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FESTIVE BREAKS - TEN OF THE BEST

Twixmas, that quiet gap between Christmas and New Year, can be just the ticket for a refreshing post-Christmas recovery break and often offers great value too. This month’s choices focus mainly on that in between time, but most of the hotels selected are also open for Christmas and New Year, and some have interesting pre-Christmas packages on offer too.

Ashford Castle
Cong Co Mayo  

Ashford Castle - Cong County Mayo Ireland

Castles are at their best in winter and, while Ireland’s most famous one is a fairytale place at any time, it’s especially alluring when dressed up for Christmas. There’s no denying it’s expensive but the whole castle has been completely refurbished from top to bottom over the last couple of years - re-roofing alone was a mammoth task, and the new owners, the Tollman family of Red Carnation Hotels, have showered the castle and grounds with TLC to the tune of over €70million…Aside from exceptional luxury, they offer fantastic programmes and the already outstanding amenities have been further improved to include a dramatically designed spa and fitness centre along with some less predictable attractions such as a decadent snooker room (more of a suite really, with its own smoking terrace for enjoying those cigars) and a 35-seater cinema. Knowing how well they do things, it’s sure to be value for money if you plan your time to make the most of it. The terrific choice of activities ranges from golf, to a cruise on Lough Corrib (with traditional music and hot whiskeys), or a guided historical walking tour of the grounds and gardens. And then there is the food. Head Chef Philippe ‘French Heart Irish Produce’ Farineau presides over an astonishing range of dining options, including the opulent Georges V Dining Room, while Head Pastry Chef, Paula Stakelum oversees the recently revived ritual of Afternoon Tea, which is served in the gorgeous Connaught Room, overlooking Lough Corrib. And, from GM Niall Rochford to the housekeepers who greet you in the corridors, the staff are just great. Relatively accessibly priced from about €550pps, a Twixmas break (2 nights B&B with dinner on one night, 27-30 Dec) offers a relaxing opportunity to enjoy this iconic and pet-friendly hotel.

 

The Merrion Hotel
Upper Merrion Street Dublin 

The Merrion Hotel - ChristmasDublin’s premier hotel takes pride in everything to do with ‘an old-fashioned Christmas’ and that includes recovering from it in style. Most famously, their very popular post Christmas Racing Break offers two Top Level Tickets for the renowned Leopardstown Christmas Race Festival on 26th December, two reserved enclosure tickets and Merrion Coach Transfer as well as an excellent full Irish breakfast; at €247pps it’s good value for a hotel (and outing) of this calibre and, predictably enough, it sells out quickly - but there are also other options to explore, including a Post Christmas Pampering Package and a Winter Family Getaway.


Hayfield Manor Hotel
Perrott Avenue College Road Cork 

Hayfield Manor Hotel - Cork Ireland

Cork is special when it comes to good food and celebrations, and the festive period at this handsome property is bound to be atmospheric. Secluded in gardens near University College Cork, it has a country house feel, yet it’s just a mile from the city centre. The 2-night Twixmas Break includes mulled wine and mince pies on arrival, a festive dinner on one night and a choice of activities including skating at Cork on Ice, a shopping outing with lunch at the wonderful Farm Gate Café in The English Market, or the ritual of a relaxing Afternoon Tea in the hotel. Costing from €701 per room for two nights it’s a snip in comparison with Christmas or New Year packages. Dogs are permitted by arrangement in some rooms, and kennels are also available.

 

Cashel House Hotel
Cashel Connemara Co Galway

Cashel House Hotel - Connemara County Galway Ireland

In winter Cashel House is a cosy place of old-fashioned comfort with big turf fires, good food and thoughtful service. People travel from all over the world to be here for Christmas – what the McEvilly family offer is very special and it appeals to guests who want to spend a quiet, traditional Christmas in Connemara, and who appreciate the genuine hospitality and discreet service. It’s one of the few places where you would feel comfortable on your own – famously, you can even have Christmas Dinner served in your room if you wish. The festive packages all offer very good value, and breaks are offered in winter and early spring from about €150 per person for two nights - although perhaps the best value of all is a full week at €600 off season, which is a proper rest. A day out in the fresh air, enjoying Connemara, is a real treat at this time of year when the weather is kind - and this is a place where your dog is also welcome.

 

Park Hotel Kenmare
Kenmare Co Kerry  

Park Hotel Kenmare - County Kerry Ireland

Francis Brennan’s famous hotel was one of the first to offer a really attractive Christmas programme - and, for their happy band of regular guests, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas unless they were looking out over the Kerry mountains while enjoying a seriously delicious Christmas dinner in the traditional dining room. The programme offers a nice balance of carols, conviviality and fine dining, old fashioned fun (in-house competitions, films in the Reel Room), fresh air and exercise (including on-site horse trekking and a guided hike on the Kerry Way). The 3-day programme will set you back €1,395 per person sharing, but visitors staying between the peak times of Christmas and New Year (27th-30th December) can avail of value offers, with overnight stays available from about €205pps.

 

Powerscourt Hotel
Powercourt Estate Enniskerry Co Wicklow

Ritz Carlton Hotel Powerscourt - County Wicklow Ireland

Scenically located just a short drive south of Dublin city, the Powerscourt Hotel offers a glamorous location without having too far to travel from the city. Situated within the famous Powercourt Estate, with views of the iconic Sugarloaf Mountain from some rooms, it is well placed for golf, walking and exploring the beautiful Wicklow Hills, while the excellent on-site amenities include a destination Espa spa as well as a leisure centre with swimming pool and Jacuzzi. All of the festive offers are attractively priced, given the type of hotel and its setting and, with dinner bed and breakfast starting at €380 per room, a Twixmas break would be especially tempting.

 

Kee's Hotel
Ballybofey Co Donegal

Kee's HotelIn the Kee family since 1892, this former coaching inn currently has the warmly hospitable Vicky Kee as General Manager and, not only does she take care of everything to do with the hotel and its guests with the greatest of care, but her fascination with the hotel’s long and varied history is reflected in every nook and cranny. Guests with special interest in history will find a stay here especially rewarding and she has made it a place of great character for all to enjoy. Residents have direct access to a fine leisure centre and some of the very comfortable bedrooms have views of the Blue Stack Mountains - an invitation, if ever there was one, to get out there and explore beautiful Donegal. The hotel’s outstanding Sunday carvery is hugely popular, as are their special breaks including post Christmas stays, which offer great value at €129pps for a 2-night stay with dinner on one night.

 

Hotel Meyrick
Eyre Square Co Galway

Hotel MeyrickFormerly the much-loved Galway Great Southern, this handsome hotel presiding over Eyre Square offers a unique combination of old world charm and mod cons right in the heart of the city. In the weeks coming up to Christmas the square is a-buzz with Christmas markets (18th November to 22nd December) and special offers are available to make the most of the experience - and there is great shopping elsewhere in this compact city too, all within easy walking distance. After Christmas, their two night ‘Budget Buster’ break includes dinner on one night in their bistro style restaurant, No.15 on The Square, and complimentary access to the Leisure Centre (gym, jacuzzi, outdoor hot tub) and is attractively priced, from €189pps.

 

Limerick Strand Hotel 
Ennis Road Limerick

Limerick Strand Hotel

For a family outing over the Christmas period it is worth inquiring about the popular panto package at this attractive city centre hotel on the west bank of the Shannon. The Limerick Strand usually teams up with University Concert Hall Limerick for a family offer which is available on selected dates before and after Christmas, although it books up quickly. Other offers include party night packages - there’s a 4-course dinner with entertainment (€60, plus option of room only accommodation for two at €95) for example, and a whole range of festive dining options including meals on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and - a nice idea - Festive Afternoon Tea, available 2-4pm daily at €23.95.

 

The Fitzwilliam Hotel Belfast
Great Victoria Street Belfast

Fitzwilliam Hotel Belfast - Northern ireland

An understandably popular destination for a post-Christmas break, Belfast has plenty to offer including great shopping, a world class visitor attraction at the Titanic Centre, the atmospheric St George’s Market and a choice of vibrant events around the city. This smart hotel beside the Grand Opera makes a good central base (corner rooms have windows on two sides overlooking the city) and you’ll find the trademark chic, modern-classic Fitzwilliam style and attention to detail throughout. Good value offers include a Festive Overnight Package with a 4-course dinner and breakfast, from £169 per room - and they’re also open for Christmas Day - the Christmas in the City Stayover costs from €245pps per night (min 2 night stay, 24-25 Dec)

 

Brooks Hotel 
Drury Street Dublin 2     

Brooks Hotel - Dublin Ireland

Just a few minutes walk from St Stephens Green and Grafton Street, this discreetly luxurious family-owned hotel offers an oasis of calm in the city centre and many would cite it as their favourite Dublin base. The style is a pleasing combination of traditional with contemporary touches and, overseen by head chef Patrick McLarnon, who sources mainly local ingredients with great care, the elegant Francesca’s restaurant is especially good. Dine in Dublin breaks (1 or 2 nights B&B, with dinner on one evening) are offered from €190, 2-night Christmas Break from €315 per night.

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