As summer wanes, it’s time to enjoy autumnal charms. These staycations offer a mix of adventure and relaxation in crisp, colourful, cosy surroundings …
A botanical breather: Aimsir, Co Kildare
Gourmets and gardeners of any level can enjoy an exclusive overnight experience at Cliff at Lyons with a tour of the new Aimsir farm and kitchen gardens. Designed to make Cliff at Lyons self- sufficient with a firm focus on sustainability, the new farm will add three more acres of polytunnels, orchards, animals and potager gardens to supply eggs, honey and all the fruit, vegetables, herbs and flowers needed for the kitchens of Aimsir and The Mill at Cliff at Lyons.
The garden is overseen by Tom Downes and his partner Stina Hjalmarsson. For those booking the “Farm Experience” (from €561 for two people sharing) Tom and Stina will give tips and tricks on sustainable gardening during a two-hour tour of the grounds. For a real “garden-to-plate” experience, the tour concludes with some snacks created by chef Jordan Bailey, paired with one of Aimsir’s all-Irish cocktails. A three-course dinner in the Mill Restaurant is a fitting finale to this inspiring package; www.cliffatlyons.ie
Cycling in Cork: The Kingsley
The Kingsley is an ideal base to explore Cork city, and with its “Explore Cork” mini break you can take to the streets of Cork on two wheels. The two-night package includes a guided bike ride with “Beyond the Glass Adventure Tours” exploring Cork’s history and revealing a few of Cork’s hidden secrets. The gentle cycle takes in colourful streets, city parks and riverside pathways including Shakey bridge, Shandon, University College Campus, Elizabeth Fort and the city’s churches and cathedrals. After a day of exploring make your way back to The Kingsley for some relaxation. The two-night package includes bed and breakfast, with dinner on one evening, the bike tour and tickets to Nano Nagle Museum and costs from €465 for two people; www.thekingsley.ie
Hike to the top of Knockfernia: The Mustard Seed, Co Limerick
Pack your wellies and hiking books for a one night getaway at The Mustard Seed, Co Limerick, which combines fresh air and fine food. Check in early and enjoy walking in the surrounding country lanes, take a hike to the top of Knockfernia and view the house from the highest point of Co Limerick or spend the afternoon browsing in nearby Adare village. A one-night stay including breakfast and a four-course dinner in the restaurant is €129 per person sharing; www.mustardseed.ie
Explore Dunsany Nature Reserve: The Station House Hotel, Co Meath
The family-run Station House Hotel is a lush escape listed on the Boyne Valley Garden Trail. It’s the perfect setting to switch off or use as a base for exploring its neighbour the ground-breaking Dunsany Nature Reserve. This Reserve is owned by naturalist and film-maker Randal Plunkett, 21st Baron of Dunsany, who decided to rewild his family’s demesne in 2014. This involved removing all grazing animals from the property and restoring its ecosystems. Plunkett’s gamble paid off and the Reserve is the first Irish project to be recognised by the European Rewilding Network. The rewilding project at Dunsany has led to increased biodiversity, including sightings of rare local bird species such as red kites, woodpeckers, barn owls, long-eared owls, herons and sparrow hawks, along with red deer, foxes, otters, badgers, pine martens, hares and stoats.
A two-night stay in The Station House, including dinner on one evening and a tour of Dunsany Nature Reserve with Lord Dunsany, is available from €450 per double room; the hotel will also donate funds to plant a minimum of seven trees per outing the Reserve to tie in with its sustainability mission. If you haven’t yet stayed at The Station House it’s a chic haven that gourmets and decoristas will enjoy. Maximalist and more-ish, I’ve stayed twice and love it; www.stationhousehotel.ie
Explore the Wild Atlantic Way, Limerick Strand Hotel
Limerick offers the combined advantages of a city and coastal break. In town, must-visits include The Hunt Museum, King John’s Castle and the Milk Market, while further afield trails and parks to explore by bicycle or on foot include Curraghchase Forest Park, Ballyhoura Mountain Trails and Limerick Greenway. As a stylish base, Limerick Strand Hotel offers a complimentary range of walking, running, and cycling map routes for guests, as well as a luxurious overnight experience in one of its recently refurbished rooms. Enjoy a complimentary glass of prosecco or pint of the local Treaty City Beer before a three-course meal in the new AA rosette River Bar & Restaurant. A late checkout follows a leisurely breakfast, from €110 per person sharing; www.strandlimerick.ie.
Bird watching and falconry: Glenlo Abbey Estate, Galway
Perched near the shores of Lough Corrib and set in 138-acres of parkland, Glenlo Abbey Estate is a nature haven. As the light fades, leaves fall, and swallows fly south, autumn is a time for sighting waterfowl. Other native birds, which love nesting on the lough shores include hen harriers, Brent geese and pintails and wading birds like curlew and sandpipers. There’s also the chance to see some birds of prey while being guided by one of Ireland’s master falconers. This can be booked in advance and is part of Glenlo Abbey’s seasonal package, “Autumn on the Estate” from €760 for two adults sharing. This two-night stay includes luxurious accommodation, a complimentary drink on arrival, à la carte breakfast each morning, a four-course meal in the Pullman Restaurant, a mini treatment at the new Glo Spa & Wellness plus access to the hotel’s private cinema. In addition to bird watching, other activities include golf, on-site horse riding, fishing and cycling; www.glenloabbeyhotel.ie
Storytelling with a seanchaí: Cahernane House Hotel, Co Kerry
As part of its two-night Halloween package, Cahernane House Hotel in Killarney, Co Kerry is hosting a night of storytelling with Eddie Lenihan, one of the few traditional seanchaí’s still working in Ireland. Irish fairy stories form a huge part of Lenihan’s repertoire. His tales are not for the easily spooked – banshees, devils, monsters, and of course ghosts populate his stories, part of the hotel’s Halloween package, which can be booked from October 23 – 25, from €349. This includes bed and breakfast for two nights for two adults and two children. It also includes dinner for the family on one evening, a kid’s movie and popcorn and storytelling with Lenihan for adults in the Drawing Room. To continue the Halloween theme, there are great places to explore in the area including Muckross House and Ross Castle on the shore of Lough Leane. The castle was built by O’Donoghue Mór in the 15th century and is believed to be one of Ireland’s most haunted castles. According to legend, it is said that every seven years O’Donoghue rises from the lake and circles the shore on a white horse. Those lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the ghost will have good fortune for the rest of their lives; www.cahernane.com
Walk Ireland’s Medieval Mile: Mount Juliet, Co Kilkenny
Historic buildings, secret slipways, a Dominican abbey blooming with stained glass, and the only example of an early 17th century merchant’s house in Ireland are just some of the medieval sites along Ireland’s Medieval Mile in Kilkenny. On your way you will also discover a recreated medieval garden, climb St Canice’s Round Tower (the oldest standing structure in the city), and take a glimpse inside the lives of the Butler family and their servants at Kilkenny Castle, until you reach the traditional home of witches in the 14th century Kyteler’s Inn. Visitors can also take a self-guided tour inside the castle, which has been restored to its original grandeur. As a base, stay at Hunters Yard at Mount Juliet Estate, which is currently offering an “Autumn of Dreams Package”. From €358 per night for two people sharing, on offer for guests is five-star bliss, crackling fires, deep beds, crisp walks, and the beauty of the estate. Dinner is included at The Hound Restaurant, with breakfast the next morning overlooking the Jack Nicklaus Championship golf course. Guests have use of the newly redesigned swimming pool and state-of-the-art gym. Other activities on the estate include horse-riding, falconry, golf, fishing, and woodland walks; www.mountjuliet.ie
Golfing, kayaking and fishing: The K Club, Co Kildare
The K Club’s autumn offer is all about enjoying the natural beauty and the grounds of this luxurious five-star retreat. The “550 Acres of Space” experience, from €149 per person sharing for one night, includes an overnight stay in elegant accommodation, with full Irish breakfast in the River Room Restaurant and a €40 dining credit per person to be used against food in any of the resort’s onsite restaurants. Guests can enjoy 15 per cent off the exceptional range of outdoor activities available at The K Club. These include playing one of the two Arnold Palmer-designed golf courses, kayaking on the estate’s private mile-long stretch of the River Liffey or experiencing the art of falconry. Other activities include achery, clay pigeon shooting and air rifle shooting, as well as horse riding, tennis or fishing on the Liffey or the well-stocked lakes for pike, perch and brown trout, carp and tench. With lots of private lanes and paths, guests can borrow the resort bicycles to go exploring or simply follow the garden walks and take in the formal gardens laid out by the Barton family who built the original Straffan House at the heart of the resort in the 19th century. After a day’s exploring, choose one of the many drawing rooms with their crackling log fires and deep sofas, and get comfortable; www.kclub.ie
Foraging: Knockranny House Hotel & Spa
Knockranny House Hotel & Spa is celebrating the turning of the seasons with its Foraging Weekend on October 15 – 16. Check in for guests is on Friday evening, and the foraging weekend begins on Saturday morning with a guided foraging session in the local Knockranny Woods and Old Head Woods. Led by Will Williams from “Walk on the Wildside” guests will see how and where mushrooms grow in their natural habitat and learn identification techniques. Later that afternoon, guests will pick and cook the foraged bounty over a campfire. Returning to the hotel, participants will enjoy a glass of wine and a mini cooking demonstration and tasting with chef Seamus Commons. Later in the evening, chef Commons will prepare dinner with a focus on game, mushrooms and other autumnal ingredients. This two-night break with tasting menu, foraging session, wine tasting and cooking demonstration costs from €320 per person sharing in a Classic room; www.knockrannyhousehotel.ie.
Fishing and deer spotting: Screebe House, Connemara
Tucked away in the idyllic surrounds of Camus Bay, is Screebe House, a Victorian home built in 1872 and restored by the Burkart family in 2010. Combining charm and comfort (think open fireplaces, high ceilings and antiques) the hotel provides the perfect backdrop for taking in the scenery, reading a book or planning a range of activities. These include renting bikes for exploring, fishing, deer spotting, swimming, hiking, and more. Adjacent to the house is the modern Spa Lodge, which features a saltwater indoor swimming pool, a large sauna flooded with natural light and panoramic views, a fitness area, seaweed baths and an outdoor hot tub. Guests are encouraged to awaken the senses by jumping off the nearby pier into the wild Atlantic followed by a warm sauna and a soak in the outdoor hot tub.
Currently on offer is a two-night “Mid-week Escape” available from €798 for two adults sharing and includes a la carte breakfast each morning, a three-course dinner on one night, and a delicious Irish cheese board with a glass of wine on a night of your choice. Available until October 25; www.screebe.com
Mindful mountaineering: Cliff House Hotel, Co Waterford
At Cliff House Hotel, overlooking Ardmore Bay, sustainability is a key focus, reinforced by a new “Leave No Trace” getaway. The two-night break includes a hill skills course led by “MuddyBoots”, aka Mario Macrory, a qualified guide and mountaineering approved trainer. Suitable for beginners, map reading, and emergency procedures are taught as are the principles of exploring with kindness, leaving no trace behind you …other than perhaps a few muddy boot prints for the rain to wash away! The two-night getaway includes accommodation in a sea view room dinner in the Bar Restaurant on one evening and a packed lunch to take on hikes and breakfast. From €1,055 for two people sharing. www.CliffHouseHotel.ie
Clay pigeon shooting, archery and more: Sheen Falls Lodge, Co Kerry
For a quintessential country break, there’s no place like Sheen Falls Lodge: set on the Wild Atlantic way outside the pretty town of Kenmare. There are several tempting autumn offers – one of which is the three night saver package which includes a 50 per cent discount on the third night. Another is “The Sheen Activity Package” which is a two-night stay with breakfast, dinner for two on one evening in The Falls Restaurant, access to the Easanna Wellness & Spa pool area and then course of one activity from the following – a horse-riding trek, clay pigeon shooting, archery or falconry. For bookings and further information, visit www.sheenfallslodge.ie
Survival and obstacle courses: Fota Island Resort, Co Cork
If you have been inspired by the new season of Who Dares Wins, then why not try out Fota Island Adventure (housed within the Fota Island Resort) which offers survival and bushcraft, target archery and obstacle courses, water sports and orienteering. These activities are tailor-made to suit family members or groups of all ages. New activities include a treasure hunt called Fota Adventure Quest, and a puzzle-solving adventure called Cabin Fever, with mental and tactical challenges. Both of these are available to book for groups. Of course, Fota Island Resort is surrounded by gorgeous scenery and championship golf courses with a golf academy as well as a spa for less intrepid staycationers (like myself!). An overnight stay at the resort with full Irish breakfast in Fota Restaurant and full access to leisure facilities costs from €219 per room per night; www.fotaisland.ie
An evening of wild food: Eccles Hotel & Spa, Co Cork
On October 2, Eccles Hotel & Spa will be hosting an evening of wild food with chef Eddie Attwell and garden designer Leonie Cornelius. “A Taste of Wild at Eccles” is a collaborative nine-course menu, using ingredients from the Irish landscape. The evening will feature stories and descriptions of how the recipes were created with personal memories and stories from Eddie and Leonie. This package costs €220 per person for one night bed and breakfast, including the tasting menu and wine; www.eccleshotel.com
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