This newly introduced award can perhaps be seen as a signpost to the way food and hospitality are developing in Ireland, as time-poor visitors – whether from other countries or travelling within Ireland – seek a relaxing and enriching experience for even the briefest of short breaks, and therefore look for destinations that offer something more than a comfortable and hospitable place to stay and good food.
Our ‘long list’ for the award showed that a surprising number of our recommendations in ‘the Guide’ have already recognised this development, and some have forecast its arrival and long since risen to the challenge; the shortlist highlights four of the best of these – and if others seek inspiration, they need look no further than Co Mayo and Susan Kellett’s Georgian mansion on the shores of Lough Conn.
It’s a place of great charm, with family portraits, crackling log fires, warm hospitality and good home cooking. And, as well as fishing, there are beautiful woodlands, where guests can roam through a network of paths, also restored walled gardens (both ornamental and productive – one is run commercially as an organic market garden) which are open to the public and have tea-rooms and a classy gift shop.
And there’s even more in converted outbuildings that house a genealogy centre, a small agricultural museum with working blacksmith, and conference facilities. Plenty to do on a weekend break then.