Pet lovers eager to get away after lockdown are spoiled for choice with canine-friendly hotels, writes Roslyn Dee
So it’s a sunny evening back in July 2000 when we check into a hotel for the night. Finding ourselves in the border region of the country for the day while working on a book project, we are simply too tired to drive back to Wicklow and decide to stay somewhere overnight and head home first thing in the morning.
In the back of our battered old Volvo estate are our two well-travelled dogs, Oscar and Finn, the Irish wheaten terrier brothers who go everywhere with us. And while it’s not ideal, we know they will be fine in the Volvo for one short night, windows discreetly down so they don’t over-heat.
We are shown to our room by one of the hotel staff, and are delighted to see that we’ve been given a spacious suite with separate living room and bedroom. Lovely, we think.
It’s when my husband spots the glass doors to the rear garden, however, that I notice the smile spread across his face and the penny also drops with me.
And so it is that, within 10 minutes of taking up residence, the husband has legged it out to the car, Oscar and Finn have been snuck in around the back of the hotel and in through our living room door and are now comfortably settled and having a snooze on the lovely soft rugs in front of the sofas.
Confession time: that wasn’t the first time, nor the last, that Oscar and Finn
secretly spent the night with us in a hotel room in Ireland.
Yes, we were breaking the rules, but they were well-behaved dogs and back then, finding a hotel that was dog-friendly – especially with two in tow – was far
Nowadays, thankfully, it has improved greatly, something that will no doubt be warmly embraced by dog owners this summer once hotels reopen across the country. For if ever dog-friendly hotels were set to come into their own, surely it is now.
“I don’t think we’ll be able to go away anywhere,” a friend said to me last week. Why? Because he and his partner feel that, after more than a year of never being out of their sight, Louis, their elderly spaniel, would pine terribly if they left him behind.
And also, if truth be told, that they would pine for him.
I know exactly how they feel: the thought of leaving my dog Dudley behind while I go to chill out for a few days in Connemara or in Cork would fill me with anxiety.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way.
Two years ago, with Dudley as my then-new companion, we did a tour of the country together, stopping off in a number of pre-booked hotels where Dudley was deemed a welcome guest. It’s not always as plain-sailing, however. For anyone planning to head off this summer, Covid restrictions permitting, let me highlight a few things to watch out for, starting with how to interpret ‘dog-friendly’ because it certainly doesn’t mean the same thing to all hotel owners.
For me, ‘dog-friendly’ means that your dog is allowed to sleep in your hotel bedroom. That is fundamental. What it shouldn’t mean is that your dog will be assigned a cage in a nearby barn (as happened to my sister) or in the hotel’s underground car park – my experience with Oscar and Finn some years ago in a plush establishment that should have been more upfront about things. (And, no, we didn’t stay.)
Having established that your dog is welcome to stay in your room at night it’s then a matter of checking where else in the hotel, and the grounds, they are permitted.
This varies from place to place; on my road trip two summers ago I found that in some properties I could bring Dudley into the bar while I ate, while in others that wasn’t allowed.
In other places the bar area had two sections – one that was dog-friendly and one that wasn’t. Largely, dogs are not allowed into hotel restaurants/breakfast rooms, which, I think, is fair enough.
The provision of dog beds/bowls/treats is something that’s on the increase. Don’t be fooled into thinking, though, that this makes the hotel more dog-friendly than one that simply welcomes your dog and gives him/her access into most areas.
While I appreciate that many people like the whole ‘package’ – bed provided, treats, bottles of ‘Pawsecco’ drinks (I kid you not) and the like – it’s not for me. A bag of cheap snacks or ‘bubbles’ doesn’t cut it if you then have to put your dog into a barn for the night – or even into the car – while you go for a drink in the bar. Forget the gimmicks, I say, and look at the basics.
Then there’s the money aspect to consider too: some hotels charge for dogs, some don’t. It’s important to establish beforehand if there is a charge and whether that cost is per night or for the overall stay.
There’s also the other ‘numbers’ issue – are two dogs welcome? Three? Large dogs or only small dogs? (And what does any given hotel consider ‘large’?)
Yes, it’s a minefield, but with a bit of research and, importantly, by actually having a conversation with someone in the hotel, holidaying with your dog can actually be a wonderful experience – for the dogs and for their humans.
I have stayed in many ‘dog-friendly’ hotels at this stage. Here, from my own experience, and with all of these now taking summer bookings, are five of the best.
Cashel House Hotel, Connemara, Co Galway
Here is a hotel that was already dog-friendly before such a hotel category came into existence. Half of all rooms take dogs. Large and small dogs welcome. No specific restrictions on numbers, but double check when booking.
Dogs allowed in bedrooms, on the new outdoor patio where drinks and bar food are served, and in the small, indoor library (only one couple and their dog in at a time, though) for food and drinks. Not permitted in the restaurant or bar.
Dog-cams in rooms, linked to a mobile phone app, are available for anxious owners.
No charge for dogs. cashelhouse.ie
Dunmore House Hotel, Clonakilty, Co Cork
Dog-friendly bedrooms all on ground floor, with sea views and access to your own slightly elevated balcony.
Dogs welcome throughout the hotel, including lounge area and bar. Not permitted in the restaurant. Dogs of all sizes welcome. No restriction on number of dogs per room.
No charge for dog. dunmorehousehotel.ie
Inn on the Coast, Portrush, Co Antrim
Ten, ground-floor pet-friendly bedrooms. Dogs allowed in a large section of the bistro/bar. You can also enjoy breakfast, with Fido at your feet, at one of the tables in the foyer, immediately outside the breakfast room. Up to two large or medium dogs per room; three small dogs.
£20 (€23) a stay for one dog, £25 for two, £30 for three. innonthecoastportrush.com
The Mustard Seed at Echo Lodge, Ballinagarry, Co Limerick
Dog-friendly rooms and suites with outdoor access. No ‘bar’ as such but well-behaved dogs welcome in the communal sitting-room area when it’s quiet, but not in the restaurant. No specific policy on dog numbers – double check when booking.
No charge for dogs. mustardseed.ie
Enniscoe House, Castlehill, Ballina, Co Mayo
Dogs welcome in all six bedrooms in main house and in the self-catering accommodation. Also welcome in the communal sitting room but not in the dining room. No restriction on dog numbers – within reason.
No charge for dogs. enniscoe.com