This is not a normal list.
Over the past weeks and months, we’ve been travelling the length and breadth of this island, from Donaghdee to Dunmanus Bay and Dublin to Dingle. We’ve visited hotels, B&Bs, country houses and campsites, mapped trends, and painstakingly whittled findings down to our Fab 50 finalists.
St Patrick’s Week was our deadline. That’s traditionally when the tourism season kicks off, and though this year is experiencing unprecedented disruption due to the coronavirus outbreak, we have made the decision to publish our annual list of Ireland's best places to stay anyway, to support our wonderful industry and inspire future staycations.
This is a selection you can trust. It’s not gathered via Google. We’ve spoken with owners and staff. We’ve listened to our readers. This is the third year of our Fab 50, and by now you’ll know we don’t focus on the usual suspects. We look for game-changing new arrivals, places that are stretching our understanding of the short break now rather than trading on former glories.
We favour properties that continue to evolve and innovate (be it a design tweak, or a tasty new menu), and purposefully leave room for the unsung heroes of hospitality — from the Northern Irish couple who took a punt on log cabins to a sparkling penthouse in Cork or cosy shepherd’s huts in Cavan.
It’s a distinctly Irish list, so we’ve also looked for creative investment in Irish design, art, food and community. As much as possible, these are places you could only find on this island.
What do you think of our picks?
The Fab 50 is in no particular order; let us know your thoughts on social media using the hashtag, #IndoFab50.— Pól O Conghaile
Where: North Wall Quay, Dublin.
Why: The Press Up Group’s hotels and restaurants can be a little divisive, but their newest property is an absolute beaut. Set by the 3Arena, right on the River Liffey, The Mayson is a mash-up of a gorgeous old townhouse and warehouse, with a modern glass extension on top. Depending on which bit you’re staying in, your room might have an industrial chic vibe, or a more classic Georgian aesthetic. There’s a rooftop restaurant with a small terrace overlooking the Liffey, and a beautiful living wall that’s visible from a few floors. If you can swing it, book one of the gorgeous corner suites, if only to take a soak in one of the most beautiful copper bathtubs I’ve ever encountered. — NB
Sustainability: There’s a filtered water tap in the lobby, so you can fill your water bottle up as you go.
Insider tip: Bring your togs — there’s a small pool and steam room in the super-swish basement gym.
Details: Rooms from €140; themayson.ie.
Where: Killaloe, Co Clare.
Why: Waterfront rooms don’t have to overlook the ocean, you know. The Lakeside Hotel’s new suite of hideaways faces directly onto Lough Derg, and the sensitive build maximises its Shannonside location. Descending from ground level, guests can stay in balcony rooms or options opening onto what feels like a private little prom, with floor-to-ceiling glass and luxe touches like super-king-size Respa beds, Nespresso machines and welcome platters upping the ante for this storied four-star. Elsewhere, the lobby has been spruced up, and more is to come — including a refurb of the restaurant and breakfast buffet to include produce from the local farmers’ market. Time for a return visit? — PÓC
Sustainability: The hotel has just formed a Green Team, led by GM Eoin Little, and will shortly swap plastic condiment packs and mini-toiletries for more eco-friendly options.
Insider tip: Bring the kids. The leisure centre has a surprisingly speedy, 40m waterslide, and staff are brilliant — they coaxed us into a backstroke challenge and waved all the way.
Details: Waterfront rooms from €130; lakesidehotel.ie.
Where: Rosses Point, Co Sligo.
Why: I’ve long been a fan of restaurants with rooms. You get to eat to your heart’s content then, when your waistband is straining, need only toddle upstairs to your bed. What’s not to love? The Driftwood is a fairly new addition to the Rosses Point scene, and has made this coastal village a strong contender to Strandhill’s seaside throne. The young couple at its helm, Padraig O’Brien and Ashleigh Quinn, are something of a dream team, coming from a background in restaurants and interior design respectively. The restaurant is an excellent mishmash of seafood and smokehouse dishes (in the summer, the patio doors are flung open for an al fresco dining space) and eight rooms upstairs are, unsurprisingly, gorgeous. There are cast iron roll-top baths in the bedrooms, fabulous artworks and Moroccan rugs throughout, plus Voya diffusers and sea views in some. A Sligo game-changer. — NB
Sustainability: You’ll find refillable Voya toiletries in the bathrooms (and you can soak in Voya seaweed baths across the bay in Strandhill, too).
Insider tip: Have a pre-dinner pint in the charming Harry’s Bar, just a few doors down.
Details: Rooms from €89; thedriftwood.ie.
Where: Lapps Quay, Cork City.
Why: Cork’s skyline is sparkling this weather, which gives top-tier views even more of a wow factor. Fresh from a recent €180,000 refurb, the Clayton’s panoramic penthouse may just be the hottest room in the city, pushing the hotel’s four-star status to new heights. The two-storey suite features its own kitchenette (stocked with essentials like Jameson, fruit bowls and Prosecco), a Jacuzzi, fire pit, plus a statement staircase leading to the lofty master bedroom space. And those views? Whether pillow-talking in the morning or practising evening yoga on your private deck, vistas span from the landmark City Hall and the Elysian to the city’s historic docklands. You don’t need to stay over either — the Penthouse is already in-demand for corporate events, hen parties and other celebrations. That’s if guests like Rod Stewart and The Coronas aren’t in town... — TB
Sustainability: Penthouse and suites have Rituals cosmetics, which are cruelty-free, use organics and are biodegradable.
Insider tip: Marking an anniversary or a birthday? The Clayton welcomes a heads-up if guests are celebrating...
Details: Penthouse from €650; claytonhotelcorkcity.com.
Where: Lough Derg, Co Tipperary.
Why: From weddings to wellness. That’s the evolving storyline at this waterside enclave, built in the style of a luxury folk village fronting onto Lough Derg. The idea may sound twee; the execution is anything but — from its grass-roofed sauna cabin to a cosy pub, elegant little restaurant and new rooms like the Fox’s Den, a former flower shed and now a hymn to country chic… complete with Hanly throws. Coolbawn made its name with destination weddings, and still serves that purpose, but the move towards leisure and wellness is an exciting evolution, from writing retreats to wild swimming, forest bathing and yoga weekends. “People are up to ninety when they hit the car park,” as owner Kevin Brophy told me. After a day or too breathing the “velvet air”, as he describes it, it’s a different story. — PÓC
Sustainability: Old equipment is being replaced with sustainable alternatives over time (air-to-water boilers, for example), and you’ll spot solar-panelled lighting outside.
Insider tip: There’s a ‘hammock hide’ beside the lake, with hammocks hidden away between two rows of pine trees.
Details: A one-night ‘mini de-stress escape’ starts from €185pp, including B&B, a candlelit dinner and a mini Elemis treatment; coolbawnquay.com.
Where: Ballina, Co Mayo.
Why: You can’t fail to be impressed by the mechanics of the Ice House. The original building dates back to the early 18th century, with a grand old country house feel, but the glass and steel extension (which blends seamlessly in) makes the most of a killer location on the banks of the River Moy. In the rooms, the focus is all on the water — floor-to-ceiling windows mean you can spend hours just gazing upon the river, watching the cormorants dip below the surface for fish, or the seals bobbing up and down. You can do the same in a newly refurbished spa garden, where cedar hot tubs overlook the water, and a new outdoor sauna has a huge glass window. The restaurant is exceptional, too. — NB
Sustainability: The menu has some strong locally sourced ingredients, from Connemara and Galway.
Insider tip: Don’t miss the little glass panel on the floor in reception — it offers a great vantage point to the floors below, and nods to the history of the building.
Details: Rooms from €120; icehousehotel.ie.
Where: Enniscorthy, Co Wexford.
Why: A four-time winner of ‘Ireland’s Favourite Spa’ in our Reader Travel Awards, Monart is the go-to when it comes to pamper palaces in Ireland. Tell someone that you’re off to Monart, and you’ll likely be met with a groan of jealousy. But there’s a reason the mantelpiece here is heavy with awards — they do what they do exceptionally well. Last year, a brand new restaurant was unveiled, for example, complete with vegan options so tempting they’d lure even the most committed carnivore away from a steak. Spa offerings have grown with a new ‘Way to Wellness’ break, a bespoke five-day Monart Life programme tailored exactly to your needs. — NB
Sustainability: Some seriously impressive eco initiatives are underway behind the scenes, from boiler upgrades to forthcoming charging points for electronic cars.
Insider tip: Don’t skip the morning yoga or meditation sessions — they’re a fabulous way to start the day.
Details: Rooms from €258; monart.ie.
Where: Moville, Co Donegal.
Why: What makes a great small-town hotel? A blast of warmth when you open the door. A quick fix of small-h hospitality. A spot to cosy up with a local brew, great local food and comfortable rooms revamped sometime since the 1980s (that, and a flexible function room, of course). You’ll find all of the above, and more, at Brian and Brenda McDermott’s 16-room base in Moville. Closed for 12 years, the building has been reborn as a hug-in-a-hotel, a community hub, a place to meet and eat, and an enlightened local employer. Glisteningly fresh seafood from Greencastle is a highlight, cooked to order by chefs Brian and Derek Creagh (when the hotel first opened, fish accounted for 30pc of food sales; today it’s 70pc). Small place; big impact. — PÓC
Sustainability: McDermott’s menu’s food miles must be among the lowest in Ireland. I noted no plastic milk containers, water bottles or mini-toiletries in the rooms.
Insider tip: A three-course Sunday lunch cooked by two of Donegal’s finest chefs costs a scarcely believable €25pp.
Details: B&B with €40 dining credit from €125; foylehotel.ie.
Where: Spanish Point, Co Clare.
Why: An old boarding school has been tastefully transformed into a 21st-century boarding house by Spanish Point locals Pat and Aoife O’Malley. Seas were churning and froth flying as I pulled up outside, threading the eye through hypnotic corner-suite views over the Atlantic Ocean. The couple spent two years refurbishing the 12-bed guesthouse (“It was in a poor state but there was a lovely flow to it,” as Pat says), mixing old and new in touches like reupholstered antique furniture, modern sash windows, Colefax & Fowler wallpapers and sparingly deployed decorative seashells. Homemade cookies, a personal greeting and large lounging areas all greet guests, and a simple, table service breakfast lets local ingredients like Burren Smokehouse salmon and Jack Kelly’s sausages sing. — PÓC
Sustainability: There are no plastic sachets at breakfast, or plastic milk containers in rooms. Fresh milk can be ordered up, and filtered water is also provided.
Insider tip: Families can book an interlinked room that faces the sea. Also, the Armada Hotel is a stone’s throw away for evening meals, pub grub and trad music.
Details: Rooms range from €160-€220 B&B in the summer season; spanishpointhouse.ie.
Where: Farranfore, Co Kerry.
Why: If you’re the kind of person who’s always suggesting ‘one more for the road,’ the idea of sleeping in a pub may appeal. The good news is that you do that with no repercussions at Herlihy’s, a Kerry pub recently turned guesthouse. The bar has been polished up and kitted out with home comforts, but original quirks remain — brass beer taps, old bottles of spirits for decoration and bits of memorabilia on the wall (there’s no drink, but you can bring your own if you wish). Herlihy’s has been in owner Marie O’Sullivan’s family since 1912, and was in operation until 2017. For most of that time, it was run by women, and now Marie adds to its sense of undeniable charm. — NB
Sustainability: Marie composts everything in her garden.
Insider tip: There’s a lovely double bedroom, but you can make up a sofa bed in the bar — sleeping four in total.
Details: From €220 for two nights; herlihys-half-way-house.business.site.
Where: Donaghadee, Co Down.
Why: If you want to be by the sea in Donaghdee, here’s the place to do it. Karen Bolleboom and husband John returned home from London to open this modern B&B — a reboot of buildings including a former chemist’s on the seafront — and the result is a slick mix of Soho House-chic and Scandi minimalism. Picture a Tyrone flagstone floor leading to a lovely breakfast room with glass-enclosed corner stove, and five rooms making the most of period features and contemporary inserts… not least the nickel-coated copper bath in Room 2. “I wanted to create something that’s a destination in itself,” Karen muses. “A sense of the seaside, but without Ralph Lauren stripes!” Waffle robes, underfloor bathroom heating and Audio Pro speakers are just some of the creature comforts. — PÓC
Sustainability: Breakfast lowers the food miles with nitrate-free Finnebrogue bacon, Clandeboye Estate yoghurts and local eggs and sourdough, among other ingredients.
Insider tip: Watch for occasional ‘Fitness Mama’ residential wellness retreats (next up from March 24-26; from £550pp).
Details: B&B from £160; 15pc off for online bookings of two or more nights; oneshorestreet.co.uk.
Where: Doolin, Co Clare.
Why: This 12-bed hotel is barely open a year, and already it’s moving to another level. Set in the heart of Doolin, it’s a small, intimate building anchoring a cluster of lodges — operating more like a luxury guesthouse than a traditional hotel. An intimate, library-style lounge feels like a living room, with a surprisingly large honesty bar, a host to look after guests, and big rooms with stashes of local Anam coffee. By summer, these will have been transformed into Irish-designed spaces themed for local musicians like Willie Clancy and Sharon Shannon (brass-accented taps, reclaimed wood and Irish wools are some of the materials), a new Russell’s pub is on the way, and there are even plans for a micro-brewery. “We want to become an integral part of the community,” they say. — PÓC
Sustainability: The hotelworks to source eco-friendly materials like reclaimed wood and lead-free clay paints. Rooms include Voya dispensers and filtered water.
Insider tip: Doolin Village Lodges has several luxury cottages in the countryside marrying heritage touches with smart tech. ‘Elfin’ is pick of the crop.
Details: B&B rates from €109 (Fiddle & Bow); fiddleandbow.ie; doolinvillagelodges.com.
Where: Durrus, Co Cork.
Why: After navigating the winding boreens and wilds of West Cork, the Georgian grandeur of Blairscove suddenly enters stage over Dunmanus Bay with pure period drama. Owned by Ann & Chris Woodward, the third generation to manage the property, Blairscove offers a soupçon of a coastal Ballymaloe, with a manor flanked by traditional out-buildings, remodelled into courtyard suites and cottages. Favourites like the Loft, the Coach House and the Piggery are available on both a B&B or self-catering basis — but you’re going to want to savour that restaurant. Suppers draw gourmands from wide with highlights including their famous cold starter buffet, wood-fire grilled prime rib and moreish Munster cheeses. — TB
Sustainability: The kitchen grows veggies and, for every tree burned in the wood fire grill, they plant an additional two.
Insider tip: Check out its Dunmanus cottage overlooking the bay, which comes with its very own fishing pier.
Details: B&B from €75pps; blairscove.ie.
Where: Shipquay Street, Derry.
Why: Nothing beats a good welcome. At the Shipquay, you’re met not only with a friendly smile, but a freshly poured glass of Prosecco. This boutique hotel is in a great spot, right by the Guildhall, and while the building dates back to 1895, the interior was renovated in 2017. There’s plenty of character in the rooms, with period features and bucketfuls of charm, but the bathrooms are brand new and stocked with Voya products. I loved the room service breakfast, for which there’s no extra charge — my pancakes arrived perfectly fluffy, with super crispy pancetta and homemade blueberry compote, alongside a decent fruit salad and freshly squeezed orange juice. — NB
Sustainability: The restaurant uses some great local Northern Irish produce like Fermanagh duck and Abernethy butter. There are no recycling bins in the rooms, but they do recycle in the kitchen.
Insider tip: Derry’s city walls are a couple of minutes away, so walk the length of them for a unique aspect of the city.
Details: Rooms from €120; shipquayhotel.com.
Where: Georgian Quarter, Limerick.
Why: This plum hotel rolls off the tongue as a Limerick recommendation — a mix of heritage, design and contemporary sensibility that gave the city a lift long before today’s upward curve. Owner Patricia Roberts keeps innovating, most recently reshuffling ground floor areas to add the ‘Long Room’, an all-day compliment to Sash Restaurant with a firm focus on local producers — a ‘Georgian Quarter Platter’, for example, includes Limerick ham hock terrine, Ispini charcuterie, Castleconnell honey and Irish cheeses, and you can play around with wine servings starting with 100ml ‘small pours’. Guests stay in period or ‘club’ rooms, or can splash on a top-floor townhouse suite (where you can book in-room spa treatments). Robes, dressing screens, Sanderson wallpapers and craft cocktails getting creative with Irish spirits add the devil in the detail. — PÓC
Sustainability: Lots of creative steps include a wine list focusing on natural, biodynamic and organic picks.
Insider tip: A small urban spa offers seaweed baths and organic body wraps among other treatments.
Details: B&B with dinner from €238; oneperysquare.com.
Where: The Liberties, Dublin.
Why: Yes, Hyatt Centric is a mega-brand. Yes, this is a 234-bed new-build in one of Dublin’s oldest neighbourhoods. What sets it apart, however, is the way its operators, Athlone’s Hodson Bay Group, have reached out to the community. Installations by artist Vivienne Roche play on artefacts unearthed in the excavations, while a gallery adds context to discovered objects like an old well or 12th century pair of sandals. Dublin’s MOLA architecture brings Dublin 8 indoors in creative ways — mirrored dividers evoke a church organ, for example; golden triangle motifs the old whiskey district. Food and drink offerings might include a rib-eye steak topped with Teeling’s whiskey peppercorn sauce, Five Lamps beer on tap, and small daily deliveries from legendary Liberties bakery, Manning’s. Not a bad start. — PÓC
Sustainability: Hyatt has pledged to remove single-use plastics by 2021, but we’d love to see things like mini-toiletries and UHT milk containers replaced before that.
Insider tip: Trade up to one of nine suites for a treat — city views from corner rooms 502 or 517, or a direct eye on the cathedral spire from 447 and 539 (the ‘Cathedral Suite’).
Details: Rooms from €120; hyattcentricdublin.com.
Where: St Stephen’s Green, Dublin
Why: When it comes to a quintessential Dublin stay, you can’t beat a grand Georgian building on Stephen’s Green. Stauntons on the Green was fairly downtrodden before a new owner stepped in with the big bucks needed to restore it to its former glory — apparently, more than €3m was spent on the renovation, with the marble in one dreamy bedroom costing €15,000 alone. Rooms now are full of light, with gorgeous Georgian features and super plush beds, and there’s a beautiful garden out the back, running alongside the one behind MoLI, the new Museum of Literature Ireland. Some rooms have little patios, too. But really, how often can you stay slap bang in the middle of the city, and take your morning coffee outside in the garden? — NB
Sustainability: There’s room to improve, but the breakfast (recently commended in the Georgina Campbell Irish Breakfast Awards) uses some great Irish produce, like organic porridge and an Irish tea brack from The Cupcake Bloke.
Insider tip: There’s a secret entrance to the Iveagh Gardens — just ask a member of staff to let you out the gate.
Details: Rooms from €152; stauntonsonthegreen.ie.
Where: Exchange Street, Dublin 2.
Why: Top of the set list at Ireland’s first (and only) Hard Rock Hotel is the memorabilia — ranging from Kurt Cobain’s sweater to Hozier’s first electric guitar. Beyond the glass cases, you’ll find a €52m hotel that’s a lot more upscale than the Hard Rock cafés — Silver Suites have super views of City Hall, for instance, while a ‘Rock Star Suite’ is a headline act boasting Bono’s handwritten lyrics for ‘Please’, bespoke Ulster carpets and a rooftop terrace. Live music, DJs and a South American-inspired menu are downstairs, though it remains to be seen which will make the lasting impression — the international brand, or Irish twists ranging from art by the likes of Sorcha O’Higgins and Leah Hewson to the deft touch of ‘Vibe Manager’, Joe Ballance. — PÓC
Sustainability: An ‘Attenuation Green Roof’ aids water absorption and attracts bees, insects and birds.
Insider tip: A ‘Sound of your Stay’ programme adds Fender guitars and Crosley vinyl players to room service.
Details: Standard rooms from €199; hardrockhotels.com.
Where: Smithfield, Dublin.
Why: New hotels are popping up like mushrooms in Dublin, enlivening the accommodation scene but also stoking necessary debates about gentrification and liveability for communities. The Hendrick stands out for its investment in Irish art. ‘Ireland’s first street art hotel’, as it dubs itself, has a 259-strong collection curated by James Earley (an artist himself, who has also overseen art for The Mayson and Devlin hotels). “Every piece is an original,” he told us, from the abstract canvas by Maser over the hotel’s self-service check-in tablets to a chunk of Windmill Lane walls signed by members of U2. The hotel is a 146-room three-star, with smart touches including ‘Super speed’ WiFi and a breakfast partnership with the Bretzel Bakery. — PÓC
Sustainability: The Hendrick was awarded Ireland’s first LEED Gold certification — efforts range from rainwater harvesting to LED lighting and PV panels on the roof.
Insider tip: There’s no restaurant, but Deliveroo can do in-room deliveries, and the hotel provides plates and cutlery.
Details: Rooms from €119; hendrickdublin.ie.
Where: Western Road, Cork.
Why: We love a hotel that never rests on its laurels. At The River Lee, there always seems to be something new on the scene, whether it’s a completely refurbished restaurant or a cool pop-up on the terrace bar (last autumn saw it transform into a Harvest Carriage inspired by vintage train travel). This year, the rooms are undergoing a big refurb, which will be a great boost to the hotel. The River Club restaurant, fresh out of its recent revamp, is a great place to sample the best of Cork produce (the English Market tasting board is excellent), whether you want to get fancy in the Grill Room or make the most of the sunny terrace. — NB
Sustainability: There’s a committed policy in place, including the use of eco-friendly air-handling units.
Insider tip: You get full access to the onsite NRG gym, so bring your gear for a spin class (or just a steam).
Details: Rooms from €169; doylecollection.com.
Where: Talbot Place, Dublin.
Why: You wouldn’t think a hostel by Connolly Station would be anything special. But a recent upgrade has seen the transformation of Jacob’s Inn from run of the mill budget digs to something far cooler. There’s an industrial vibe in the lobby and a huge variety of rooms, whether you want to bed down in a dorm or have a bit of privacy. The dorm rooms are designed in a unique pod style — you sleep in a self-contained capsule of sorts, accessed by the foot end of the bed (there’s also mood lighting, USB charging points and a handy little shelf). The private rooms are surprisingly stylish, and come at a bargain rate. Breakfast is only €6, too. Who says Dublin has to break the bank? — NB
Sustainability: They’re working on phasing out plastic, and there’s a composting system in the kitchens.
Insider tip: A little rooftop terrace has fab views of the city.
Details: Dorms from €15, private rooms €80; jacobsinn.com.
Where: Glenbeigh, Co Kerry.
Why: There are some places that photos simply can’t do justice. Lost Cottage is one of them. It may look like a traditional stone cottage from the outside, but inside is one of the finest examples of creative architecture and design I’ve ever seen — the extension was designed using wood grain oxidised concrete to remarkable effect; the lime rendered floor is heated underfoot. A sunken bath sits underneath a giant skylight, so you can soak while stargazing (this is prime Dark Sky Reserve territory, too). But the real show comes from the master bedroom, when the flick of a button raises the blinds to reveal a floor-to-ceiling view of the Iveragh peninsula. — NB
Insider tip: There are two bedrooms, but only one with a killer view. So make a plan to switch rooms if you’re there with other adults — it’s only fair.
Sustainability: We love the use of locally reclaimed materials within the furniture.
Details: From €1,184 for four nights; uniquehomestays.com.
Where: Bearna, Co Galway.
Why: Self-catering cottages often have glaring omissions when it comes to amenities. You know the story — blunt knives, no cafetiere and mismatched cutlery aplenty. Not so at Galway Coast Cottages. “We wanted to create somewhere we would want to go on holiday,” Dan told me, who runs the business with his wife Sarah. The couple ran a chalet business in the Alps before returning to Ireland to raise their young kids by the sea, so they know everything you’ll need at hand — baths, sturdy sofas and all the proper kitchen bits included. They’ve teamed up with a local company to offer breaks combining a cottage stay and the rental of a VW camper van for a couple of nights, which is a cool way to explore the area, too. — TB
Insider tip: Nip down the road to The Twelve Hotel — their restaurant West is mightily impressive and a great showcase of local Connemara and Galway produce.
Sustainability: They offer a 10pc discount to anyone travelling by train (Galway is 20 minutes away by taxi).
Details: From €300 for two nights; galwaycoastcottages.com.
Where: Schull, Co Cork.
Why: West Cork summers can legitimately have an Aegean air, so it’s not amiss that one of its finest properties be named after a Greek island. Skyros is masterfully poised on a Mizen Peninsula hillside, an architect-designed escape bringing dreamy, clean-lined minimalism to its ethereal, rugged canvass. Two wings mark the home’s sleep/living spaces (sleeping up to six), where dramatic floor-to-ceiling windows create the ultimate in-out flow to Roaringwater Bay and Long Island beyond. Despite cool interiors, the property does toasty as well as airy; making it the perfect base to sun-bask on a bluebird day or curl up with an ambient Atlantic storm. Fancy a nightcap?
You’re still only a mile’s wander from Schull and its lively pub scene. — TB
Insider tip: There’s a telescope for West Cork’s dark skies.
Sustainability: Eco-credentials range from a native Kilkenny stone build to its solar-powered water heating.
Details: From €1,325 for four days; uniquehomestays.com.
Where: Skibbereen, Co Cork.
Why: Few Irish accommodations exclusively woo the couples’ market, but there’s a collection of romantic retreats in West Cork which point their arrow to just that. Cottages For Couples offers an eclectic smattering of couples-only properties across the town, from plush rustic cottages to signature luxury treehouses. Scattered rose petals, Love Hearts sweets and chilled Prosecco are the welcome touches, while bedroom Jacuzzis or hot tubs come as standard. Owners Peter and Anna Warburton have also curated their own Good Food guide, highlighting all the best dining options in the area for their guests. — TB
Insider tip: If that hot tub’s too enticing, a number of local restaurants offer free delivery to your cottage — or treehouse.
Sustainability: All three treehouses have been sustainably created using local lumber sourced from Coillte.
Details: From €129 per cottage and €169 per treehouse, per night; cottagesforcouples.ie.
Where: Bantry, Co Cork.
Why: Located in the centre of Bantry — recently named ‘Ireland’s Soundest Town’, no less — 14 Wolfe Tone Square offers a self-catering escape for lovers of West Cork... and luxury. Formerly a bank house, the historic property spans four storeys of fine design with a décor brief which ebbs and flows with seafaring finesse. Taking centre stage are No14’s living quarters, anchored around a bespoke oak table, sink-in Italian sofas and a trove of repurposed touches, not least a lamp up-cycled from a diving helmet discovered in the shed! Up to 13 guests can hunker down in five stylish bedrooms, from period masters to loft-style rooms on the top floor with exposed beams, bedside casks and lanterns. All in all, a perfect place to be marooned. — TB
Insider tip: Why not visit some of the local West Cork distilleries and rustle up a cocktail party in No14’s own Captain’s bar.
Sustainability: Guests enjoy a welcome pack of local West Cork produce on arrival, from Durrus Cheese and West Cork Olives to local West Cork craft beers and gin.
Details: Rates from €350; 14wolfetonesquare.com.
Where: Youghal, Co Cork.
Why: For 200 years, Youghal’s elusive lighthouse has been keeping travellers from its rocky shores — today, it’s a bucket-list escape in East Cork. Following a two-year renovation by owner Saoirse Fitzgerald, the Lighthouse Keeper’s Cottage offers up to six guests the keys to a landmark property which casts a dreamy homage to both nostalgia and notions. Thoughtful yet characterful touches range from local maritime artefacts to the kitchen’s Ferrari-red Smeg fridge and Michael Dee tea cosy. But here it’s all about those Celtic Sea views — soak them up from the bathroom’s panoramic tub or the sunroom’s glorious swing. — TB
Insider tip: Wander down the gable end of the lighthouse to discover Youghal’s Diving Rocks — a secluded cove with the glorious feels of Dublin’s Vico.
Sustainability: The cottage runs off a smart heating system, was decorated using eco-paint and is a bijoux box of reclaimed furniture (eg benches from railways sleepers).
Details: From €375 per night (sleeping up to six); airbnb.ie.
Where: Old Dublin Road, Galway.
Why: When you talk about ecotourism, it’s often smaller places that get the glory. But what’s really impressive is when a hotel as big as The Connacht makes active strides to reduce its footprint. It has gotten rid of almost all single-use plastic from the breakfast offering (when you consider it could serve 900 people in a morning, that’s a huge improvement). There’s an on-site cardboard compacting machine and a glass crusher for recycling and, in the space of a year, its team has managed to reduce its general waste by an impressive 40pc. This year, the bar, restaurant and lobby have been refurbished, with old furniture reclaimed and even old kitchen utensils used as artwork. There’s a gorgeous living wall as you walk in, too. — NB
Insider tip: If your stay includes breakfast, get it delivered to your room (€5) — things get pretty manic on a busy weekend.
Sustainability: There’s a Green Team in place with a representative from every department in the hotel.
Details: Rooms from €74 (room only); theconnacht.ie.
Where: Maynooth,Co Kildare.
Why: “We’ve been busy,” says Gillian Pierce, Director of Marketing at Carton House. That’s an understatement. Since the Irish-American Mullen family acquired it in 2017, the resort has being racing towards five-star status, and this year will become Ireland’s first Fairmont property. The Carriage House has been elegantly refurbished, rooms rebooted and — the piece de résistance — a completely overhauled Manor House is due to re-open this May. Its revamp sees the former home of the FitzGerald family sit at the heart of every guest experience, housing not just 18 suites with killer Kildare views, but breakfast and afternoon tea options in the drawing rooms and wow-factor fine dining taking its lead from London’s Savoy. The new ‘Fairmont Carton House’ will be one of the biggest stories of 2020. — PÓC
Insider tip: New spaces include a gorgeous little whiskey library with a decorative gallery level, hidden door and one of Ireland’s largest range of whiskeys.
Sustainability: Single-use plastics will be phased out by September, and estate efforts include salmon restocking and the planting of over 100,000 native oak and beech trees.
Details: A ‘History as it’s Happening’ offer has B&B, wine and chocolates from €179; cartonhouse.com.
Where: Ennistymon, Co Clare.
Why: Take a closer look at Ennistymon’s gorgeous cascade, and you’ll see a stone building housing a hydro-electric turbine. So what? Well, that turbine was installed by the family-run Falls Hotel, and last year it supplied 75pc of the resort’s power (when the water is high, it even feeds energy back into the grid). In an age when other, bigger businesses are parading the replacement of plastic straws as a step towards sustainability, this three-star has taken a game-changing step. Elsewhere, a new-look lobby and bar have given the old building a lift. Rooms are basic, but dozens have been refurbed, with more to come. With its colourful old shop-fronts and improving foodie scene, Ennistymon is an under-rated stop on the Wild Atlantic Way — here’s a place to stay when you visit. — PÓC
Insider tip: The spa is a surprising step-up in star quality, with Voya and Elemis treatments and a suite of heated stone relaxation beds overlooking the river.
Sustainability: As well as its turbine, the hotel uses chemical-free cleaning products, keeps two beehives, and is a member of the Burren Ecotourism Network.
Details: B&B from €130 for two; fallshotel.ie.
Where: Dingle, Co Kerry.
Why: On the 50th anniversary of its opening, the Dingle Skellig underwent a huge renovation, creating a beautiful new bar and bistro area and adding executive suites to its room offering. The suites are great — spacious and practical, but endlessly comfy and with gorgeous views of the bay. But the really stunning vistas come from the spa, where a hot tub sits right on the edge of the water. And it’s free for hotel guests, too. Catch it on a sunny day and you’ll feel like you’re on the Costa del Dingle. — NB
Insider tip: Take a cup of tea round to one of the “hidden” rooms that are part of the new bistro — there are comfy seats overlooking the sea and it’s lovely and peaceful.
Sustainability: There’s definitely room to improve, but a Green Task Force has been created for this year.
Details: Rooms from €130; dingleskellig.com.
Where: Clonakilty, Co Cork.
Why: Few towns in Ireland pioneer social movements like Clonakilty, so it’s no wonder it’s home to one of the most family- and autism-friendly hotels in the land. The Park offers younger guests a wonderland of activities: beyond the leisure centre and pool, you’ll discover a pirate ship playzone, a gaming area, a crèche and an impressive zip-lining centre — the sod has been turned on a new crazy golf course, too. Come evening, the whole family can gather for a movie in the hotel’s own cinema. Staff, meanwhile, are trained in autism awareness with the hotel offering a sensory map and thoughtful touches like a quiet zone, gorgeous fish tanks and sensory screenings in the cinema. — TB
Insider tip: The self-catering homes and apartments have recently enjoyed a swish makeover.
Sustainability: The hotel’s pool heating system was just upgraded in an effort to use less oil.
Details: B&B from €52pps; children under four stay for free; clonakiltyparkhotel.ie.
Where: Adare, Co Limerick.
Why: Talk about ground-breaking hotels in these parts, and Adare Manor springs to mind. Its near neighbour has been just as innovative in its own way, however — grown by the Fitzgerald family from a farmhouse B&B into a four-star that today employs 230. On first impression, the hotel can appear a curious mix of different tones and buildings, but when you hear the story of the guesthouse at its heart, and how it has evolved incrementally to add the Revas Spa, restaurants and bars, a leisure centre, wedding space and much more, its charm is hard to resist. Honey bees and children’s organic garden tours are planned for this year. — PÓC
Insider tip: Take the kids on a walk around the hotel... you’ll even find farm animals and a fairy trail.
Sustainability: The hotel is reaping the rewards of its own organic vegetable garden, particularly in summer.
Details: Specials include a ‘Couples Retreat’ with B&B, bubbly and sweet treats from €110; woodlands-hotel.ie.
Where: Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny.
Why: Castlecomer has finally got a hotel to match its brilliant Discovery Park. Opened last year, Avalon House starts with a walk through a pretty red door into a 19th century manor house, and opens up into a re-imagined country hotel for the 2020s. Tastefully dressed by Arklow-based designer Rachel Molloy, a library-style lobby leads to the warm, country-inn embrace of Lark’s bar, where curated artefacts include leather luggage cases and lightshades made from old miners’ helmets (a nod to local heritage). Thirty compact-but-chic bedrooms nestle into the new-build wing, and Lil’s restaurant sees chef Cathal O’Dowd add the fine dining piece of the puzzle. “We want to put Castlecomer on the map,” they say, and it’s off to a grand start... I was offered a special featuring a fillet of local Goatsbridge trout. — PÓC
Insider tip: Dally over breakfast — Georgina Campbell named it Ireland’s best four-star hotel breakfast this year.
Sustainability: Seasonal menus at Lil’s embrace “traditional practices supportive of local economies”.
Details: Dinner, B&B from €119; avalonhousehotel.ie.
Where: The Mall, Waterford.
Why: Location, location, location. That’s the mantra, though for years The Tower seemed to downplay its setting by Reginald’s Tower and the River Suir. No more. Since a takeover by Ireland’s Neville Hotel Group, all 134 rooms have been refurbished, several walls have been replaced with floor-to-ceiling glass and Hobson’s Restaurant has been moved up a floor to make the most of views stretching over the water. “Bar knocking the place to the ground, nothing has stayed the same,” says Sales & Marketing Manager Sinead Corcoran. Irish designer Liz Harte has bedecked bedrooms in muted whites, greys and blues, threaded lovely rusty tones through jewel blues in the restaurant, and created a talking point in splashy hallway carpets. This January, the hotel became a four-star. — PÓC
Insider tip: Book a river-view room, or ask for a corner table for dinner or afternoon tea (from €20pp).
Sustainability: An in-house Green Team is running the rule over everything from waste management to saving paper.
Details: Two nights’ B&B with one dinner starts from €99pp (Sun-Fri); towerhotelwaterford.com.
Where: O’Callaghan Strand, Limerick.
Why: It’s one thing winning foodie awards in a standalone restaurant. It’s quite another winning them for a 184-bed four-star that also caters for busy weddings and events. Respect then to executive chef, Tom Flavin, whose team at the Limerick Strand this year won Georgina Campbell’s Best Breakfast Menu at an Irish hotel... as well as introducing a new Limerick Afternoon Tea (above) and last year bagging the ‘Best Hotel Roast’ award from Knorr Professional Ireland’s Great Roast 2019 competition. The MHL Collection hotel is revamping its bar and restaurant this spring, river-facing rooms have super views, and kids will love the 20m pool and leisure centre. Children under 12 stay and eat free on family packages, too. — PÓC
Insider tip: Rugby fans can check out a wall of signed jerseys in the lobby. It’s a 15-minute walk to Thomond Park.
Sustainability: Initiatives include a Green Team, and duty managers do ‘energy walks’ to power off unused electrics.
Details: Two nights’ B&B with one dinner starts from €170pp midweek; strandhotellimerick.ie.
Where: Slieve Gullion, Co Armagh.
Why: If you like before-and-after photos, add Kileavy to your Little Black Book. This delicious little castle was caving into dereliction before Robin and Mick Boyle (who emigrated from the area as a child and made his fortune in Australia) came to the rescue. The four-bed castle has been painstakingly restored, but that’s just the start — the £14m project also includes a new 45-bed hotel, restaurant and spa, with sleek, generously sized rooms drawing on picture windows and sage, pumpkin, teal and lemon tones to blur the lines between inside and out. An on-site farm provides Cheviot lamb and longhorn beef for the restaurant, and while a lack of art and softening touches can feel a little clinical in public spaces, the estate story is threaded through at every turn — from a photo gallery near reception to the slates on which bread is served in the restaurant — re-purposed from a cottage roof. — PÓC
Insider tip: You can book the small castle exclusively from £1,500-£2,000 per night... less than the price of a suite at Adare Manor or Ashford Castle. And it sleeps eight!
Sustainability: There are no in-room single-use plastics, a mill wheel will soon provide power, and the long-term plan is to begin reforesting the slopes of Slieve Gullion.
Details: B&B and dinner from €220; kileavycastle.com.
Where: Glin, Co Limerick.
Why: Stepping into Glin Castle is like taking a step back in time. The grand lobby is filled with memorabilia dating back centuries, from the swords on the walls to an elaborately carved light fitting that casts the most beautiful shadows across the ceiling. But blended into it all is a real sense that this is a family home — there are candid photos alongside ancient oil portraits, and big comfy sofas in front of the fireplace. This is the ancestral home of Catherine FitzGerald and her husband (actor Dominic West), and while it’s been available for private rentals for a couple of years, they’ve recently started hosting hotel pop-ups which are far more accessible (keep an eye on their social media for dates). The bedrooms are all completely unique, some with grand four poster beds, some with dreamy roll-top baths and chequerboard floors. — NB
Insider tip: Take your after-dinner whiskey to the smoking room, a cosy little space with huge pink couches and a pleasingly large portrait of a dog.
Sustainability: The castle has its own organic garden, which provides the kitchen with produce.
Details: Hotel pop-ups start from €490 for two nights; glin-castle.com and irelands-blue-book.ie.
Where: Bangor, Co Down.
Why: Stashed deep in the woodland, Helen’s Tower is a little fortress of cosiness, where you can live like a proper king of the castle. There are four storeys in the stone tower — a sweet little bedroom, a kitchen above, the dreamiest living room with a gigantic couch and fireplace, and a wood panelled poetry room, with love seats overlooking the treetops. It was adored by Tennyson, who wrote a poem about it, which is carved into a brass plaque on the wall. It’s impossible not to get swept up in the impossible romance of it all — at night, there’s not a soul around for miles, and you can snuggle up by the roaring turf fire and play Scrabble. It’s absolute heaven. — NB
Insider tip: Stock up the fridge with everything you could possibly need — the drive from the tower to the road alone is a fair old slog, so you won’t be nipping out for more milk.
Sustainability: The storage heaters aren’t so green, but it’s tough heating heritage buildings. Stick to the open fires.
Details: From €350 for two nights; irishlandmark.com.
Where: Castledermot, Co Kildare.
Why: It feels warm when you walk in the door. Not many castles can say that, but a personable welcome and glowing baronial hall fireplace are just the beginning of this passion project, begun in 2016 when Boston-based Jay and Christy Cashman bought a dramatic castle hotel on the decline. Of 152 rooms spread about the estate, 11 in the castle itself are most characterful (from the Fitzgerald Suite with its bathroom in a circular tower room, to a small, Wizard Earl’s Room with a view of the Hogwarts-worthy ‘wizard’s workshop’), but carriage and lodge options tastefully blend old and new touches too. An 18-hole championship golf course improves by the season, a small spa feels five-star (right down to the €40k copper-leaf ceiling), and chef David McKane, previously of Adare Manor and Ballyfin, is elevating the fine dining at the 1180 restaurant. — PÓC
Insider tip: This one’s for castle purists. The castle was once the largest structure on the edge of The Pale, and they even found arrowheads embedded in window frames.
Sustainability: Single-use plastics are still visible in rooms, but local craftsmen have been widely used, and the castle restaurant aims to source most ingredients within 50 miles.
Details: Lodge rooms from €115, carriage rooms from €140 and castle rooms from €240; kilkeacastle.ie.
Where: Celbridge, Co Kildare.
Why: It’s hard to believe Aimsir hasn’t even been open a year. Since Jordan and Majken Bech-Bailey chose this Kildare nook for their killer restaurant, however, Cliff at Lyons has been propelled to a whole new level. Aimsir won two Michelin Stars within months of opening, and the 18-course tasting menu (from €155pp) puts Ireland on a plate in the most astonishing ways — with ingredients that might range from Flaggy Shore oysters to Drummond House garlic and rare Irish nashi pears. The secluded, 38-room village estate took time to find its feet (and overcome a wedding-centric reputation) after a takeover by the Cliff Group in 2016, but now matches signature features like its gorgeous Orangery and cut-stone country luxe rooms with a confidence and foodie jewel that is pricey, but glistening. — PÓC
Insider tip: The Well in the Garden Spa recently added a rounded outdoor sauna and wood-burning hot tub.
Sustainability: As much as possible, everything produced in Aimsir is grown or produced on this island.
Details: An Aimsir overnight experience, including B&B, costs from €555 for two; cliffatlyons.ie; aimsir.ie.
Where: Lough Eske, Co Donegal.
Why: This is the kind of place that you go to in the hope that weather will be terrible — you want an excuse to cosy up by the fire, order a pot of tea and hide away from the elements. Everything about Lough Eske makes you want to hibernate, from the dreamy spa to the brand new Father Browne Bar, named after the infamous Titanic-era photographer (his images are fascinating, and adorn the walls). A year ago, they launched the Tower Suite, spanning over three floors and located in the turret of the castle, overlooking the grounds. If you’ve ever harboured Rapunzel fantasies, this is the place to live them out. — NB
Insider tip: There are free bikes for guests to use, so you don’t need to drive into Donegal town.
Sustainability: The gorgeous tweed that’s worn by hotel staff (and found on soft furnishings) is locally produced.
Details: Rooms from €189; lougheskecastlehotel.com.
Where: Kingscourt, Co Cavan.
Why: Here’s a castle that definitely isn’t standing still. Owned by the Corscadden family, whose Romantic Castles of Ireland collection has breathed new life into Markree Castle in Sligo, Ballyseede in Tralee and Bellingham Castle in Co Louth, renovations here have recently swept over the bar, restaurant, terrace and rooms. Set on 100 acres near Dún a Rí forest park, there’s oodles of atmosphere for castle nerds, from suits of armour to a resident wolfhound (ask for Oscar) and ghost (ask for ‘Sarah’s room’), as well as creaky floors and intriguing Arabic touches — like pointed arches installed by former owners. Courtyard and cottage rooms offer more contemporary luxury... request one with a freestanding bath and four-poster to push the boat out. — PÓC
Insider tip: If there isn’t a wedding, book the bridal suite — it’s got a private terrace, standalone bath, outdoor hot tub and oodles of space from €395 — a comparative steal.
Sustainability: The hotel recently closed its golf course, returning 88 acres to native shrubbery, wildlife and bees.
Details: Cottage rooms from €150; castle and courtyard rooms from €220 B&B; cabracastle.com.
Where: Battlebridge, Co Leitrim.
Why: If you’re into camping, this is the kind of spot that has everything you could possibly need. There’s space for campervans and tents, a marina for mooring your boat, or a variety of glamping options, from eco-pods to vintage caravans. Kids can keep themselves entertained in the little playground, and the gorgeous Beirnes Pub serves up great food by cosy fireplaces. It’s right on the Shannon Blueway, a lovely riverside walk on a peaceful path — they’ve started serving brunch to accommodate walkers. — NB
Insider tip: Stay on a Friday night and you’ll get the opportunity to take in a trad session in the pub.
Sustainability: There’s a great recycling area on site.
Details: Glamping from €200 for two nights; battlebridgecaravanandcamping.ie.
Where: Ballintra, Co Donegal.
Why: The glamping craze has thrown many set-ups our way, but nothing beats the yurts at Lough Mardal. Kitted out with gorgeous embroidered rugs, heavy antique beds and the thickest, fluffiest bedding, these tents in the wilds of Donegal take some beating. Imagine flinging the door open come morning, to see nothing before you but rolling hills, a rippling lake and rushes swaying in the breeze. Stand on the deck of your yurt, and you won’t see another soul (unless one of the donkeys comes to say hello, that is). Only opened in July last year, the yurts have wood-burning stoves to keep things nice and cosy, and are well spaced out. There’s no electricity or water, so you head up to the main lodge when you want to shower or cook, but the good news is the straw bale structure is gorgeous, with massive comfy chairs, a huge fireplace and plenty of books. — NB
Insider tip: Bring a Thermos from home, so you can make a coffee in the yurt come morning. Slippers would be nice, too.
Sustainability: You can’t get much greener than this — it’s a complete eco-build; even the firelighters are environmentally friendly (made from wood shavings dipped in wax).
Details: Yurts from €110; loughmardalglamping.ie.
Where: Redcross, Co Wicklow.
Why: You’ve heard of glamping, but what about a glampotel? This family-run park took a punt on a series of new buildings last year, and they’ve been in high demand since. The feel is affordable Center Parcs, with private units in blocks of four featuring double beds and three mezzanine level singles accessed through wooden doorways carved in fun shapes such as rabbits’ ears. There are decent showers and loos, comfy bedding is provided, and there’s a barbecue chimney and outdoor table too. River Valley began as a family farm, evolving over the years to add not just glamping, camping and mobile home pitches, but its own Wicklow Brewery next to Mickey Finn’s pub next door (the Lime Weiss Beer-steamed mussels are ace). — PÓC
Insider tip: There’s no WiFi or TV. Bring board games and prepare the kids for some old-school activities... from ‘Foot Golf’ to a coming electric go-kart track.
Sustainability: The family is a big local employer, providing part-time staff with what they call the ‘Mickey Finn College Fund’, hugely involving the community in its business.
Details: Glampotel units from €280 for two nights; check website for camping rates; rivervalleypark.ie.
Where: Louisburgh, Co Mayo.
Why: Set up by a group of outdoorsy guys with a passion for adventure, Big Style lodge is a place that draws thrill-seekers like moths to a flame. Out beyond Louisburgh, on the edge of a mountain overlooking the sea, the lodge is home to a surf and SUP school, and the base camp for adventure weekends. What’s really cool is that it’s attached to a village pub, where locals intermingle with visitors over a few pints and a bit of a session. The rooms are basic but the common areas are fab, utilising reclaimed materials and designed to encourage everyone to mingle. There’s a great outdoor area too, with hot tubs heated by wood-burning stoves, and a platform overlooking the water. — NB
Insider tip: Take the train to Westport and get a transfer for €10pp each way, so you can leave the car at home.
Sustainability: The kitchen is on its way to becoming a zero-waste space.
Details: Adventure weekends from €230pp; bigstyle.ie.
Where: Bushmills, Co Antrim.
Why: Ship over two, hand-carved log cabins from Canada and reassemble them near Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coast? It sounds crazy, but boy, has Pearl and Archie Linnegan’s punt paid off. Step inside the roomy Western red cedar cabins and you’re straight away struck by both comfort and warmth. Shooting for a five-star guesthouse finish, the couple has added under-floor heating, outdoor hot tubs, robes, tasteful furniture that complements the at-times almost surreal oomph of the cedar, and in one of the two cabins, a copper-plated bathtub. “We could have gotten lost in sea of accommodation, but we wanted to give a complete wow factor,” they say. Guests have bought right in, “touching and feeling and loving” the two cabins, named ‘Ulex’ (whin) and ‘Salix’ (willow) Pearl says. “You can... disconnect, that’s the word I’m looking for.” — PÓC
Insider tip: Kids must be over 8 to stay... if they come with, book ‘Ulex’ with its hand-made bunk bed.
Sustainability: Cabins have grass-topped ‘living roofs’.
Details: Two nights (minimum stay) from £380 in low season, sleeping four; auroranorthcoast.com.
Where: Dromquinna Manor, Co Kerry.
Why: A great stay is all about the little touches. At the Potting Sheds, you’ll find every last nook and cranny has been created to ensure your comfort and pleasure (what else would you expect from the Brennan brothers?). The sheds themselves date back to 1895 and were fully renovated last year, with extra big beds and plush linens, beautiful little gardens and lovely big sofas. Pull back the door on what looks like a wardrobe and you’ll find a bunk bed, perfect for little ones but nice and hidden if it’s just you. Breakfast comes in a little hamper, delivered filled with homemade granola, juice, and a pot filled with piping hot coffee or tea. You couldn’t ask for anything more. — NB
Insider tip: Pack some marshmallows to make the most of the communal fire pit nearby.
Sustainability: Breakfast packs are made in the kitchen and presented in glass jars and bottles.
Details: Rates from €190; dromquinnamanor.com.
Where: Virginia, Co Cavan.
Why: When Richard Corrigan took over Virginia Lodge, I felt it had the air of a vanity project. The ensuing years inspired me to think again, however, with the Blue Book bolthole improving rapidly in surprising new ways. Weddings and events are a key business, of course (a sweeping, light-flooded pavilion almost feels part of the woodland), but leisure guests can check in on several weekend ‘stayovers’ a year. Accommodation is in country luxe rooms in the house, or new Shepherd’s Huts, with Respa beds, cosy stoves, Voya products and Neff hobs. Corrigan is regularly on-site, and apparently dubs the experience ‘a home-tel’, evoking the intimate feel, friendly service and a scattering of his own personal stuff — like pedal cars and vinyl in the sitting room. Luxury cabins arrive this spring. — PÓC
Insider tip: Sign up to the newsletter to hear about the next stayover, or pop-up Sunday lunches from €69.
Sustainability: The estate is working towards self-sufficiency and organic practices, particularly in its kitchen gardens, which now supply some of his London restaurants.
Details: B&B and dinner from €450; virginiaparklodge.com.
NB: All rates subject to availability/change