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, aside from exceptional luxury, they offer fantastic programmes and the outstanding amenities 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. Executive Head Chef Philippe Farineau (‘French Heart Irish Produce’) presides over an astonishing range of dining options, including the opulent Georges V Dining Room, while Head Pastry Chef, Paula Stakelum oversees the 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. A Twixmas treat priced from about €680pps could offer a relaxing opportunity to enjoy this iconic and pet-friendly hotel - or you could stay at The Lodge at Ashford Castle (2-night stay from about €385) and book the Castle for dinner or Afternoon Tea.

 

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. The Post Christmas Pampering Package ‘designed to rejuvenate guests after the hectic festive season’ is understandably popular (1 night B&B in a luxurious double room, including a 55 minute treatment per person, from €297pps) and there’s a Winter Family Getaway (1 night stay from €770 for an interconnecting Superior King and Superior Twin room; and, as well as full Irish breakfast, kids under 12 dine free from the Room Service Children's Menu; the price is based on two adults and two children sharing but extra beds and cots are also available). There’s also a New Years Eve package from €405pps including champagne in your room and a celebratory dinner with entertainment in The Garden Room restaurant, which is good value for a hotel (and outing) of this calibre and, predictably enough, it sells out quickly.


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, Hayfield Manor has a country house feel, yet it’s just a mile from the city centre. Their ‘very merry Twixmas’ break includes mulled wine and mince pies on arrival (in your room or beside the fire in one of the resident lounges), and a four course festive meal on one evening in either Orchids signature restaurant or Perrotts Garden Bistro. The ritual of the famous ‘Afternoon Tea at Hayfield Manor’ is included on the afternoon of your choice and other activities could include golfing or a shopping outing with lunch at the wonderful Farm Gate Café in The English Market. Costing from about €839 per room for a two-night break it’s a snip in comparison with Christmas or New Year packages.

 

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 - and people who want to spend a quiet, traditional Christmas in Connemara travel from all over the world to be here for the festive season. What the McEvilly family offer is unusual and 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. As they say themselves: “Your stay can be as relaxing or active as the mood dictates - a leisurely stroll in the garden, a morning’s hike on Cashel Hill, an afternoon’s drive around the coast, or just browsing through the shelves of the Old Library, or spend the afternoon relaxing in front of the crackling turf and log fires with possibly the clink of a decanter of port….” The festive packages all offer very good value, with a 3-night Christmas break €815pps in a garden suite, two nights over New Year 375pps and Twixmas breaks from about €260 per person for two nights - while longer off season breaks give even better value and make for a proper rest. This is a great base for enjoying Connemara in winter - and 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 a guided hike with the Kenmare Walking Club) or ‘the serenity of SÁMAS’, their Destination Spa. The 3-day programme will set you back €1,495 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 €225pps (min 2 nights).

 

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 €155 per person sharing, a Twixmas break would be especially tempting.

 

Kee's Hotel
Ballybofey Co Donegal

Kee's HotelIIn 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 an 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 outstanding value on certain dates for a 2-night stay with 4-course festive dinner on one night from just €105pps.

 

Glenlo Abbey
Bushypark Galway

Originally an eighteenth century residence, Glenlo Abbey is just two and a half miles from Galway city yet, beautifully located on a 138-acre estate, with its own golf course and Pavilion, it offers all the advantages of the country - and it’s only a short hop up the road to Connemara. Owners John and Marie Lally have been responsible for an extensive refurbishment programme at the hotel and a break between Christmas and New Year at this characterful Blue Book property could be just the ticket. Their Twixmas Package includes two nights luxurious accommodation with a good breakfast in the River Room Restaurant each morning, Festive Afternoon Tea on one afternoon, and dinner on the night of your choice. It’s an atmospheric setting and, with the hotel’s resident pianist playing each evening in the Ffrench Room, it should be a relaxing stay - and fairly priced at €678 for 2 nights.

 

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 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 per adult and €14.95 per child; there’s a special sitting on December 24th from 1pm-3pm, including a glass of mulled wine for adults and “all children shall be given a special take away bag with a Carrot for Rudolf & Mince Pie for Santa’s visit!”.

 

Mount Juliet
Thomastown Co Kilkenny

Kilkenny is a gorgeous place to visit at any time of year - and there’s nowhere more delightful than the lovely Mount Juliet in winter. Lying amidst 1500 acres of unspoilt woodland, pasture and formal gardens beside the River Nore, Mount Juliet House is one of Ireland’s finest Georgian houses, and one of Europe’s greatest country estates. Even today it retains an aura of eighteenth century grandeur, as the elegance of the old house has been painstakingly preserved - a very special setting for a post-Christmas festive break in the Manor House. Their ’Mistletoe And Wine’ package includes two nights accommodation in the Manor House with breakfast each morning, a bottle of house wine on arrival and dinner two with a glass of prosecco in the fine dining Lady Helen Restaurant on one evening - and, with masses to do on the estate and in the surrounding area, it should all add up to a memorable break costing as little as €800 for the total stay.

 

 

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