Bubble Breaks for Groups - 10 of the Best

As travel restrictions ease this summer we’re all dying to get away for a break and need something to look forward to, but we also need to feel safe – so, while all hosts will take special care to ensure that guests feel comfortable with their arrangements this year, those destinations that can cater separately for families and other ‘bubble’ groups offer the opportunity of a particularly relaxing stay. Here are just a few especially appealing options to tempt you… Most plan to re-open on 20th July but dates and services may change, so do check regularly.

 

Enniscoe House
Crossmolina Co Mayo

This charming pet-friendly Georgian mansion on the shores of Lough Conn has been in the same family ownership since the 1650s and the current custodians, Susan Kellett and her son DJ, enjoy sharing it with guests. With just six spacious bedrooms, it would make a stunning group destination - and, adjoining the main house, restored courtyard buildings have been converted into characterful and very comfortably furnished two- and three-bedroom self-catering apartments with modern facilities and open fireplaces. They’re available all year by the week, or for weekend bookings - and Susan’s deliciously simple dinners are available in season by reservation. The untamed wildness of the area suits the current mood especially well and, with lakeside and woodland walking, fishing, and other activities including golf and horseriding nearby, there’s loads to do. The restored walled gardens (with tea rooms offering good daytime food) are open to the public and there’s even a genealogy centre and a small agricultural museum on-site.

Kelly's Resort Hotel & Spa 
Rosslare Co Wexford

The Kelly family’s renowned beachside hotel at Rosslare Strand needs no introduction – always in demand, it sums up all that is best about the sunny south-east for its many regular visitors. The hotel is very spacious, making it especially well placed to offer a carefully tailored service to guests when they reopen in summer 2020 – and they also have a gorgeous self-catering house, Leinster Lodge, just across the road. Ideal for family or group stays (8-13 guests), it has recently had a complete revamp and offers six lovely ‘nautical beach themed’ hotel standard bedrooms, all with en-suite shower and ESPA toiletries, TV, phone and safe. Offering the privacy of home and all the benefits of Kelly's Resort Hotel with its choice of restaurants, famous wine list and extensive leisure facilities including the magnificent wellbeing centre, Seaspa, Leinster Lodge is, as legendary proprietor Bill Kelly says himself, “the ideal haven.”

Clonalis House
Castlerea Co Roscommon

Standing on land that has been the home of the O’Conors, Kings of Connacht, for 1,500 years, this 45-room Victorian Italianate mansion on the edge of Castlerea town may seem a little daunting on arrival, but it’s magic - and the warmly hospitable owners, the O’Conor-Nash family (Pyers, Marguerite, their son Richard and his wife Carol-Anne), clearly relish sharing their rich and varied history with guests. Truly amazing heirlooms include a copy of the last Brehon Law judgment (handed down about 1580), and Carolan’s Harp and there’s even a small museum (open to the public). Everything is on a huge scale, which is perfect for the year that’s in it, and the four bedrooms have massive 4-poster and half tester beds and bathrooms to match. Beside the main house there are four charming cottages in the courtyard and walled gardens - The Steward's House, Orchard Cottage, Garden Cottage and The Mews Cottage, all are very well equipped accommodating a total of up to 25. And there’s also an ace up their sleeves in the shape of The Forge, a self contained room that can be used for small events, workshops etc, but also for a group to eat together, with catering services available. All round it’s a magnificently rewarding place to stay.

Blairscove House & Restaurant
Durrus, Co Cork

In a stunning waterside location at the head of Dunmanus Bay, this beautiful Georgian property was opened by Philippe and Sabine De Mey in 1981. It’s now run by their daughter Ann, and her husband Chris Woodward with Sabine’s brother Ronald Klotzer as head chef. Although officially ‘retired’, Philippe still likes to welcome guests in the evening and, together, the team continue to offer the wonderful food and service that this atmospheric place is famous for. Fans return year on year for the wonderful buffet starter display, superb meat and fish dishes simply cooked on a wood-fired grill, West Cork cheeses and the irresistible dessert display - both the cooking and style of service were light years ahead of current fashions and they have not dated. But, while most famous for their food, accommodation is also offered in four seriously stylish suites around the courtyard of the main house, which are available on a B&B or self-catering basis, and a self catering cottage at Dunmanus Pier, 12 km away in the Mizen Head direction. Magic.

Clare Island Lighthouse
Clew Bay, Co. Mayo.

If an island stay is the ultimate escape, a stay in a lighthouse at the northern tip of a mountainous island off Ireland’s rugged west coast should fulfil the dream very nicely. Renovated to a high standard and welcoming guests since 2013, Clare Island Lighthouse offers wonderful views and a stylishly simple yet cosy base to enjoy exploring the island - which is an artists’, walkers’ and nature lovers’ heaven - and good food reflecting the seasons and the region’s produce. It would make for an unusual break at any time but it’s hard to imagine anything more appealing this year and it would make a perfect destination for a group booking. Bedrooms – all unique and decorated with understated style - include one in the original lightkeeper’s residence, a 2-storey suite in the tower and Sauna Suite in a detached building. All are double with en-suite shower, except the William Landers room (twin, with bath). Owner Roie McCann also offers a simple self catering cottage on the island and properties on the mainland, including Killadangan House (www. killadanganhouse.com), a residential Activity, Health and Learning Centre near Westport, and several small self catering options in the town.

Roundwood House
Mountrath Co Laois

Secluded in mature woodland, at the foot of the Slieve Bloom Mountains, this unspoilt 18th-century house is an absolute gem and a sense of history and an appreciation of genuine hospitality (and good food) are all that is needed to make the most of a stay at this magical property. Restored by Frank and Rosemarie Kennan over many years, it is now run with equal
dedication and charm by their daughter Hannah and her husband Paddy Flynn. Just don’t expect television or techie devices here: despite (or perhaps because of) Frank’s work ‘before Roundwood’ this is the place for a digital detox – and there’s an absolutely magnificent library in a converted coach house, which is perfect for quite relaxation but it can also be set up for a drinks reception. The house is available for groups / private parties and the ten lovely en-suite rooms can accommodate up to 24 – but they also have two charming self catering cottages each sleeping two. Roundwood is a one-off and the area is a treat to explore.

Lissadell Estate
Ballinfull Co Sligo

The brightest historical and cultural gem of the North-West, Lissadell is a must-see destination for anyone visiting Sligo or planning a trip along the Wild Atlantic Way. It's the former home of the Gore-Booths - of whom the best known was Constance Gore-Booth who, as Countess Markievicz, was closely involved with the Easter Rising of 1916 - and the poet W B Yeats was the among the most famous of their many distinguished visitors. The current owners, Edward Walsh and Constance Cassidy, restored this national treasure as a family home and opened both the house and gardens to the public in 2014. They also offer several very special places to stay on the Estate: Lissadell on the Beach, Lissadell on the Sea, The Forge, The Gardener’s House, The Estate Cottage and The Estate Apartment. The sizes and location within the estate vary (Lissadell on the Beach is the largest) and each has its own individual character, but all are beautifully restored and furnished with style and comfort for a memorable stay. Light daytime food is available at the café in the main house (wholesome fare, including produce from the lovely Kitchen Gardens and perhaps even oysters from their own oyster beds) and nearby restaurants currently offer takeaways/delivery. Inquiries to Helen Cassidy: helencassidyauctioneer@gmail.com / 087 2463748

Dunowen House
Clonakilty Co Cork

A lovely 18th century property in an out of the way almost seaside location in West Cork, this is a true hidden gem – and it has an unusual claim to fame, as the former home of Jimi Hendrix’s base guitarist Noel Redding who lived here for 30 years. Now run as a luxury coastal escape by owners Kela and Stephen Hodgins, who left Dublin in 2016 to undertake its restoration, it has been extensively and tastefully refurbished and is very well set up for groups, with two comfy, stylishly-furnished reception rooms with wood burning stoves, a formal dining room and a well equipped kitchen, as well as six large bedroom suites all with private bathrooms. The charming little Orchard Cottage in the walled garden is also available, together or separately, and the two properties combined can accommodate up to 23 guests, making it ideal for family get togethers, small weddings and other groups. Kela is a keen cook so, unlike most self catering / private venues, private catering based on West Cork’s finest foods is also offered - and, not surprisingly, Kela and Stephen find that most guests book this service at least once during their stay.

Dromquinna Manor Estate
Kenmare Co Kerry

Beautifully located on the shores of Kenmare Bay this stunning property was rescued from dereliction by John “At Your Service” Brennan and re-opened as a ‘glamping’ destination and wedding venue in 2012. In addition, the stylish waterfront restaurant and wine bar, The Boathouse Bistro, is located in the grounds; situated in a charming 19th century boathouse overlooking a little harbour that offers boating facilities for both residents and visitors, it has been a popular destination in its own right since it opened. The main glamping offering is ideal for family holidays, and other interesting accommodation options include a romantic waterside Hideaway Tent for two, and the four Potting Sheds for couples (with room for two young children in the hidden bunk beds), which are situated near the newly restored kitchen gardens and date from 1895. Featuring super king size beds, smart en-suite facilities and spacious sitting areas indoors and out they tune in with the “on the edge of nature” ethos of Dromquinna - and, each morning, a ‘wake me up’ Breakfast Hamper is delivered to the door. Also in the mix is The Bolthole, a charming little 2-bedroomed cottage beside The Potting Sheds, which is fully equipped for self catering - and also has the advantage of being just a few minutes walk from The Boathouse Bistro.

Marlfield House
Gorey Co Wexford

Once the residence of the Earls of Courtown, Marlfield House was opened as an hotel in 1978 by Mary and the late Ray Bowe and it wasn’t long before it earned a reputation as one of Ireland’s most luxurious small hotels, known especially for outstanding food, hospitality and service. Their daughters, Margaret and Laura Bowe, now continue the family tradition of hospitality and – as has always been the case here – there is always a new development being hatched in the longterm plan. In 2015, for example, their gorgeous informal café-restaurant, The Duck, opened right alongside the immaculately maintained fruit and vegetable beds in a fine kitchen garden which is awash with roses as well as garden produce all summer. Marlfield is a place where everything is done correctly and guests will have every confidence that everything throughout the hotel is organised with their comfort and welfare in mind. However, there is now also the option of staying in total privacy at the recently renovated Duck Lodge. This luxurious contemporary two-bedroom cottage comes complete with mini bars, open plan kitchen and living area with open fire, multi channel TVs and WiFi. And, should you prefer not to venture out, room service menus from Marlfield House and The Duck Restaurant are offered. “A fantastic way for friends or family to enjoy Marlfield, its grounds and restaurants and the surrounding area”, they say – and that’s no idle boast. A visit here is always a treat.
 

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