FESTIVE BREAKS - TEN OF THE BEST

Whether for Christmas, New Year or that lovely Twixmas gap between them, this can be the perfect time for a short break with - or as a respite from - family and friends. That in-between time often offers great value for a refreshing post-Christmas recovery break and some hotels have interesting pre-Christmas packages on offer too. Extra high demand this year means that some venues may be heavily booked, especially for the main Christmas break, but it is always worth calling to check availability and get onto a cancellations list.

Ashford Castle
Cong Co Mayo  

Ashford Castle - Cong County Mayo Ireland

Castles are at their best in winter and Ireland’s most famous fairytale destination is especially alluring when dressed up for Christmas. There’s no denying it’s expensive but, 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. Aside from luxury, they are pet friendly and offer fantastic programmes. The terrific choice of activities on The Ashford Estate (our 5-star Activity Breaks winner 2021) ranges from golf, equestrian, a gentle cruise on Lough Corrib (with traditional music and hot whiskeys) or a Hawk Walk, to zipwire adventure, tree climbing, archery and much else besides (some of which are available at Christmas). And then there is the food. Executive Head Chef Philippe Farineau (‘French Heart Irish Produce’) presides over a wide 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, all the staff are just great. The 3-night Festive Break at the Castle costs from €2,795pps, but The Lodge at Ashford Castle is offering very accessible 1-night Festive Stays on selected dates throughout December (except Christmas/New Year’s Eve)) from about €355 including mulled wine and mince pies on arrival, dinner in the splendid Wilde’s, plus complimentary bike hire, golf and tennis. Lodge guests can also book other activities on the Estate, including the Hawk Walk - and Afternoon Tea at the Castle of, course.

 

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 - ‘designed to rejuvenate guests after the hectic festive season’, the Post Christmas Pampering Package (from €320pps) is understandably popular. Meanwhile there’s The Merrion Christmas, a 2- or 3-night stay from December 24th to 26th or 27th (from €820pps / €1,263pps), which includes many of the traditional family treats but also more unusual attractions such as the choice of opting for lunch or dinner for the Christmas feast in The Garden Room restaurant – and a day at the Leopardstown Christmas Race Festival on December 26th, with coach transfers included (also available as part of a 1-012n0ight Post-Christmas Racing Break). There’s a New Years Eve package too, from €445pps including champagne in your room and a celebratory dinner in The Garden Room restaurant (or dinner for non-residents at €140pp) both of which are good value for a hotel (and outing) of this calibre and they sell out quickly so don’t delay.


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 very 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 ‘Ultimate Christmas Experience’ costs from about €1,490pps for a 3-night package which begins with a seasonally themed Afternoon Tea on arrival and can include therapies at their Beautique Spa along with all the traditional indulgences and, of course, an appearance by Santa Claus on Christmas Day, while other activities could include golfing or an outing to enjoy the festive buzz around the city. For a shorter, less structured, stay the 2-night ‘Luxury Twixmas Break’ includes a four course festive meal on one evening in either Orchids signature restaurant or Perrotts Garden Bistro as well as the ritual of the famous ‘Afternoon Tea at Hayfield Manor’ on the afternoon of choice – and, from about €1,092 per room, it’s reasonable for an inclusive two-night break.

 

InterContinental Dublin
Ballsbridge, Dublin

Set in gardens beside the Royal Dublin Society’s show grounds, this spacious hotel offers opulence and a warm welcome from hands-on General Manager Nicky Logue and his staff. Styled ‘Urban Resort’, it’s Dublin’s only purpose-built five-star hotel and, as well as having impressive on-site amenities including a beautiful spa, many of the sumptuous suites and guest rooms have views of the Wicklow Mountains or Dublin Bay. It’s one of Ireland’s top business and event venues (and our Business Hotel of the Year for 2021) but the feel is casual-sophisticated and it’s always been a popular meeting place and dining destination for discerning Dubliners as well as an exceptionally comfortable and relaxing place to stay. At Christmas it takes on an exuberantly festive persona, and there’s a very attractive 2-night break offered, that can be taken on the 24th and 25th, or the 25th and 26th December, at an inclusive price of €1950 for two in a Junior Suite. This includes impressive meals created by Executive Chef Alberto Rossi and his team – Christmas Lunch, with champagne reception, and a 4-course dinner in Seasons Restaurant on the other day - as well as complimentary access to the Spa and Health Club (14m pool, gym etc), free parking, late check out (2pm) and numerous other extras. There’s also a range of great value autumn and winter breaks to check out.

 

Longueville House
Mallow Co Cork  

For something different over New Year that would be perfect for a family get together, William (the chef) and Aisling O’Callaghan offer a fully catered three or four day break at their wonderful period house near Mallow, for groups of up to 24 guests, children included. There are 12 beautifully appointed guest bedrooms, and the family style leisurely breakfasts, country walks, afternoon tea and cosy log fires to come home to make for a very relaxing stay. There are lots of outdoor activities for all age groups, both on-site and in the wider area and William is famous for his seasonal cooking of local and estate-produced foods, so his meals – and especially the dinners served in their beautiful dining room - will be something to look forward to each day…Arrive in time for Afternoon Tea on 29th or 30th December, meet up later for a Long Table group dinner and let the good times roll! Guide price, €6,500 per night (24 guests). Groups of varying sizes are catered for at other times too, and individual bookings (including self catering) may also be available – details on application.

 

Powerscourt Hotel
Powercourt Estate Enniskerry Co Wicklow

Ritz Carlton Hotel Powerscourt - County Wicklow Ireland

Scenically located just a short drive south of Dublin, the Powerscourt Hotel offers a glamorous location without having too far to travel from the city. Situated within the world 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. The festive offers are quite attractively priced, given the type of hotel and its setting - the 2-night Christmas package costs from €1,149pps and there's also a 2-night New Year package from €1,444 per room. Both include dinners in the hotel's destination Sika Restaurant as well as the main festive meal and you can expect a good breakfast too. Festive Afternoon Tea is also an option (reservations required) and, with Powerscourt House and Gardens, the Powerscourt Distillery, Avoca, Powerscourt Golf Club and the whole of glorious Wicklow on the doorstep, there is masses to see and do.

 

Dromoland Castle
Newmarket-on-Fergus Co Clare

The ancestral home of the O'Briens, barons of Inchiquin and direct descendants of Brian Boru, High King of Ireland, this is one of the few Irish estates tracing its history back to Gaelic royal families. It is now one of Ireland's grandest hotels and, in the warm and watchful care of General Manager Mark Nolan and his team, one of the best-loved. Outstanding service and Head Chef David McCann's wonderful food invariably match the surroundings and, while it is an exceptionally atmospheric destination at any time, Dromoland is simply stunning when dressed up for the festive season. The range of packages includes a 3-night New Year break from €1,700pps – culminating with a cocktail reception, 6-course dinner and champagne toast in The Earl of Thomond Restaurant it would be a fine way to usher out a year that has been so difficult and welcome 2022 on an optimistic note. The Leisure Centre and Swimming pool are available to all guests of course, as well as a range of estate activities, so this could be a winter escape well worth remembering.

 

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 at this characterful Blue Book property could be just the ticket. Their Christmas Packages includes two or three nights luxurious accommodation with a good breakfast in the River Room Restaurant each morning, Festive Afternoon Tea on one afternoon, Christmas Lunch and dinner on the other night(s). It’s an atmospheric setting and it should be a relaxing break - and fairly priced too, at €999 for two people sharing the 2-night stay (€1299 for three nights). And, with Connemara to explore and in-house entertainment, including a falconry show in the Walled Garden and films in the Abbey Movie Theatre, there's no shortage of things to do.

 

Limerick Strand Hotel 
Ennis Road Limerick

Limerick Strand Hotel

For a family break over the Christmas period it is well worth inquiring about the popular and very fairly priced festive packages at this attractive city centre hotel on the west bank of the Shannon. Offers include a 2-night residential package from €399pps, including a 5-course lunch in the waterside River Bar & Restaurant designed by their excellent new executive chef Paddy Anslow; party night packages; and a whole range of festive dining options including meals on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Festive Afternoon Tea is available 2-4pm daily from €30 per adult (€36 with a glass of prosecco) and €15.95 per child - with 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!”.

 

Aghadoe Heights Hotel & Spa
Killarney Co Kerry

This stylish contemporary five star property enjoys stunning views of Killarney’s famous lakes and the mountains beyond, and also overlooks the town’s two 18-hole championship golf courses. It is one of the country’s most luxurious hotels and, with its magical setting, a destination spa and welcoming staff working under the discreetly caring GM, Ewan Plenderleith, it is a very special place at any time – and never more so than for a relaxing festive break. Good food has always been a feature of the hotel and the view from the restaurant, lounge and bar is wonderful. And not only do you have exceptional amenities on-site, but the best of Kerry is laid out before you - and a guided walk from the hotel is included on 26th December. A 3-night break is available from 24th-27th December and, costing from €1500 per adult for the total stay, it offers remarkably good value. An attractive New Year break is offered too, with a minimum 2-night stay (including a ‘decadent New Year’s Eve dinner’ and entertainment) offered from €868pps.

 

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