1 month ago

Special Places To Stay This Summer

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Did you miss celebrating a milestone birthday this year? Or a special anniversary? Maybe you’ve not seen all your family since Christmas? Perhaps you want to book somewhere dramatic, discreet or different for a few days after the personal sacrifices of the last three months. Whatever the reasons, here are some options – from historic houses to design forward destinations and an upgrade on the usual self-catering staycation …

Luttrellstown Castle, Dublin 15

If you’re looking for a location in which to host a really special family reunion – say your own private castle – then consider 15th-century Luttrellstown Castle which can be booked for one of the most exclusive experiences in the country. Guests get the full run of the private, picturesque sanctuary, set in over 500 acres of stunning parkland. Outdoor pursuits include horse riding, clay pigeon shooting, archery and falconry, while golfers can enjoy a round at the renowned Luttrellstown Golf Club. There are also bicycles for guests to explore the stunning parkland, boating on the lake or a picnic on the lawn. Inside, guests can relax in the library (which has plenty of reading material with over 900 books), enjoy Afternoon Tea with a view over the grounds, and dine in style in the beautiful Van Stry ballroom. As for accommodation there are 15 stunning bedrooms. Prices start from €9,000 (based on 30 people max); www.luttrellstowncastle.com.

Rathmullan House, Co Donegal

A Georgian family run country house set on the shores of fjord-like Lough Swilly, Rathmullan House is gracious and elegant, defined by its spacious drawing rooms and low key charm. There are 34 rooms – book one of the large bay-windowed ones to the front with sea views, highlighting the perfect location. It is a mere stone’s throw from a (3km-long) Blue Flag beach which overlooks the hills of Inishowen on the far side of the water. It couldn’t be a more inspiring or picturesque corner of Donegal and a good base from which to enjoy the Wild Atlantic Way. With the second generation of the Wheeler family now looking after the four-star hotel, good food with a relaxed personal service are the cornerstones which Rathmullan House has been built on. Their award winning restaurant, The Cook & Gardener restaurant is renowned for its locally sourced and expertly cooked food, with many ingredients sourced from its own Victorian walled garden.The Tap Room (serving pizza and local craft beer) is a firm favourite with locals, and guests wishing to dine somewhere informal. Rathmullan village is only a short stroll away, via Batts Walk, and from the pier you can catch a ferry across the lough to Buncrana. Currently on offer is a two-night bed and breakfast stay – costing €140 per room per night (based on two people sharing) considerably less than normal; www.rathmullanhouse.com.

Ballyfin, Co Laois

Set at the foot of the Slieve Bloom mountains, the majestic doors of Ballyfin Demesne in Co Laois – arguably the grandest hotel in Ireland – are set to open again on Thursday July 23, when general manager Damien Bastiat will welcome a select number of guests. There will be just twelve of its 20 luxurious bedrooms available in addition to The Gardener’s Cottage. Outdoors, guests can explore more than 600 acres of private grounds and parkland as well as ancient woods, a 28-acre lake, follies, and grottoes. With summer comes the advantage of eating outdoors and secluded picnic lunches can be easily arranged in the pretty picnic house, or set adjacent to the temple, or the lakeside; www.ballyfin.com.

Ballymaloe House, Co Cork

As a former alumna of Ballymaloe Cookery School, Shanagarry, East Cork, has a special place in my heart and a stay in Ballymaloe House, set in 300 acres, does not disappoint. I finally stayed as a guest (not as a kitchen helper) a couple of years ago and spied actor Gabriel Byrne in one corner (a regular guest) as well as other “known” foodies. Everyone is assured the same welcome with character, culinary heritage and creativity at the heart of this iconic hotel’s success. This summer the hotel will reopen for overnight guests from July 22; the restaurant has already opened. On Thursdays and Fridays it will serve dinner only, from today (July 4) on Saturdays it will serve lunch and dinner, and there will be traditional Sunday lunch from July 5 onwards. As for staycation ideas – there are a range of stays, including an “Escape to the Countryside” midweek picnic break, an “Art Appreciation” break offering a guided tour of the open air sculpture exhibition in the gardens and the “Ultimate Countryside Weekend Escape”, from €475 per person sharing, for two nights inclusive of breakfast, dinner and lots of other (sweet) treats. Venture out of the hotel and East Cork has many stunning beaches to explore as well as the famous Ballycotton cliff walk. Other local attractions include the Cookery School’s gardens, Youghal Clock Tower, Midleton Distillery. Alternatively, relax in the house with a good book, swim in the outside pool, or play tennis or croquet: www.ballymaloe.ie.

Inis Meáin Restaurant & Suites, Inishmaan

For an immersive island experience this is second to none: Inishmaan is the least developed and populated of the three Aran islands and the elements are part and parcel of not just a stay here but the design at Inis Meáin Restaurant & Suites. Carefully curated by owners Ruairí and Marie-Thérèse de Blacam, there are five sleek, spacious suites all overlooking dry-stone walls, rare fauna and the Atlantic. Each of the four Burren suites is spacious, decorated in a minimal, yet luxurious manner, drawing on elements of wood, stone and glass. The huge Connemara Suite has a wood-burning stove and its own kitchen. Each suite also features a private outdoor seating area. Breakfasts (comprising smoked fish, yogurts, fruit, breads) are thoughtful, and are delivered early each morning in a special teak box. Guests are given a full exploration kit for experiencing the island at their own pace – bicycles, fishing rods and tackle, maps, reading material, walking sticks, binoculars and elegant backpacks, plus a healthy picnic lunch. The restaurant caters to a maximum of 16 diners; dinner is served on customised earthenware and glassware. Ruairí de Blacam’s cuisine has a dedicated following – and provenance is all (impressively) local; www.inismeain.com.

Inchiquin House, Co Clare

I’ve mentioned before how special the (converted and refurbished) Irish Landmark Trust properties really are and Inchiquin House is no exception. The self-catering property sleeps ten, (and costs €1,220 for two nights) and is an elegant period home in Co Clare, romantically tucked away not far from the Wild Atlantic Way. It is the perfect base from which to explore the Burren landscape, historic sites and of course Cliffs of Moher, Father Ted’s Parochial house (!) or walking in the 12 O’Clock Hills. There are five bedrooms, (three doubles), two bathrooms, a spacious kitchen with microwave and dishwasher and many other amenities. The garden and patio area are especially pretty and more importantly guests can bring their dog! www.irishlandmark.com

Number 31, Dublin

Number 31 is one of Dublin’s best kept secrets combining the best of two worlds: a classical Georgian townhouse and a light filled modernist mews. It is an oasis of peace and quiet, hidden behind a high creeper-clad wall on 31 Leeson Close, Dublin, right on the city’s Georgian Mile. It’s a popular choice for design enthusiasts, and light, colour and texture all combine in the interiors. The sunken seating area in the entrance is impressive and a great spot for an evening aperitif. The breakfast area is upstairs, with outdoor seating available in good weather. There is also a pretty walled garden which reinforces the ambiance of peace and calm. Number 31 is offering a three nights stay for the price of two nights, from €340 per stay including breakfast each morning and glass of Prosecco on arrival. For details email: [email protected]

Next week, Penny will give some glossy camping and glamping ideas for staycations.

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