If staycations were the story of summer, self-catering was the story of our staycations.
ven before lockdowns lifted, we were Googling Covid’s hottest properties – self-contained houses and apartments where we could chill out, cook-in and control the comings and goings in our own space. Ireland’s 5,000 or so holiday homes turned out to be the real ‘travel bubbles’ of 2020 – with business briskest for coastal properties and well-known hotels with houses.
There were gripes about prices (some justified, others not so much), but expect rates to drop as we head into autumn – with basic, three-bed houses costing from around €500 a week. Value isn’t about the price tag alone, of course. If you want great locations, chic design, more space in which to sprawl and spoil-yourself features like standalone baths and picture windows, prepare to pay more.
With hardly any overseas visitors, festivals or events, Irish tourism is on edge as school resumes. Jitters about local lockdowns have made late bookings more common, but there are reasons for hope too.
We Irish have always loved to self-cater (from the sunny south-east to package holidays in Spain and Portugal); new arrivals like Center Parcs and Cabü by the Lakes have taken things up a notch, remote working is a new opportunity, Trident Holiday Homes alone added 45 new properties over the last two months, and we’ll be able to avail of the ‘Stay & Spend’ initiative from October to April.
Many of us are also already looking to 2021, it seems. Last week, rental company Under the Thatch says it took more holiday bookings for next year than for the rest of 2020. “To date 2021 bookings are very strong,” adds Eilís McDermott of Trident. “Which is very positive and perhaps a sign that people are not willing to travel aboard next year.”
Tips? You’ll find the best rates midweek and off-peak (i.e. outside of mid-term and Christmas, which are booking strongly). As a rule, the further inland you go, the more competitive the prices. Be sure to check cancellation policies and Covid-19 protocols before booking, and commit to a level of research that justifies your spend.
“Read the website!” says Rosie Campbell of Unique Irish Homes. “Read the description, which tells you at a glance how many it sleeps, the bedrooms and the features… lots of people look at the pictures, and that’s it.”
She recommends reading up on the area, organising things like restaurant bookings ahead, and having rainy day plans to avoid disappointment. “Do a bit of homework before you go. Don’t just chip up and expect it all to be fantastic. No holiday’s fantastic without a bit of planning.”
1. Sienna, Co Kerry
Best for: Design fans, €€€
Why: If you harbour fantasies about living in the kind of house you see in interiors magazines, this is the place for you. Every little nook and cranny of this Kenmare escape has been thoughtfully designed, from the wall-mounted wood burner to the tasselled credenza. But while the interior is dreamily chic, from the outside you’re in a countryside fairytale, with orchards and a dainty stream that runs alongside the house. If that wasn’t enough, you can also gaze at the mountains from the Canadian hot tub. — NB
Insider Tip: Don’t get your own jumpers smoky at the fire pit — the owners provide fleeces to keep you cosy.
Details: Prices start from €831 for four nights. (+44) 1637 881 183; uniquehomestays.com
2. The Hide, Co Donegal
Best for: Nature lovers, €€
Why: A causeway cottage sleeping six, The Hide’s modest name belies its serious style credentials. With three bedrooms, a bright, open-plan living space and direct private shore access, it verges on Scandi chic. Designed to harmonise with the pristine Donegal setting, the cottage sits close to Glenveagh National Park, and a number of deserted beaches nearby. — JB
Insider tip: This is red deer country and you can expect to see these local beauties grazing most dawns and dusks. A large colony of grey seals inhabits nearby Dooey Beach.
Details: Three nights from €393 plus booking fee; (+44) 1239 780 800; underthethatch.co.uk
3. Elfin Cottage, Co Clare
Best for: Bath fiends, €€€
Why: If you dream of a sexy bathtub, then Elfin Cottage is just the ticket. In the master bedroom there’s a giant copper tub where you can soak as you gaze out upon the coastline, glass of red wine in hand. Then you can swan into the living room, plonk yourself down by the floor-to-ceiling windows and enjoy the same view by the roaring fire. There are five other cottages in the Doolin Village Lodges collection too, and 11 lodges, all unique in style. — NB
Insider Tip: Your cottage rental comes with a welcome hamper of organic eggs, homemade bread, Burren smoked salmon and some sweet treats to boot.
Details: Rates at Elfin start from €200 per night. (061) 411 109; doolinvillagelodges.com
4. Clifford House, Co Wexford
Best for: Guesthouse groove and golfers; €€
Why: You wouldn’t think it standing over Rosslare Harbour, but just a few hundred yards to the south lies a stretch of coastline that could be cut from the Caribbean. Perched above it is Clifford house, built as a Victorian summer getaway in 1898, and extended by Michéal Delaney and Margaret Hartigan into a modern Irish B&B with an almost subtropical feel to the gardens and picture windows peering out on palm fronds and sea views. The self-catering house is a four-star, three-bed set-up (“we call it the mews,” Margaret says), and all guests have direct access to the beach. — PÓC
Insider Tip: The coastal path continues south to St Helen’s Bay and beyond. The house is dog-friendly, and there’s a large garage where bikers and hikers can store and dry gear.
Details: B&B from €80; self-catering from €750 per week (sleeping six). (053) 913 3226; cliffordhouse.ie
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5. Woodland Villas, Parknasilla, Co Kerry
Best for: Families with young children, €€
Why: A favourite with families, Parknasilla’s stylish self-catering homes combine quality accommodation with access to the resort’s excellent facilities. Just a 10-minute walk from the hotel, guests have access to the remarkable beauty of the 500-acre waterside estate. You’ll find mapped walking trails to explore as well as fun treasure and fairy trails, mini golf, a playground, zipline and teen zone hideaway. — JB
Insider tip: Pets aren’t allowed indoors but Parknasilla offers boarding kennels onsite, €10 per night (book ahead). Dogs may be walked on a lead at the resort.
Details: Five nights (sleeping six) from €780 plus booking fees. (064) 664 1170; parknasillaresort.com
6. Galway Coast Cottages
Best for: Young families wanting a city nearby, €€
Why: When you’re heading off with the kids, you want to make sure that a self-catering property has everything you could possibly need. And who knows your needs better than parents themselves? Daniel Last and Sarah Kearney have three young kids of their own, and these houses in Barna are kitted out with everything you could require (including a tub for bathtime). There’s a playground, a green for kickabouts, and beaches just a short hop away. If it’s drizzly and you need entertainment, Galway is close by too. — NB
Insider Tip: Order a take-out dinner and cocktails from The Twelve hotel (thetwelvehotel.ie) just up the road.
Details: Prices start from €299 for a weekend off-peak. (085) 705 2535; galwaycoastcottages.com
7. Milk Harbour Holidays, Co Sligo
Best for: A quiet escape on the Wild Atlantic Way, €€
Why: This northern stretch of Sligo is often passed over for Strandhill and Rosses Point, but is a little treasure on the coast, with Streedagh and Mullaghmore some of the prettiest spots in the northwest. Milk Harbour is in the middle of the two and right on the water, with two self-contained apartments recently converted and available to rent. They’re bright, airy and thoughtfully designed, with an outdoor fire pit in case you get lucky with the weather. — NB
Insider Tip: Island View Riding Stables is just a few minutes away for beach treks. islandviewridingstables.com
Details: Rates from €100 per night in the boathouse, sleeping two. (087) 179 4307; milkharbourholidays.ie
8. Inish beg, Co Cork
Best for: Group get-togethers; €€€
Why: A spectacular West Cork location, this private island estate offers up almost 100 acres of organic land, including exquisite gardens, woodland, parklands and foreshore for exploring. A rare hideaway, guests can hire one of 10 luxurious properties, accommodating between two and eight guests. The jewel in the crown is Inish Beg Boathouse, a waterfront holiday home with four bedrooms, a light-flooded living area and huge deck that open on to the River Ilen. — JB
Insider tip: A 13m indoor heated pool and steam room are yours to use, and children will love it here, with farm animals and three fun animal trails in the woodlands.
Details: Weekly rates from €640 (sleeping two) to €2,465 in the Boathouse (sleeping eight). (028) 21745; inishbeg.com
9. Galley Head Lightkeepers’ Houses, Cork
Best for: Introverts, €€
Why: You’ll never sleep as well as you do when you’re next to the sea. And you couldn’t ask for a location closer to the ocean than an actual lighthouse, perched on the cliffs outside Clonakilty. These houses have amazing views of the lighthouse itself as well as the rolling surf beneath the cliffs, so you can bundle up in a cable knit jumper and live out all your seafaring fantasies. — NB
Insider Tip: The wood burner comes with enough fuel to get you going, but for more fireside sessions you’ll need to pick up some more on your way. For other lighthouse stays, see greatlighthouses.com.
Details: Rates from €499 for two nights. (01) 670 4733; irishlandmark.com
10. Nissen Hut, Co Waterford
Best for: Beachside bliss, arty escapes, €€
Why: “It’s really special, the combination of the structure itself and the location — just metres from the beach but still quite sheltered.” So says photographer Evelyn McNamara of her surprising and stylish coastal retreat at Rathmoylan Cove near Dunmore East. The house is designed around a prefabricated, half-cylindrical steel structure, with creature comforts including French doors, a Balinese-style bathroom (you can see the sea from the shower) and a double-sided stove from Danish company, Heta Kosi. — PÓC
Insider Tip: The Dunmore East cliff walk is steps away from the front door and patio. Oh, and bring the snorkel.
Details: From €190 a night in low season, with a two-night minimum stay. evelynmcnamara.com; airbnb.ie/rooms/35414559
11. Cnoc Suain, Connemara
Best for: Romantics, €€
Why: This glorious collection of thatched and slate-roofed cottages is like something out of a fairy tale. In the wilds of Connemara, Cnoc Suain is set on a privately owned 200-acre nature preserve, perfect for long country walks with nothing but birdsong for company. The traditional stone cottages are dreamily cosy, with thick walls and patchwork quilts on the bed. This is the kind of place that shines when the weather is miserable — all the more reason to tuck yourself under a blanket with a good book, as the wind whips outside. — NB
Insider Tip: There are reduced rates for solo rentals, which is a rarity — it costs €570 for four nights.
Details: Prices at Cnoc Suain start from €630 for four nights. (091) 555 703; cnocsuain.com
12. Dunowen House, Co Cork
Best for: Big groups, €€€
Why: If you have a giant gang to get together, this Blue Book bolthole is the perfect place (read Pól Ó Conghaile’s Dunowen House review). It sleeps up to 18 people, and each of the rooms are en suite, eliminating any crossed-leg bathroom queuing in the morning. There’s also the smaller Orchard Cottage next door, sleeping five, which you can rent separately or together. Both houses are fabulously designed, with plush leather couches, homely touches and, oddly, musical memorabilia — this house used to belong to Noel Redding, bass guitarist with the Jimi Hendrix Experience. — NB
Insider Tip: The secluded Sands Cove is a short stroll away, right at the end of the lane, so bring your togs.
Details: Two nights start from €2,000 (in the main house) and €300 (cottage). (023) 886 9099; dunowenhouse.ie
13. Cliff Cottage, Co Waterford
Best for: Oceanside luxury; €€€
Why: To Dublin’s Cliff Townhouse, Ardmore’s Cliff House Hotel and Cliff at Lyons in Co Kildare, the CLIFF Group has added the Cliff Cottage in Ardmore — a three-bed (sleeping six adults, but with extra den space for kids) just steps from the five-star hotel. Expect lots of light, marine-inspired white and blue tones, an open-plan kitchen with Smeg fridge and views over the water, and a cosy, wood-burning stove for winter (or warming up after chilly sea swims). — PÓC
Insider Tip: Got a larger group and a special occasion? The Cliff Beach House is another new addition, with cinema room, six en suite bedrooms and a €2,500-a-night price tag.
Details: Rates from €550 a night with a two-night minimum stay. (024) 87800; cliffhousehotel.ie
SIX OF THE BEST: HOTELS WITH HOUSES
14. Adare Manor, Co Limerick €€€
Its new manor lodges (above) are seriously swish… but what else would you expect from Adare Manor? There are two- and four-bedroom lodges available, fully kitted out with lavish linens, goose down duvets and Nespresso machines. There are also two luxurious cottages available for rent, and you can get a fancy takeaway from The Carriage House, too. From €900 a night; adaremanor.com
If you like that, try… The luxurious self-catering lodges at Fota Island Resort (fotaisland.ie) or Castlemartyr (castlemartyrresort.ie).
15. Farnham Estate, Co Cavan €€
The Farnham Resort houses are set within the former walled gardens of this beautiful estate, close enough to the main hotel and its excellent spa and restaurant, but removed enough to feel nice and private. The underfloor heating is also a nice touch. Two nights start from €419; farnhamestate.ie
If you like that, try… The lodges at the always-improving Johnstown Estate in Co Meath (thejohnstownestate.com), complete with terraces and leisure centre access.
16. Lough Erne Lodges, Co Fermanagh €€€
One for the golfers, the turret lodges at the five-star Lough Erne Resort have fab views of the course and lake, which you can enjoy from your little balcony. Inside, they’re decked out in luxurious style, with plush armchairs and a gorgeous clawfoot bath. Prices from £595 a week in a two-bed lodge. lougherneresort.com
If you like that, try… The luxurious private rentals from Original Irish Hotels, a group of independently-owned hotels in Ireland. originalirishhotels.com
17. Mount Falcon, Co Mayo €€
You’ve got the choice of several lodge types at Mount Falcon (above), whether you want to base yourself in the woods, the courtyard or at the lakeside. They’re all super cosy, and there’s plenty to keep your little country squires occupied on site, from falconry to clay pigeon shooting. Rates from €300 for two nights this autumn. mountfalcon.com
If you like that, try…The self-catering apartments at Breaffy Woods (breaffyhouseresort.com) outside Castlebar are open seasonally.
18. Inchydoney Island, Co Cork €€
These two-bedroom apartments have beautiful views of the sea from the lounge, and a balcony or terrace so you can enjoy an al fresco breakfast. There’s also a washing machine, which comes in handy for beach days… Rates from €395 for a two-night stay; inchydoneyisland.com
If you like that, try… The three-bedroomed houses at Clonakilty Park Hotel are another great family option. clonakiltyparkhotel.ie
19. Faithlegg Estate, Co Waterford €€
You can choose between apartments or holiday homes at Faithlegg and spend your days making the most of the gorgeous estate, whether you want to play a few rounds or hit the tennis courts. Two-bed mews holiday homes start from €450 for four nights this autumn, with reduced golf fees for guests. faithlegg.com
If you like that, try… The Park Hotel Dungarvan has two- and three-bed holiday homes from €385 for two nights. parkhoteldungarvan.com
Top Tip: Check the drop-down ‘accommodation’ tabs for self-catering options on destination websites like visitkilkenny.ie, govisitdonegal.com or laoistourism.ie – they’ll often throw up interesting leads that aren’t listed on other sites.
20. Center Parcs, Co Longford
Best for: Multi-generational breaks, €€€
Why: It’s been open for over a year now, and Center Parcs is still playing a blinder. Sure, it has its critics (most notably on the prices of lodges and paid activities), but not even a pandemic has dinted its popularity, and for good reason. You can keep all the kids entertained in the Subtropical Swimming Paradise no matter the weather, or unwind in the excellent Aqua Sana spa, with its glass-walled saunas overlooking the trees. — NB
Insider Tip: In our ‘new normal’, pool sessions have to be pre-booked, so do that as soon as your stay is confirmed.
Details: From €519 for four nights midweek in a two-bed woodland lodge; (1890) 995 588; centerparcs.ie
21. Fuchsia Lane farm, Co Tipperary
Best for: Peace and quiet, €
Why: If the name seems pretty, wait until you see the real life beauty of Fuchsia Lane Farm. Offering four original stone cottages close to the shores of Lough Derg, the restored buildings date from the 1840s and are tucked up a quiet laneway on a working family farm. Guests have access to country walks and a woodland space with its own meditation zone. Close to the picturesque lakeshore village of Terryglass, Fuchsia Lane is a great spot for exploring the Lough Derg area and Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands. — JB
Insider tip: Bicycles are provided free of charge and there’s a cute play area for children and outdoor barbecue area.
Details: Two-night weekend or three-night midweek breaks off-season from €250 (sleeping two) to €380 (sleeping eight). (067) 22041; fuchsialanefarm.ie
21. The Old Deanery, Co Wexford
Best for: Group gatherings; €€€
Why: A handsome glebe house in Ferns, The Old Deanery is an ideal spot for a family celebration. Available for group bookings only, of 14 to 27 people, the six-acre estate features a courtyard of stone stables that have been converted into cosy cottages with names like The Duck House and Sheep Shed. Guests have access to The Barn, a lovely function room that’s ideal for a special dinner (and comes with a complimentary Prosecco reception in the house’s wine cellar). — JB
Insider tip: Local caterer Phelim Byrne can deliver options for a seated meal or buffet in The Barn.
Details: Weekend rates from €3,000 (open February to November). (087) 263 3355; theolddeanery.com
22. Horseshoe Cottage, Co Down
Best for: Foodies; €
Why: You couldn’t ask for a cosier setting than that of Horseshoe Cottage. This toasty and warm farmhouse on the shores of Strangford Lough is the kind of place where all you want to do is flop on to the deep sofa and eat warm soda farls slathered in butter. Which is just as well, because Tracey, the owner, not only bakes but runs cookery classes — and there’ll be a tray of freshly baked treats waiting for you on arrival. And if that wasn’t enough, there’s even a puppy who’ll want plenty of head pats. — NB
Insider Tip: Pop into Daft Eddies for dinner — it’s on the nearby Sketrick Island and has killer views.
Details: Rates from €199 for two nights. (+44) 7711 4848 50; horseshoecottage.co.uk
23. Owenmore Cottage, Co Galway
Best for: Countryside enthusiasts; €€€
Why: Set on the grounds of beautiful Ballynahinch Castle are two self-catering properties for luxury and privacy. The six-bedroomed Owenmore Cottage is fresh out of a refurb, tucked into the calming forestry of the estate. Each morning, a breakfast hamper is delivered with freshly baked goods, and while it’ll be tempting to stick by the roaring fire, there are complimentary bicycles for you to head out on. — NB
Insider Tip: Order your groceries ahead of time, and they’ll arrive complete with a haul of produce from the walled garden and huge greenhouse.
Details: Rates start from €2,500 for three days. (095) 31006; ballynahinchcastle.com
24. Ballydougan Pottery Courtyard Cottages, Co Armagh
Best for: Creative souls, €
Why: There are four cottages and an apartment within the courtyard of Ballydougan Pottery, where you can also take a pottery workshop, tuck into some homemade scones in the restaurant, or browse the range of ceramics in the gift shop. The cottages are traditional in style, with original period features and range from a sweet little one-bedroomed affair to a larger three-bed, perfect for families. — NB
Insider Tip: You can book dinner delivered into your cottage, ready and waiting for you on your return.
Details: Rates from €177 for two nights. (+44) 028 3834 2201; ballydouganpottery.co.uk
25. Ballyhoura Mountain Lodges, Limerick
Best for: Activity breaks, €
Why: Straddling the borders of Limerick and Cork, Ballyhoura Country is a vast playground of hills, pastures and forest beloved by outdoors enthusiasts. Ballyhoura Mountain Lodges make an ideal base for exploring, with nine modern self-catering lodges surrounded by woodland walks. Each of the nine lodges sleeps six and they are located just minutes from the excellent Ballyhoura Mountain Bike Trails, a 98km network of purpose-built bike tracks. — JB
Insider tip: Before arriving, discover the wealth of attractions and activities in the area at visitballyhoura.com.
Details: Weekend rates from €295 to €560. (063) 91666; ballyhouramountainlodges.ie
26. Castle Leslie Stable Mews, Co Monaghan
Best for: Families and holidaymakers who love horses; €€
Why: Restored and refurbished with real style, Castle Leslie’s Old Stable Mews offers luxurious self-catering on the grounds of the vast estate. The old stone coach house comprises 12 spacious two-bedroom mews in a pretty courtyard, and is just a short stroll from the castle and its many amenities, including restaurants, spa and equestrian centre. Each elegant mews sleeps five, with two bedrooms, two bathrooms and dogs are welcome. — JB
Insider tip: A three-night family break package including accommodation, a family breakfast basket, three light lunches and three dinners costs €1,400.
Details: A two-night weekend break starts from €650. (047) 88100; castleleslie.com
27. Ard Nahoo, Co Leitrim
Best for: A chill out break; €
Why: Get back to nature at the ultimate green destination, Ard Nahoo in Dromahair. The yoga retreat offers three timber frame eco cabins, which can be independently booked for a self-catering holiday. Featuring smart cedar cladding, hemp insulation, wood pellet stoves and natural paints the cabins are powered by wind. Ard Nahoo is surrounded by Leitrim’s glorious scenery and guests can enjoy the site’s peaceful Celtic Nature Trail, hot tub and infrared sauna. — JB
Insider tip: Ard Nahoo is close to the local village, Dromahair, where the excellent Riverbank Restaurant is run by a protégé of Neven Maguire’s. riverbankrestaurant.ie
Details: Weekend rates from €330 (sleeping two) to €595 (sleeping seven). (083) 134 6242; ardnahoo.com
28. Ballyportry Castle, Co Clare
Best for: Families, castle fans; €€€
Why: Atmospheric and unique, the sense of history is palpable in every inch of Ballyportry Castle. This is a 15th-century Gaelic tower house that has been sympathetically restored to marry modern comforts (underfloor heating, for example) with fabulous character walls and a dramatic stone interior. Available as an exclusive let, the cosy castle sleeps eight and its location is ideal for enjoying the Burren. — JB
Insider tip: A Ballymaloe-trained chef can supply lovely food for you and fill the fridge, and bespoke tours of the hidden Burren can be arranged with a local expert.
Details: Weekend stays from €2,043; (01) 660 9038; ballyportry.ie
29. Cabü by the lakes, Co Cavan
Best for: Cabin chic; €€
Why: Is Center Parcs too mainstream for your woodland wanderings? Consider Cabü by the Lakes, its smaller, more Insta-friendly cousin. A total of 28 cabins and lakehouses are spread around Killykeen Forest Park on the shores of Lough Oughter, with smart designs (from standalone bedroom baths to Belling ranges) and a safari-style, open-air gathering area dubbed a ‘Sitooterie’. Forest bathing, fishing and kayaking are among the activities on site. — PÓC
Insider Tip: Restaurant and bar openings are delayed to October due to Covid-19. Call to confirm the opening date if you want to eat out.
Details: Cabins from around €195 per night, with a three-night minimum. (049) 489 4027; holidays.cabu.co.uk
30. Captain Lysley’s Retreat, Co Limerick
Best for: Reunions and cocooning; €€€
Why: The former home of an old Etonian British Army captain may sound like a stuffy retreat, but this 19th-century glebe house has been lovingly revamped by John and Katrina O’Connor into a surprising self-catering stay just a stone’s throw from Adare. Five bedrooms sleep up to 12, with lots of nooks and crannies, a Nespresso machine and 16 acres of grounds perfect for our age of social distancing. The house launched just last year. — PÓC
Insider Tip: Look out for the hammocks and tyre swing in the gardens. Thirty hours are left between groups to allow for rigorous cleaning and sanitisation between visits.
Details: From €195 (midweek) to €395 (weekends) per night. (061) 970 090; captainlysleys.com
31. Inchiquin House, Co Clare €€€
On the edge of The Burren, Inchiquin House has been beautifully restored by the Irish Landmark Trust. Featuring period details, generous rooms and dazzling views, it’s a luxurious choice for a family gathering. Enjoy the formal dining room and book a caterer to do the hard work.
Details: From €1,342 for a weekend. (01) 670 4733; irishlandmark.com
32. Hannon’s Country Farmhouse, Co Sligo €
Tucked beneath the Caves of Keash, this comfy and spacious renovated farmhouse sleeps eight comfortably. With its dramatic setting, it’s a great base for enjoying Sligo and nearby Lough Key Forest Park.
Details: From €580 per week. (+44) 124 435 7719; hogansirishcottages.com
33. Cloon Cottage, Co Galway €€
Cottage escape in Connemara, anyone? This tasty, contemporary-styled cottage sleeps up to four in a double and twin, with two wood-burning stoves and underfloor heating to keep you cosy in our Covid winter. A nice country kitchen will be handy for cook-ins. Call ahead to confirm doggie details.
Details: From €950 per week (or €500 at weekends). (087) 991 1840; uniqueirishhomes.ie
34. Lakeside Lodges at Killyhevlin Hotel, Co Fermanagh €
On the banks of Lough Erne, Killyhevlin Lakeside Hotel offers 14 chic cabins that are pet-friendly. Ideal for exploring the Fermanagh Lakelands, each luxurious cabin sleeps four, and guests can avail of the hotel’s restaurants, health club and new play park on site.
Details: From £260 for two-night midweek breaks. (+44) 28 6632 3481; killyhevlin.com/lodges
35. Lakeside Luna & Kuba, Co Donegal €€
Small and perfectly formed, this shepherd’s hut stands on the Donegal shore with a deck and outdoor ‘cube’ for fireside evenings overlooking the bay, with a dog or two by your side. Self-contained and private, consider it a bijou bolthole.
Details: Three nights from €424. (+44) 1239 780 800; underthethatch.co.uk
36. Ballykeefe Farmhouse, Co Kilkenny €
Sleeping five, this attractive farmhouse comes with an external games room, large lawn and Ballykeefe Wood and Nature Reserve nearby. The property sits on a working farm, so children need to be supervised and your dog well-behaved during stays.
Details: From €522 per week. (+44) 124 435 7719; hogansirishcottages.com
Top Tip:“There’s an expectation that all properties have Wi-Fi. They don’t!” says Lisa Argue of Dream Ireland. “If you’re planning on working, using Netflix or bringing teenage kids, check to make sure that it’s there.”
40. Merrion Mews, Dublin
Best for: An urban escape; €€€
Why: The only original 18th century mews remaining off Merrion Square, the Irish Landmark Trust has worked its magic and restored this handsome property to former glories. Sleeping six, the heritage hideaway gives you your own front door in the heart of Georgian Dublin, making it an ideal base for a relaxed weekend of culture, shopping or sightseeing in the city. The memorable mews is set above horse stables and is charming, cosy and child-friendly. — JB
Insider tip: The accommodation is upstairs, above working stables which are occasionally used by the Mounted Unit of An Garda Síochána. Horses may come and go during your stay.
Details: Weekend rates start from €856. (01) 670 4733; irishlandmark.com
41. Malone Lodge, Belfast
Best for: Multi-family trips, €
Why: If you’re looking for a longer break in Belfast City, the apartments in Malone Lodge fit the bill nicely. Set in a separate building over the road from the hotel, you can nip into the bar there if you fancy a tipple or bite to eat if you don’t feel like cooking. This corner of Belfast is fantastic for places to eat — the excellent Barking Dog restaurant is just around the corner, and serves one of the best Sunday roasts you could ask for. — NB
Insider Tip: If you’re celebrating a special occasion, let them know — you might just find a bottle of Prosecco waiting for you in the apartment.
Details: Rates from €620 a week. (+44) 028 9038 8000; malonelodgehotel.com
42. Elizabeth Fort, Cork
Best for: History buffs, €€
Why: You’d never expect to find a place like this smack bang in the middle of the city. This 17th-century fort has a fascinating history, but was most recently a Garda station, with three on-site houses available for gardaí and their families. Two of these are now run by the Irish Landmark Trust, and every inch emanates cosy, traditional charm, from the patchwork quilts on the bed to the crockery stacked in the dresser. — NB
Insider Tip: Take a walk along the top of the fortress walls, for beautiful views of the city.
Details: Rates from €366 for two nights. (01) 670 4733; irishlandmark.com
43. The Mews Theatre Lane, Limerick
Best for: Architecture buffs; €€
Why: There’s a network of stable lanes behind all of the grand Georgian townhouses in Limerick, and this property is a converted mews that makes for a super stylish bolthole. Owner Nicole Dunphy studied 18th-century Dublin architecture at Trinity, and brought this home back to life a few years ago. There’s plenty of original stonework on display, alongside modern touches and comfy areas for lounging. — NB
Insider Tip: Head to the nearby Milk Market for brunch and a browse, maybe picking up some nibbles for a little cocktail hour come nightfall.
Details: From €140 a night; airbnb.ie/rooms/21033933
44. Coach House Douglas, Co Cork
Best for: Social families; €€
Why: A great stay is all about the little touches. And Emily O’Donoghue, owner of the Coach House Douglas, always goes the extra mile whether it’s offering to pick you up from the bus station or throwing a load of laundry in if you get soggy in the winter. This secluded and private cottage is just a few minutes from the village of Douglas but a short drive from Cork city, and is perfect for kids — Emily has two of her own, who often end up playing with visiting families too.
Insider Tip: There’s a GHD straightener provided, so you can leave that out of the suitcase.
Details: Rates from €140 a night. (087) 295 5520; thecoachhousedouglas.com
45. Island Lodges at Waterford Castle Resort, Co Waterford
Best for: A relaxing family break; €€
Why: Ireland’s shortest ferry crossing will take you to the hidden Waterford Castle Resort, where you’ll find a private 310-acre island resort with luxury self-catering houses, a golf course and the eponymous Waterford Castle. Just 5km from Waterford, you can explore the city by day before returning to this tranquil retreat. Each stylish lodge has good living space and three spacious bedrooms, with lots of family-friendly activities, including trails, to hand. — JB
Insider tip: The Waterford Greenway is a short drive away and makes for a great day out.
Details: Weekends from €399. (051) 878-203; waterfordcastleresort.com
44. Connacht Cruiser, Galway
Best for: RV fans, road-trippers; quirky stays €€€
Why: One of the key reasons we include hotels on our annual Fab 50 list is innovation. That’s why the Connacht Hotel was there this year, and it continues to push the notions of what a city hotel can be with the latest arrival — a stationary RV dubbed the ‘Connacht Cruiser’. Parked outside the hotel, with its own private outdoor area, up to eight guests can self-cater here, making use of several smart TVs, an en suite master bedroom and drop-down hideaway bunk, while also popping in to use the hotel leisure centre. Just don’t try to drive it away! — PÓC
Insider Tip: The hotel also does one- and two-bed apartments, with free parking and access to the pool and gym included. Two-beds sleep a maximum of six.
Details: From €350 per night (min. two-night stay). (091) 381200; theconnacht.ie
45. Berehaven Lodge, Co Cork €
Set just outside Castletownbere, these 15 lodges are a fabulous base on the Beara Peninsula. There are patios with garden furniture, a small playground, and the on-site restaurant is arguably the Beara’s best (watch out for the South African chef’s braai barbecues).
Details: berehavenlodge.com; from €550 a week
46. Donegal Boardwalk Resort, Co Donegal €
If you want the kids to run wild and play, this is just the place — there are two playgrounds, and villas are all set among three peaceful cul-de-sacs. It’s an easy stroll to the sandy beach, and there are also tennis and basketball courts and a five-a-side pitch.
Details: From €625; dreamireland.com
47. River Valley Holiday Park, Co Wicklow €
Choose between mobile homes, a log cabin and a cool glampotel at this Redcross favourite, but with so many activities on site you’ll barely be spending any time in your room anyway. There’s table tennis, crazy golf, remote control boats and a playground, as well as indoor football and basketball. Mickey Finn’s next door does great pub grub to go with its Wicklow Brewery beers, too.
Details: From €645 a week; rivervalleypark.ie
48. Corralea, Co Fermanagh €
On a serene little corner of Lough MacNean you’ll find an adventure paradise. You and the kids can try your hands at archery, rock climbing and canoeing, and all activities are private for effective social distancing. There’s an outdoor sauna and hot tub, too.
Details: Cottages from €89 a night; corralea.com
49. Hookless Holiday Homes, Co Wexford €
Just around the corner from Hook Lighthouse, these houses (sleeping six) are on a private, five-acre estate and just a few moments from Sandeel Bay. There’s a playground and tennis court, too — and Dunbrody House is a 20-minute drive for those special meals out.
Details: From €497 a week; hooklessholidayhomes.ie
50. Lough Lannagh Village, Co Mayo €
Set on the shores of the lake but right in the middle of Castlebar, this is a great spot for water lovers — kids can go wild with SUP and kayaking, courtesy of the folks at mayoadventureexperience.ie, and you’re also right on the 7km greenway to Turlough, too.
Details: From €630 a week; loughlannagh.ie
Top Tip:Check sites like dreamireland.com, tridentholidayhomes.ie, letsgoselfcatering.com, imagineireland.com and uniqueirishhomes.ie for lots of options in one place.
PS. Kilbaha Cottage, Co Clare
Best for: Stunning sea views, €€
Why: There’s no better joy in life than lying in bed and gazing out upon the sea. And at this cottage right on the jagged outcrop of Kilclogher Head, you can do just that. However wild it gets outside, you’ll stay nice and warm within the walls, where you can cosy up on a sheepskin-strewn couch in front of the roaring fire. Kilbaha Cottage sleeps six, so it’s handy for a few friends or couples. — NB
Insider Tip: The owner’s late father was Norwegian, so he insisted upon having a sauna on the property — make the most of it after your wintery walks.
Details: Rates from €1,000 per week; (083) 054 7789; [email protected]
NB: All rates subject to availability and change. Call ahead to familiarise yourself with Covid-19 protocols, and always check cancellation policies before booking.
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