Ireland Guide

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AN HOUR (OR SO) FROM DUBLIN - TEN OF THE BEST

Picking a short break destination that’s only an hour or so from home means less stress and more time chilling out, and the easy journey is a particular advantage off season or in the shoulder seasons, when days are relatively short - so why not try one of picks for a quick break this month

Ghan House
Carlingford, Co Louth

Ghan House, Carlingford, County Louth Just an hour’s drive from Dublin airport and about the same from Belfast, the Carroll family’s 18th century house is attractively situated in its own walled grounds on the edge of Carlingford village. Ghan House, which joined the Blue Book in 2015, offers accommodation in four rooms of character in the main house, each with sea or mountain views, and eight newer bedrooms in a separate building. As well as a comfortable sitting room with an open fire, there’s a little bar where you can enjoy an aperitif or an after dinner drink. Dinner is a high point at Ghan House, where the Carrolls also run a popular cookery school. Pride is taken in meals based on home-grown, home-made and mainly local produce, including seasonal meats and seafood; oysters are synonymous with Carlingford, of course, and there are also mussels from the lough and lobsters from Ballagan.


Mornington House
Mornington, Multyfarnham, Co Westmeath

Mornington House, Multyfarnham, County WestmeathWarwick and Anne O’Hara’s gracious Victorian house is surrounded by mature trees and just a meadow’s walk away from Lough Derravaragh (of Children of Lir fame). It has been the family home since 1858, and is still furnished with much of the original furniture and family portraits - and, although centrally heated, log fires remain a central feature. Bedrooms are spacious and well-appointed and Anne, who is well-known for her skills in the kitchen, cooks proper country house dinners and lovely breakfasts for residents. There is a wealth of wildlife around the house, and there are gardens and archaeological sites to visit nearby - this is a tranquil and restorative place for a short break in an area that deserves to be better known.


Coursetown Country House
Stradbally Road, Athy, Co Kildare

Coursetown House, Athy, County Kildare Jim and Iris Fox’s fine 200 year old house just off the Stradbally road is attached to a large dairy farm, which is now run independently. The house is welcoming, immaculately maintained and very comfortable. Bedrooms are thoughtfully furnished in a pleasantly homely country house style and have direct dial phones, tea/coffee facilities and hair dryers. Then there is breakfast, where nothing is too much trouble and the emphasis is on delicious healthy eating: fresh juices and fruit salad jostle for space alongside poached seasonal fruit (plums from their beautiful garden, perhaps) and pancakes - and the traditional cooked breakfast includes lovely rashers specially vacuum-packed for Iris by Shiel’s butchers, in Abbeyleix. Iris doesn’t offer dinner, but will direct guests to the best options locally.


Lorum Old Rectory
Kilgraney, Bagenalstown, Co Carlow

Lorum Old Rectory, Kilgraney, County CarlowJim and Iris Fox’s fine 200 year old house just off the Stradbally road is attached to a large dairy farm, which is now run independently. The house is welcoming, immaculately maintained and very comfortable. Bedrooms are thoughtfully furnished in a pleasantly homely country house style and have direct dial phones, tea/coffee facilities and hair dryers. Then there is breakfast, where nothing is too much trouble and the emphasis is on delicious healthy eating: fresh juices and fruit salad jostle for space alongside poached seasonal fruit (plums from their beautiful garden, perhaps) and pancakes - and the traditional cooked breakfast includes lovely rashers specially vacuum-packed for Iris by Shiel’s butchers, in Abbeyleix. Iris doesn’t offer dinner, but will direct guests to the best options locally.


Ballyknocken House
Gleanealy, Ashford, Co Wicklow

Ballyknocken House, Ashford, County Wicklow Catherine Fulvio is now famous as a TV chef and cookery book author with a cookery school here in the Wicklow Hills but, before all that, she had already taken over the B&B that her late mother had run at the family farm. Perfectly placed for walking holidays, playing golf, or simply touring the area, the charming Victorian farmhouse provides comfort and cosiness, along with good cooking and genuine hospitality. A gently Victorian theme prevails: bedrooms have been charmingly done up, with antique furniture and very good beds - and pretty bathrooms, five of which have Victorian baths. Catherine cooks four course dinners for guests, with vegetables and herbs coming from the farm - and, thanks to her Italian husband, some specially imported wines on the drinks list. All this, plus extensive breakfasts, a relaxing atmosphere and the option of cookery classes, ensures guests keep coming back for more.

The White Cottages
Skerries, Co Dublin

White Cottages - Skerries County Dublin Jackie and Joe O’Connors’ beautifully located B&B is right on the sea on the northern edge of Skerries town, and it is truly unique – how often do you wake up to the sound of waves on the rocks outside your bedroom window? It’s literally on the water’s edge and the unbroken sea views of the working harbour and, to the north, the magnificent Cooley and Mourne Mountains are simply stunning - and all the better for enjoying them from such a warm and relaxing base. Joe and Jackie are natural hosts, the four bedrooms are charming and highly individual, and standards are very high too. Everything is immaculate and excellent food includes The White Cottages Afternoon Tea, prepared by Joe and Jackie’s daughter, Jessica and available to both residents and non-resident groups by arrangement. Nearby Dublin seems a world away – the White Cottages is a perfect hideaway to get away from it all for a few days or as a base to explore the pretty north Dublin countryside and coast.


Roundwood House
Mountrath, County Laois

Roundwood House, Mountrath County Laois Ireland How could anyone fail to love this unspoilt early Georgian house? Lying secluded in mature woods of lime, beech and chestnut, at the foot of the Slieve Bloom mountains, a sense of history and an appreciation of genuine hospitality are all that is needed to make the most of a stay here. Frank and Rosemarie Kennan put over a quarter of a century of renovation work into this wonderful property, and clearly derived immense pleasure from it, before having the recent satisfaction of handing the reins over to their daughter Hannah and her husband Paddy- who “retain the philosophy of the old, with no introduction of wide screen televisions or trouser presses”, much to Frank and Rosemarie's relief. Although unconventional in some ways, the house is extremely comfortable and well heated, each bedroom has its particular charm, and the food (notably the locally reared beef and lamb) is good. All this and a beautiful area to explore: what more could you want?
 

Scholars Townhouse Hotel
Drogheda, Co Louth

Scholarstown House HotelMartin and Patricia McGowan’s small hotel is a listed 19th-century double-fronted redbrick building. With its fountains and broad stone steps leading up to the front door, bustling, friendly staff and a sense of individuality, it creates a good impression from the outset. Rooms are compact but uncluttered and have everything you need, while dining here is an attraction in its own right, with consistently good, creative cooking that focuses on using local produce, especially seafood, and attentive service in both the restaurant and bar. An oasis in Drogheda’s busy town centre, it makes an interesting destination for a short break and is very quickly reached from the capital - but this hidden gem is no longer the secret that it appears to be, so booking well in advance is essential, especially at weekends.

 

Rathsallagh House
Dunlavin, Co Wicklow

Rathsallagh HouseThe O'Flynn family's large, rambling country house is just an hour from Dublin, but it could be in a different world. While modern amenities have been added, including the 18-hole golf course, and it is very professionally run, it retains a classic country house atmosphere with crackling log fires in comfortably furnished drawing rooms and the old kitchen bar, which is a favourite gathering place before dinner. Accommodation ranges from large rooms with great views in the old house to cottagey rooms in the stable yard. Twice the national winner of our Irish Breakfast Awards, good food is central to Rathsallagh, starting with seasonal produce from the farm and the beautiful walled garden.

 

Mulvarra House
St Mullins, Co Carlow

Mulvarra HouseNoreen Ardill’s friendly modern house is in a stunning location overlooking the River Barrow above the ancient and picturesque little harbour of St Mullins. Comfortably furnished bedrooms have balconies to take full advantage of views of the romantic Barrow Valley, and there is a range of treatments to help guests unwind from the stresses of everyday life and make the most of this magical place. Noreen prepares dinners for residents to enjoy in the dining room, which also overlooks the river: quality produce, much of it local, is used. Genuinely hospitable and reasonably priced, this is a tranquil place where the host wants her guests to relax and make the most of every moment.

 

The BrookLodge Hotel & Wells Spa
Macreddin Village, Co Wicklow

BrookLodge Hotel

Built on the site of a deserted village in a Wicklow valley, this extraordinary food, drink and leisure complex exists thanks to the vision of three brothers, Evan, Eoin and Bernard Doyle. The offering of this spacious and welcoming hotel is diverse, including ‘green’ conferences and events and a luxurious spa. The hotel and its main restaurant, The Strawberry Tree, have earned national recognition for their pioneering position on organic and wild food. Whether eating in The Strawberry Tree, La Taverna Armento (informal authentic Italian alternative for dinner) or popping into the atmospheric Actons Country Pub or The Orchard Cafe, with its abundant grapevine, the memorable meals served everywhere at BrookLodge are great value, especially given the outstanding quality of the ingredients and the consistently excellent standard of cooking. An organic food market is held here on the first Sunday of the month (first and third in summer), and always worth a journey.  


 

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