Did it feel as if the last few months were one long (essential) shopping, prepping and cooking exercise? Have you exhausted your culinary repertoire and are in need of some inspiration? Or do you just fancy getting dressed up to be waited on hand and foot, as they say? Fortunately there’s no shortage of Irish hotels renowned for their restaurants or award-winning chefs, in fact, we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to indulgent minibreaks. This list of staycation ideas is by no means complete but I hope it will provide food for thought (literally) and some unforgettable fine dining experiences in inspiring settings – perfect for working up an appetite …
Mount Juliet Estate, Thomastown, Kilkenny
Mount Juliet Estate has just been named as the AA Hotel of the Year 2020, the most prestigious prize in the Irish hospitality industry. This is a testament to the commitment of general manager, Mark Dunne, and his entire team in providing exceptional service, a warm welcome to all of their guests, and the excellent dining options showing the best local produce the region has to offer. In addition to immersing themselves in the idyllic (500 acre) surroundings and enjoying the Estate history and its championship golf course, regular guests know that central to any special stay at Mount Juliet is the Michelin-starred Lady Helen dining room – a visual feast in all senses. The view is idyllic and the dining room posh, though not pretentious. Guests can choose from a seven-course Tasting Menu, a nine-course Surprise Menu and a Table d’hôte menu all created by executive head chef John Kelly. His forte is balancing traditional flavours and components of local Irish cuisine with the more adventurous instincts he has honed while working in some of the world’s most renowned restaurants. To mark a special occasion The Lady Helen provides an unforgettable fine-dining experience; www.mountjuliet.ie.
Dromoland Castle, Co Clare
Dromoland Castle’s “Indulge & Delight” package does exactly what it promises. From the moment guests enter the 450 acre estate they are spoiled not just visually by the historical grandeur and beautiful surroundings, but also literally. Champagne and petit fours await guests when checking into one of the Castle’s signature staterooms. Then it’s off to explore the estate with its woodland walks using a special Dromoland buggy. A fitting finale to the evening is a candlelit dinner overlooking Lough Dromoland. The following morning after the “full Irish” the hotel’s resident falconer is on hand for a private falconry lesson, while a decadent picnic for two can be enjoyed in the Walled Garden before departure (or this can be arranged “to go”). The “Indulge & Delight” package starts from €1,550 based on two people sharing; www.dromoland.ie.
Adare Manor, Co Limerick
Just re-opened this week, an indulgent five-star stay at Adare Manor is perfect for a belated birthday celebration, a surprise anniversary trip or simply some much needed luxury. Treat yourself to a two night stay in one of the stunning guest rooms, with guaranteed upgrade to a deluxe room at the time of booking, breakfast each morning and a candlelit seasonal dinner menu for two in the Michelin-starred Oak Room restaurant on one evening. Prices for the two night “Adare Manor Retreat” start from €725 per person sharing; www.adaremanor.com.
The Culloden Estate & Spa, Co Antrim
This grande dame from Hastings Hotels is just six miles from Belfast and boasts stunning views over Belfast Lough and across County Antrim. The Culloden stands in 12 acres of secluded gardens and woodland and offers a fabulous range of dining options including Vespers Restaurant serving modern cuisine using the finest and freshest local ingredients; The Lough Bar offers light snacks and the hotel’s famous decadent Afternoon Tea and the Cultra Inn, a cosy bar and bistro nestled within the Estate, is perfect for a tasty lunch, evening meal. This summer, The Culloden is also home to the Jawbox Mobile Bar, located on the lawn outside the Cultra Inn serving a selection of gins, wine and beer in the sunshine. There’s also food for thought for art lovers – the hotel’s impressive collection of Irish artworks spans the lobby and dining areas and is worth the trip alone. An overnight stay with breakfast is from £105 per person sharing; www.hastingshotels.com.
Cliff House Hotel, Co Waterford
Cliff House Hotel has recently appointed a new kitchen team, where The House Restaurant holds a Michelin star and four AA Rosettes. Originally from Carlow, the newly appointed executive chef, Ian Doyle, comes to Cliff House Hotel after working in innovative kitchens abroad, most recently as head chef at two-Michelin star Oaxen Krog in Stockholm, and prior to that in the world renowned Noma. He and his team have been developing menus which form part of “The Signature Experience”. Designed by Doyle, it is a ten-course tasting menu in The House Restaurant, including overnight accommodation in a sea view room and breakfast, costing from €419 to €615 for two people sharing. The “Gourmet Package”, which includes the six course tasting menu, is from €355 to €515 for two people sharing a deluxe sea view room including overnight accommodation and breakfast; www.cliffhousehotel.ie.
The Westbury, Dublin 2
For couples looking for an elegant getaway à deux the “Romance in Style” package at The Westbury includes à la carte breakfast each morning (in your own room if you wish), a chilled bottle of champagne, late check-out and dinner for two at the award-winning Wilde at The Westbury, one of my favourite restaurants in Dublin. Also recommended is a trip to The Sidecar cocktail bar, famous for its elegant décor and classic aperitifs. In addition, guests can sample Afternoon Tea in The Gallery with a glass of Perrier-Jouët Blason Rosé from the popular Champagne Trolley. Or catch up with friends in Balfes, the New York-style brasserie with a casual dining menu, and al fresco area. This package is €590 for two people sharing and is just one of a range including special family packages to “Suite Celebrations”; www.doylecollection.com.
Cliff at Lyons, Co Kildare
From Cliff cocktails to Dove Square Dining and the Aimsir Lounge, Cliff at Lyons offers a trio of summer gourmet delights. Aimsir, the two Michelin-starred restaurant on the grounds under the helm of chef Jordan Bailey, is offering a special opportunity for food lovers keen to experience Aimsir with a luxurious overnight stay at Cliff at Lyons. Available from €545, to include bed and breakfast and an Aimsir tasting dinner for two, an extremely limited number of tables will be available to book for dates in September; www.aimsir.ie. For those who don’t manage to secure a table at Aimsir restaurant, the Aimsir Lounge is currently open from Wednesday – Sunday from 3pm on a reservation-only basis with seating both in the lounge and in the surrounding gardens serving a selection of Aimsir snacks and dishes. Extend your stay and discover the estate with rooms starting from €185 for two people. Cliff at Lyons also has a collection of six two-bedroom cottages, each with pretty garden, potager or lily-pond views, from €285 per night, room only. Guests can take a picnic from The Pantry along the canal or relax over dinner in your own cottage; www.cliffatlyons.ie.
Ballyfin, Co Laois
A romantic (full board) getaway at Ballyfin is the ideal setting for a proposal or mini moon and is an indulgent treat. Homemade cookies, cake, gourmet dinner, a minibar of soft drinks and snacks plus breakfast, lunch and all teas and coffees are included. With no need to worry about the minor details, (including ironing, Wifi and laundry facilities) guests can spend the afternoon exploring the demesne on a tandem bike or having a leisurely drive in a golf buggy. Other must-dos include a boat trip across the lake, a visit to the estate’s tower, grottos and walled gardens. In the early evening, luxuriate in a rose petal bubble bath with champagne and strawberries, before relaxing in the Library with a pre-dinner drink followed by dinner in the State Dining room. Rates start from €1,350 for this top notch staycation; www.ballyfin.com.
Glenlo Abbey Hotel & Estate, Galway
For those wanting to combine a trip along the Wild Atlantic Way with some decadence, Glenlo Abbey Hotel & Estate is offering a couple of appropriate packages. Its “Afternoon Delight” experience includes Afternoon Tea for two created by executive chef Dominique Majecki followed by an á la carte breakfast in the River Room Restaurant, costing from €255 per room per night. Alternatively, stay in a classic bedroom (overlooking the enchanting 138-acre estate), enjoy breakfast each morning in the River Room Restaurant and dine at the 2AA Rosette winning Pullman Restaurant aboard the Orient Express, a unique setting for a gourmet experience not to be missed. Combining innovative presentation with local and seasonal ingredients this overnight dining experience costs from €315 per room per night; www.glenloabbeyhotel.ie.
The Twelve Hotel, Bearna, Co Galway
The Twelve Hotel has a delicious two night getaway available for those who want to put their feet up for two days. Their “Gourmet Getaway” includes a cooked to order breakfast delivered each morning to your room, dinner in West Restaurant on the evening of your choice, a €60 food credit to be used how you wish on the second night, a movie night setup available with room service including the now legendary Twelve Hotel Brown Bag cocktails and a popcorn machine in your room. Prices start from €480 per room for a two-night stay. thetwelvehotel.ie
The Hideaway at Ashford Castle, Co Mayo
Picture private candlelit dinners, your own 24 hour concierge, leisurely walks through the beautiful landscape, perhaps a gentle boat trip on a lake with an historic castle as the backdrop, or sipping on your favourite drink looking out at sweeping majestic views, surrounded by nature and complete peace and quiet … It sounds like a fairy tale, but is in fact what you will find at the Hideaway at Ashford Castle. Set on the shores of Lough Corrib, The Hideaway was originally the Castle’s boathouse, and is ideal for those seeking a more secluded, luxurious holiday experience. The decor is far from rustic however – think blue Murano glass chandeliers, antique walnut armchairs and original artwork. Guests can opt to dine privately at the cottage or, if weather permits, opt for a romantic candlelit dinner on the pier overlooking the lake. The pier makes for a lovely terrace on summer evenings. Alternatively, guests are welcome to dine at any of Ashford Castle’s acclaimed restaurants should they desire a change of scene; www.ashfordcastle.com.
Hunter’s Hotel, Rathnew, Co Wicklow
Olde worlde charm, friendly service and good food combine at Hunter’s, the oldest coaching inn in Ireland, which has been in the same family (the Gelletlies) for five generations. I should know – I’ve been twice already this summer with my elderly parents. No, I wasn’t on a press trip, rather a private visit and on both occasions enjoyed checking in and immediately having a warm scone and cream on the lawn. Not the fancy Afternoon Tea version of this – just authentic and appetising and more-ish. There’s just enough time to digest this initial treat and wander around the grounds admiring the mature gardens and amazing vegetable patch before dinner is served each evening at 7.30pm. The menu changes daily with a few options for each course, using homegrown produce. On my second visit I recognised a few familiar faces and it’s clearly an in-the-know spot for locals where good food is guaranteed. As for rooms, they overlook the gardens and are tranquil and adequate for an overnight break, especially if you want to visit Mount Usher gardens, Russborough, Kilruddery, Glendalough or Powerscourt. Accommodation starts from €120 per person including dinner and breakfast; www.hunters.ie.
Ghan House, Carlingford, Co Louth
Managed by Paul Carroll and his mother Joyce, Ghan House originally operated as a cookery school before evolving into a 2 AA Rosette-awarded restaurant with rooms. Dating back to 1727, the property oozes charm and comfort, along with stunning scenery in the walled gardens and is situated less than 50 metres from the centre of the medieval village of Carlingford. Guests have the option of staying in the old house or one of the garden bedrooms with views of the Lough, Mourne mountains and Slieve Foy. The restaurant, meanwhile, uses herbs and vegetables grown in the on-site garden and the menu is inspired by local seafood and mountain lamb and beef; www.ghanhouse.com.
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