, and though I felt the different wings and connecting corridors didn’t yet gel as well as they might, it’s a bold addition to Belfast. — PÓC
Insider Tip: Go the full monty with B&B and tickets to Titanic Belfast from £129/€145pp midweek.
Details: +44 289 508 2000; titanicbelfasthotel.com; from £129/€145.
Where: Adare, Co Limerick.
Why: Nobody will say how much JP McManus invested in the reboot of Adare Manor, but the resort exudes both class and cold hard cash from every pore. There are big additions, like the glitzy ballroom, new 42-bedroom wing and revamped golf course and clubhouse (due to open in late April), but the smaller touches tell a fuller story. Think tactile silk wallpapers in the suites, beautifully earthy Ballyhoura Ceramics in the Oak Room restaurant, or those perfectly weighted ice cubes clinking in your drinks in the David Collins Studio-designed subterranean bar. The pool and spa feel a mite undersized for such a mind-blowing resort, but make no mistake — Adare is back at the top table of Irish tourism. — PÓC
Insider Tip: Want a sneak peek? Afternoon tea in the Hogwarts-esque Gallery costs €45pp (advance booking essential).
Details: 061 605200; adaremanor.com; from €325 to €1,995 for the signature one-bedroom suite.
Where: Enniscorthy, Co Wexford.
Why: The secret to Monart is to plan your spa strategy in advance. From experience, I recommend booking treatments later in the day so you can make full use of the menu of free classes like yoga or aqua aerobics and activities (the mid-afternoon sauna ritual is my favourite). The five-star was voted Ireland’s best spa in our Reader Travel Awards 2018, and new additions include a chic Garden Bar, plant-based vegan menu (don’t leave without trying the raw vegetable spring roll with cashew nut and tamarind dip), and new Voya and Pevonia Botanica facial treatments to be unveiled later this spring. Squeeze the most out of your stay by arriving early, taking a walk around the Celtic Gardens, and enjoying lunch in the Spa café. You’ll be ‘in the zone’ before you even get the keys for your room. — Bairbre Power
Insider Tip: Ask for a room looking onto the lake at the back — the views will feed your soul, day and night.
Details: 053 923 8999; monart.ie; rooms from €159.
Where: St Stephen’s Green, Dublin.
Why: Fans of Irish design should schedule a stay at Ireland’s most iconic hotel. With the final phase of The Shelbourne’s luxurious refurbishment nearing completion, guests can enjoy the beauty and serenity of the magnificent Heritage Suites and Park View rooms. The soothing colour scheme and textures reference Ireland’s natural beauty, with Waterford Crystal chandeliers, marble bathrooms, luxury fabrics and bespoke furniture celebrating our design heritage. The Princess Grace Suite is the jewel in the crown, but we love the eau de Nil tones of the elegant Elizabeth Bowen Suite. — JB
Insider Tip: Leave time to enjoy a drink in the cosy new Residents’ Bar on the mezzanine, with its deep sofas, jewel colours and impressive drinks menu.
Details: 01 663 4500; theshelbourne.ie; deluxe rooms from €350, suites from €1,600.
Where: Newmarket-on-Fergus, Co Clare.
Why: With its €20 million refurbishment almost complete, Dromoland is aiming to claim back its crown as king of the castles. As with Ashford Castle in recent years, the five-star baronial bolthole has been fully upgraded, from its ornate Drawing Room, Gallery and Cocktail Bar to bedrooms beautifully updated in contemporary colour schemes and plush furnishings. Every kind of mod-con is offered, while staying true to a peerless heritage. The 450-acre estate offers endless activities, from golf and horse riding to all kinds of regal pursuits, but you’ll know you’re walking in the footsteps of kings as soon as you cross the magnificent threshold. — JB
Insider Tip: Come off-season to enjoy the cosy interiors and blazing fires (and lower rates!).
Details: 061 368144; dromoland.ie; rooms from €252 (winter) and €550 (summer), on a B&B basis.
Where: Merrion Street Upper, Dublin.
Why: One of Ireland’s finest establishments, the new Garden Room restaurant brings a fresh, modern edge to this classic Georgian five-star. Alongside elegant bedrooms, charming service and luxe interiors, this sleek new addition is the perfect stage for Ed Cooney’s modern Irish food. Less formal than the old Cellar Restaurant, the stylish light-flooded space wraps around the hotel’s formal gardens, blooming by day, twinkling by night. The imaginative all-day menu, featuring top Irish produce, means the al fresco tables will be the hottest seats in town this summer. — JB
Insider Tip: Treat yourselves to a room with a view in the Main House. Nothing beats those Georgian bedrooms.
Details: 01 603 0600; merrionhotel.com; from €295.
Where: Enfield, Co Meath.
Why: Beloved of the capital’s corporate events crowd, Johnstown Estate Hotel & Spa is now attracting attention from a different smart set, thanks to a €10 million refurb. Couples who want to get away from it all (but need to get back to it all rather quickly) should treat themselves to the Lady Margaret suite, bookended with dinner at Fire and Salt restaurant before, and a soothing treatment in its Elemis Spa the morning after. Named after the house’s 18th-century owner’s wife, the suite has lavish, contemporary furnishings and period detail — Lady Margaret would approve. — Fiona Ness
Insider tip: Gym bunnies have a health club at their disposal, but we’d recommend you draw the curtains, light the fire, and wait for the turn-down service.
Details: 046 954 0000; thejohnstownestate.com; a midweek Escape Spa Package for two costs from €279.
Where: Ballyfin, Co Laois.
Why: The mere mention of Ballyfin evokes gasps of jealousy. But Ireland’s most expensive hotel more than lives up to the hype. Imagine the most beautiful, extravagant and delicious country pile, filled with antiques and priceless art. Then picture yourself curling up on one of the plush, golden sofas while freshly baked cookies are placed next to you, before you even realise you’re peckish. Ballyfin is a dream, all right (and a dream with butlers, too). This year, they’re converting the Gardener’s Cottage into a one-bedroom hideaway — think of it as your own little sanctuary of solitude. — NB
Insider Tip: Try on incredible antique costumes from opera houses around the world in the dress-up room.
Details: 057 875 5866; ballyfin.com; from €590.
Where: Glasson, Co Westmeath.
Why: All of the rooms at Wineport are named after wines. So it makes sense that the most covetable is the Champagne Suite. Newly renovated, this split-level suite comes with the dreamiest furnishings — the royal blue velvet sofa is particularly striking. There’s a curved TV, roll-top bath and huge windows (with curtains you can control from the bed, natch). Elsewhere, the rooms and suites all overlook the beautifully calm lake, but opt for one of the latter if you can — the large balconies are practically on the water. The little touches make all the difference, too, like cafetières for real coffee. — NB
Insider Tip: Book a session in the cedar hot tubs — they overlook the lake and are free for guests.
Details: 0906 439 010; wineport.ie; from €115.
Where: Ballymena, Co Antrim.
Why: If I say ‘Galgorm’ and you say ‘where?’, you’ve got work to do. The moment you emerge from the lift into its spa, that white, fluffy robe switches from silly to second skin. A new, two-acre Spa Serenity Garden has been added to the Thermal Village, along with an eatery housed in a solid timber Halo Dome (left) — one of only five on earth. It’s a super-confident resort that hosts gazillions of weddings but, to its credit, you’ll hardly notice. — PÓC
Insider Tip: The hotel has a gin library. Choose from 300 varieties, including Jawbox, Boatyard and Shortcross.
Details: +44 28 2588 1001; galgorm.com; B&B with dinner from £220/€250 for two on special offer.
Where: Mount Juliet, Co Kilkenny.
Why: A beautiful new hotel at Mount Juliet, Hunter’s Yard once housed the hay lofts, stables and coachmen’s accommodation on this historic estate. Today, the handsomely reimagined courtyard has undergone a vast renovation, with the addition of 77 new bedrooms, and a complete redesign that offers guests a more laid-back alternative to the manor house. The décor marries a soothing Scandi palette with subtle horse references, delivering bright, stylish bedrooms and public spaces. Dine at The Hound, swim in the lovely pool or enjoy the estate’s many attractions, including the Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, spa and Michelin-starred Lady Helen restaurant. — JB
Insider Tip: Book horse riding at the equestrian centre, and enjoy a canter through the estate, imagining a bygone era.
Details: 056 777 3000; mountjuliet.ie; B&B from €179 per room per night. You can also book Blue Book properties on irelands-blue-book.ie.
NB: All rates subject to availability. Rates are B&B per room, per night, except where stated otherwise. Join the conversation at #IndoFab50!