Not long ago, it was almost impossible to find decent pet-friendly accommodation in Ireland. Today, an increasing number of hotels are pampering pooches.
Well, judging by the number of five-star hotels rolling out the welcome mat (Aghadoe Heights, InterContinental Dublin and The Dunloe among them), pet owners are a profitable niche. But clearly, it's also something that more and more customers want.
The thing about catering for pets - as any pet owner will tell you - is that there's no point being half-hearted or tokenistic about it. Simply having a kennel out back, or a cute bowl of water out front, is not enough. Dog lovers consider their animals part of the family. That's why we're seeing doggie toys, treats and even menus at some top hotels, as Bairbre Power (and her Yorkshire terrier, Romy) discover in our travel feature this week.
A warm welcome is not a given, however. Pet-friendly properties remain very much in the minority. Even if a hotel does advertise itself as 'pet-friendly', you need to call ahead to query its interpretation of that. Will your dog cost extra? Is bedding provided? Can it hop up on furniture? Can it eat in the room? Some hotels accept small to medium-sized animals, but not larger dogs (7kg is the InterContinental's limit, for example).
For more options, check the lists of pet-friendly accommodation on Ireland-guide.com and Irelands-blue-book.ie.
Oh, and pack the pooper-scooper.
Ardilaun Hotel, Galway
Galway's Ardilaun Hotel offers a four-star service for four-legged friends, including rooms with garden access and an Ardilaun Doggy Pack (containing a bowl, treat and welcome letter). Midweek B&B with afternoon tea starts from €67pp; dogs are charged at €15. Carbery Cottage Guest Lodge in Durrus is another go-to getaway ("We've got two labradors on their way from Bavaria," I was told as we went to press). Doubles from €45pp, with a self-catering cottage from €350 per week. See theardilaun.ie and carbery-cottage-guest-lodge.net.
Gregan's Castle, Co. Clare
Gregan's Castle - stashed away in the Burren, Co. Clare - is Georgina Cambell's pet-friendly hotel of the year for 2015. Owners Simon and Freddie Hadden have given their dog-owning guests some classy consideration, with several ground-floor rooms offering direct access to the gardens (one has its own courtyard garden, another an outside kennel) and homemade doggie cookies. Going to press, Gregan's had three nights' B&B with two dinners and a half-day guided walk in the Burren from €440pp. See gregans.ie.