The Merrion Hotel
Upper Merrion Street Dublin 2
If you are lucky enough to live in the country, a break in the capital could be the ideal romantic treat. Just off Dublin’s finest Georgian square, The Merrion (our Hotel of the Year 2008) was created from four restored Georgian townhouses and, with marbled hallways and beautifully landscaped gardens, the period elegance of the hotel provides a stunning setting for romantic celebrations: beautifully furnished guest rooms and suites have sumptuous bathrooms and, although not a budget destination, the hotel’s unusual ‘no service charge’ policy will help to ease the bill. Many of the capital’s main cultural attractions are nearby – including the National Gallery, which is just a short stroll away – and most of the capital’s leading restaurants (L'Ecrivain, Thorntons, Pearl Brasserie, Dax and One Pico among them) are within easy walking distance; and the hotel itself offers exceptional dining opportunities, in both the hotel’s Cellar Restaurant and Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, still unchallenged as the country’s premier fine dining destination after all these years, which is next door and accessible directly from the hotel. Discreet, thoughtful service is an outstanding feature of the Merrion, and staff - under the direction of General Manager Peter McCann - are invariably courteous and helpful. The pamper factor of the romanesque, mosaic-tiled Tethra Spa is also predictably high – what more could you want? Open all year.???
Glasson Athlone Co Westmeath
Ray Byrne and Jane English’s lovely lakeside lodge (winner of several GCGuides awards) is one of the most romantic destinations imaginable, both for its beautiful location and the luxury, service and good food to be found within. Luxurious suites and guest rooms all have seriously sumptuous bathrooms and private balconies overlooking the lake – and superbly comfortable beds (with goose down duvets and extra large pillows) face the view…And then there’s the food: Wineport Lodge began life as a restaurant, and the combination of stylish seasonal cooking and a uniquely beautiful setting remain unrivalled throughout Ireland – although County Mayo sister properties, The Ice House (Ballina) and Lisloughrey Lodge (Cong) also share many characteristics, including dramatic locations and outstanding food. Open all year except Christmas.
Marlfield House Hotel
Gorey Co Wexford
Once the residence of the Earls of Courtown, and now an elegant oasis of unashamed luxury and tranquillity, where guests are cosseted and pampered in sumptuous surroundings, the Bowe family’s impressive Regency house is set in 36 acres of woodlands and immaculately maintained gardens - and imposing gates, a wooded drive, antiques and glittering chandeliers all promise a very special experience. Superb accommodation, which includes some very grand state rooms and a vast Master Suite, is luxurious in the extreme – and delicious food is another major part of the experience: the conservatory, with its stone statues and hanging baskets, overlooks the beautifully productive kitchen gardens and is one of the most romantic dining spots in the whole of Ireland, especially by candlelight. Marlfield re-opens for the season at the end of February – good value special offers include Spring Romance weekend breaks (available to the end of May).
Hayfield Manor Hotel
Perrott Avenue College Road Cork
If a city break appeals, the discreetly stylish Hayfield Manor could be the place for you. Cork’s premier hotel is set in two acres of mature trees and gardens in the south-west of the city, near the university, and has the feeling of a large period country house (albeit with some striking contemporary features); managed with warmth and discreet efficiency, it makes a luxurious base for a romantic break. Rooms have a deliciously high pamper quotient and there’s a choice between fine dining in Orchids restaurant and a more casual style in the smart contemporary Perrotts; on site facilities include a spa and indoor swimming pool, the city centre is a pleasant walk away in fine weather – and many activities, including golf, are available locally. (Open all year.)
Longueville House Hotel
Mallow Co Cork
Set in 500 acres of private wooded grounds and gardens just west of Mallow, the O’Callaghan family’s elegant Georgian mansion overlooking the River Blackwater offers sumptuous accommodation, elegant day rooms with open fires, and a cosy drawing room bar. Dine in the wonderful restored Turner conservatory, which is romantically draped with muslin and candlelit at night, or the adjoining Presidents Restaurant (named after the family collection of specially commissioned portraits of all Ireland’s past presidents), either of which make a stunning setting for William O’Callaghan’s memorable dinners, based on produce from the river, farm and garden – and, if you’re lucky, there might even be a glass of the estate wine, ‘Coisreal Longueville’. (Open from mid-March)
Gregans Castle Hotel
Ballyvaughan Co Clare
Simon Haden and his artistic wife, Freddie (who’s responsible for the subtly updated décor) offer quiet opulence, open fires and understated romance at this gently luxurious country house hotel overlooking The Burren - our Hideaway of the Year for ‘the guide’ in 2007. It’s a place with a long and interesting history and, although the present house is relatively modern (only going back to the 18th century!) and has some quite recent additions, the exterior is simple, which is in keeping with the surrounding lunar landscape and gives it an air of mystery – such a contrast to the warmth, comfort and uniquely serene atmosphere within. And head chef Mickael Viljanen is making waves in the west too – a magic spot to return to for a wonderful dining experience after a day out walking. Discreetly hospitable staff, soothing luxuriously furnished bedrooms – many of them romantic – and delicious, meticulously sourced food all make this a great place to be: the perfect hideaway.
Lahinch Co Clare
This stunning house is romantically located on a wooded site beside the river Moy, overlooking Lahinch Bay - and it’s one of Ireland’s most appealing (and luxurious) country houses. You can’t beat the west of Ireland for blowing away the cobwebs, and Clare is tops for brisk sea breezes – what better place to come back to at the end of a day in the fresh air than this gorgeous house. Although it appears to be quite a small, low building as you approach, the hillside position is deceptive and, while cosy, it is a spacious, elegant and exceptionally hospitable place to stay. A large drawing room on the upper (entrance) level has an open fire and honesty bar; a relaxing place for aperitifs, or to relax after dinner, it has big coastal views. All the rooms are lovely and have sea views, but ask about the unusual Well Room – extra luxurious, and with a real well (covered!) in the bathroom, it is unique. Valentines Romance Packages (12-15 Feb) from €155pps.
The Cliff House Hotel
Ardmore Co Waterford
With its fresh contemporary style, ambitious cooking and emphasis on professional and genuinely caring service, our 2009 Newcomer of the Year has brought a new focus to an area of outstanding hospitality and unspoilt natural beauty which has somehow remained a well kept secret until now. On the edge of a pretty village with much to recommend it (sandy beaches to walk, excellent food and pubs, a charming local pottery and gift shop…), this striking hotel is in a beautiful cliffside location – many will fondly remember old-fashioned afternoon teas on the terrace in its former guise - and, despite its dramatic design, the sea is the star. And, with Head Chef Martijn Kajuiter’s exciting food and good old-fashioned hands-on management from General Manager Adriaan Bartels, this is a place that’s been making a lot of friends – for both the hotel and the area. A must for romantic foodies – and could be just the spot for your wedding, with civil ceremonies possible on site...
The Ritz Carlton Powerscourt
Enniskerry Co Wicklow
Given the special nature of its stunning location, the sheer scale of this deluxe hotel just a short drive south of Dublin may dismay first time guests, but it enjoys an unbeatably romantic setting in the beautiful Wicklow Hills and offers great amenities including golf and a destination spa – and, most famously, the Gordon Ramsay restaurant, for dining in style. With the Powerscourt Estate and Gardens on the doorstep, and the whole of the Wicklow Hills to wander, this is an uber-romantic destination at any time, and makes an understandably popular (and good value) destination for a Valentine’s break – and, should the Big Question be on your mind, the hotel offers a menu of packages involving some elaborate scene-setting. Valentine Escape from €325 per couple. Open all year.
The Village at Lyons Demesne
Celbridge Co Kildare
Although initially attracting attention for its restaurant The Mill (now a private venue and understandably popular for weddings), the original chef, Paul Carroll is cooking again at La Serre restaurant and, with its Turner designed conservatory and courtyard for fine weather, it offers stylish dining for lunch or dinner. 18th century oak panelled walls, decorative tapestries and an original Lavery painting set the tone in the Lyons Den bar and, in the grounds, at Shackleton House, Lyons Demesne now offers sumptuous accommodation as well: elegant interiors, four-poster beds, and over-sized baths – there’s even a dovecote, home to four pairs of white doves. As romantic a destination as anyone could wish for, with great value offers often available – and, there’s no need to suffer from retail deprivation either, as Tipperary Crystal now operate a classy design and interiors store on site.
The very best spa breaks in Ireland
Apps and Books
Meals for All Seasons - The Best of Contemporary Irish Cooking (out of print, Hardback)This vintage cookbook is out of print and only available here. Georgina Campbell's outstanding a ...more...