AUTUMN GETAWAYS - TEN OF THE BEST
The schools are back, the weather’s improved, the countryside’s looking wonderful – what’s not to love? Time for a few days away to enjoy the lovely Irish autumn, walking, foraging, bird watching or whatever takes your fancy...
Newtown House SOUTH-EAST
Kinsalebeg Youghal Co Cork
A hidden gem in a quietly stunning waterside location, Georgina and Michael Penruddock’s lovely nineteenth century house is actually on the Waterford side of the Blackwater estuary, with magnificent views across to Youghal. At high water, waves lap the edge of the garden and, when the tide is out, guests have a mile-long private foreshore to enjoy, shared only by the prolific wildlife of the estuary. It is a well-proportioned and welcoming house with a natural elegance, and has been furnished and decorated with imagination for style, comfort - and to make the very most of its exceptional setting, the beautiful light and surrounding gardens. There are just two very special guest rooms, each with windows on two sides, charming drawing rooms for guests’ use and, although dinner is not normally offered (the restaurants of Ardmore and Youghal are nearby), a meal can be provided here on the night of arrival if required – and, if guests are feeling sociable any evening, Michael and Georgie would love to play “kitchen bridge” with them! Walking, fishing, birdwatching and golf are all nearby, and Newtown House would make a wonderful base for exploring unspoilt West Waterford and East Cork. This is a place you could fall in love with.
Abbeyville House SOUTH
Abercromby Place Fermoy Co Cork
North Cork is one of those areas that we too often fly through en route to somewhere else – Cork city, perhaps, or the holiday hotspots of West Cork - without pausing to think what we may be missing. For it’s a lovely unspoilt place of prosperous rolling farmland, off the beaten tourist track and all the better for that. The fine market town of Fermoy on the fabled River Blackwater, famous for its salmon, trout and coarse fishing, is its crossroads, and makes a perfect base for exploring the many activities and attractions of the area (and indeed the whole Munster region). And here, near the northern entrance to the town and set back from the road on a spacious corner site, you will find Sean and Mary Lomasney’s handsome 19th century cut stone house, offering the perfect place to stay. It’s a lovely house, quiet and restful, with very comfortable accommodation in spacious, elegantly furnished rooms and, on the ground floor, an impressive drawing room and library with open fire where guests can relax. A good breakfast including home baked breads and local Araglen Valley trout, from nearby Kilworth, will set you up for the day’s activities – the lovely Barnane walk beside the Blackwater perhaps, or the gentle climb up Corrin Hill where the views are spectacular in fine weather.
Temple House NORTH-WEST
Ballinacarrow Ballymote Co Sligo
They definitely don’t make them like this any more – set in 1,000 acres of farm and woodland, Roderick and Helena Perceval’s vast mansion is Georgian (with some more recent furnishings dating from a major revamp in 1864) but the property goes rights back to an original lakeside castle built by the Knights Templar in 1200 A.D… So, if you’re fed up with cramped city quarters, this is the perfect destination - the whole of the house has retained its old world atmosphere and huge bedrooms are furnished with old family furniture (more modern bathrooms though!). Log fires cheer the enormous rooms, including an elegant sitting room and a very beautiful dining room featuring seasonal produce from the estate. This is one of the best places in Ireland to combine an authentic country house weekend with unusual outdoor activities such flying eagles, stalking red deer, shooting and mainstream adrenalin-boosters like adventure cycling, horse riding and fishing. Many of the activities offered here are at their best off season – there’s a gundog fair at the end of September, for example – and, thanks to the new roads, it’s not too far from anywhere these days.
Longueville House SOUTH
Mallow Co Cork
If it’s autumn it must be time for the renowned Longueville House Mushroom Hunts, held a little sooner this year, on Sunday 16th September & Sunday 7th October, due to the wetness of the season. This is the 11th year of the annual muddy boots event in north Cork, when hopeful hunters are invited to gather at 9.30 am and hike around the estate (with maps supplied – and a mushroom expert) in search of the edible mushroom varieties that grow prolifically here in autumn. Once the day’s harvest is in (and has been discussed over a warming glass of a ‘seasonal house cocktail’), chef/proprietor William O’Callaghan and his team cook a feast of mushrooms from the haul, creating a special three-course lunch that’s served in the Presidents’ Restaurant, with wines chosen for the occasion. Price for non-residents is €95 (includes coffee & scones on arrival, Mushroom Hunt, drinks reception, luncheon with wine) Children 4-13, €25 (includes milk & cookies on arrival, Mushroom Hunt, Kiddies Luncheon with Farm Pressed Apple Juice). Dogs on leash are welcome too. A tempting short break package is also offered - from €240pps for accommodation & gourmet dinner on Saturday night, then breakfast on Sunday morning, followed by a whole day’s entertainment with mushroom hunt/ luncheon/ wine/ farm pressed apple juice. ?Advance booking & pre-payment is essential by credit card or cheque as numbers taken for these two events are limited.
Hillcrest House SOUTH-WEST
Ahakista Bantry Co Cork
Hospitality comes first at this beautifully located working farm overlooking Dunmanus Bay, where Agnes Hegarty’s guests - including many walkers, who revel in the 55 mile “Sheep’s Head Way” - are welcomed with a cup of tea and home-baked scones on arrival. It is a traditional farmhouse with some recent additions, and makes a comfortable base for exploring the area, (or a traditional family holiday - there’s a swing and a donkey on the farm, and it’s only five minutes’ walk to the beach). There’s a cosy sitting room with television and an open fire, and bedrooms are well suited to off season visits, with electric blankets on the very comfortable beds. Two of the newer rooms are on the ground floor, with direct access to a sheltered patio, and parking close by. Fine cooked-to-order breakfasts will set you up for the day and, for the evening, moderately priced evening meals are available for walking groups only; otherwise, there are plenty of good restaurants nearby, also pubs with traditional Irish music. The front part of the house is now converted for holiday letting. It is completely private and independent from the remainder of house, which still continues as a B&B business, and there is also a separate cottage to let.
Radisson Blu Farnham Estate Hotel NORTH-EAST
Cavan, Co Cavan
A winding driveway through lush parkland and golf course brings you to the dramatic entrance of Farnham Estate Hotel: the reception is in a giant glass atrium linking the classical building dating from 1810 to the striking 21st century extension. It’s an interesting marriage of the old and modern, and although parking is discreetly hidden in woodland some distance from the house (shuttle bus 24/7), the hotel has a warm, friendly atmosphere. The 1,250 acre estate includes a private fishing lake, seven kilometres of walks (no dogs allowed though, which is a shame), a championship 18-hole golf course and a luxurious spa. This autumn there are two special Foraging at Farnham weekends, 21-22 September (€125 pps, €175 single occupancy), and a midweek stay (26-27 September) at €112 pps or €159 single occupancy. Forager Mary Bulfin gives an introduction to foraging and a guided walk of several hours through woodlands identifying plants, collecting samples and spotting what's available – an “entertaining harvest-time happening for foodies and first time foragers alike”. Offers include a night’s bed and breakfast, dinner in the Botanica Restaurant prepared by new head chef, Philippe Farineau (formerly of Mount Falcon Country House Hotel in Co Mayo), and unlimited access to the Health Spa (indoor/outdoor infinity pool, Watermint thermal suite, gym, relaxation rooms…).
Newport House NORTH-WEST
Newport Co Mayo
Former home of the O’Donnells, Earls of Tir Connell, this fine creeper-clad house embodies all that is best about the Irish country house and looks wonderful in autumn. It’s been close to the hearts of fisherfolk for many years – owner Kieran Thompson is himself a former fishing guest - but you don’t have to be skilled with rod and line to appreciate the warmth of this luxurious and immaculately maintained place which is on the Western Greenway walking and cycling route. Everyone enjoys the gracious drawing rooms and the club-fender cosiness of the little back bar – and dining in the lovely high-ceilinged dining room is a real treat, as John Galvin (chef since 1983) displays no interest in fashion, instead producing meals of magnificent relevance. “Cooking which reflects the hospitable nature of the house” showcases home-produced and local foods, notably superb home-smoked salmon (only wild salmon is used) and ultra-fresh produce from the local area walled including some from a kitchen garden that has been worked since 1720, established before the house was completed. Magic.
Hanora's Cottage SOUTH-EAST
Nire Valley, Ballymacarbry, Co Waterford
The Wall family’s fine modern country house and restaurant in the beautiful Nire Valley makes an ideal base for a relaxed break in one of the most unspoilt parts of Ireland – and it is especially beautiful in autumn. Walking breaks are a speciality - hill walking, low level walks, forest walks, quiet country roads for walking / cycling all begin at the doorstep of Hanora's Cottage – and breaks offered are outstanding value, especially midweek. Hanora’s is renowned for its food: husband-and-wife team Eoin and Judith Wall are both chefs, and they take great pride in sourcing the freshest and best ingredients from local suppliers, including seafood from nearby Helvick and artisan foods from the farmers’ markets in Dungarvan and Clonmel. Walking breaks include memorable breakfasts and a packed lunch as well as 5-course dinners in the restaurant – where a full vegetarian menu is offered as well as the wider choices.
Lough Inagh Lodge WEST
Recess Connemara Co Galway
Connemara calls many of us when a break is needed and there’s no shortage of great places to stay, including Maire O’Connor’s former sporting lodge on the shores of Lough Inagh, which makes a delightful small hotel. Small and characterful enough to have a country house atmosphere, yet with the service and facilities of an hotel, it has all the advantages and none of the disadvantages of both country houses and hotels. Twin drawing rooms flank the entrance hall, each with an open fire, and there’s a very appealing bar with a big turf fire and its own back door and tiled floor for wet fishing gear. Unusually spacious and comfortable bedrooms with lake and countryside views include several with four-posters, and both the bar and the handsome Finisglen Room restaurant welcome non-residents. While it has special appeal to sportsmen and outdoor types, Lough Inagh makes a good base for exploring Connemara and is only 42 miles from Galway.
Rathsallagh House, Golf & Country Club EAST
Dunlavin Co Wicklow
Known for its relaxed country elegance, the lovely Rathsallagh house could be just the place for a short break as it’s only an hour’s drive from Dublin. The surroundings are soothing in the extreme (beautiful walled gardens as well as large grounds with an 18-hole golf course and clubhouse) and the guestrooms are charming and romantic. With lots of comfortable seating areas, and open log and turf fires everywhere, including one in the old kitchen bar, it has real country house appeal. Dinner is sure to be a treat and, as for the breakfast, it’s legendary… Brilliant – and if you fancy a good laugh, make a note of Faulty Towers The Dining Experience on Tuesday 23th October, when “everything that can go wrong, will go wrong”. Hilarious.
Harvey's Point Country Hotel NORTH-WEST
Lough Eske Donegal Co Donegal
In a stunningly romantic location on the shores of Lough Eske, the Gysling family’s hotel is a great destination for a weekend away at any time and they’re renowned for their off season short breaks. It’s an especially lovely spot in autumn, when a walking break might make a particularly good excuse to head up here and enjoy the luxurious newer rooms, which are very large, with amazing bathrooms – although many regular guests (especially dog lovers) prefer the older ground floor rooms, which are nearer the lake. And you will eat very well here too, as there’s seriously good food served in the splendid lough-side restaurant.
Derrynane Hotel SOUTH-WEST
Caherdaniel Ring of Kerry Co Kerry
If only for its superb location, this unassuming 1960s-style hotel would be well worth a visit, but there is much more on offer. The accommodation is quite modest but very comfortable and the food is good - and, under the excellent management of Mary O’Connor and her well-trained staff, this hospitable, family-friendly place provides a welcome home from home for many a contented guest. Activity holidays are a big draw - there are beautiful beaches, excellent fishing, and Waterville Golf Course offers special rates at certain times. The the hotel has published its own walking brochure and there is no better time than early autum for a walking holiday in this stunning area. And don’t leave the area without visiting Daniel O’Connell’s beautiful house at Derrynane, Noelle Campbell-Sharp's superb art gallery, Cill Rialaig Siopa and Art Centre in Ballinskelligs - or the amazing Ballinskelligs chocolate factory.
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