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. Many venues are offering surprisingly competitive prices given the current economic circumstances, and some have even reduced their prices from last year. High demand means that some venues may be heavily booked, especially for the main Christmas break and New Year's Eve, but it's always worth calling to check availability and get onto a cancellations list - or to opt for a more kindly-priced break outside the peak demand dates.

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 and it books up really quickly too, but that's a vote of confidence in how well things are done here. Aside from luxury, they are pet friendly and offer exceptional programmes. Activities offered on The Ashford Estate (our 5-star Activity Breaks winner 2021), range 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 Liam Finnegan 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 around €3,000pps, but if that's beyond the budget (or they are fully-booked) The Lodge at Ashford Castle offers much more accessible breaks. Their 1- and 2-night Festive Stays on selected dates cost from about €249 and Lodge guests can also book other activities on the Estate, including the Hawk Walk - and treats ,including 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 - as well as offering a range of residential and non-residential Christmas breaks and meals - that includes recovering from it in style. ‘Designed to rejuvenate guests after the hectic festive season’, the Post Christmas Pampering Package (from €640 per room, including a 1-hour spa treatment per person) is understandably popular. Always a winner too is the post-Cristmas Racing Break, which includes top level tickets at the Leopardstown Christmas Race Festival, December 26th-29th, with coach transfers included (also available as part of a residential Christmas Break). Uexpectedly, perhaps, The Merrion is also a very family-friendly hotel and their Family Winter Getaway offers a short break in interconnectiong rooms from €990, including free room service dinners for under 12s; the price is based on a family of four, but cots and extra beds are available.There’s a New Years Eve package too, from €475pps 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. Gift packages are also available - including vouchers for the famous Merrion Art Afternoon Tea (from €57.50 per person).


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 €1,650pps for a 3-night package which begins with a seasonally themed drinks reception 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 ‘Afternoon Tea at Hayfield Manor’ on the afternoon of choice – and, from about €1,072 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 from €875pp based on two adults sharing (children under 3 free, various supplements for older children and extra adults). 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 at 'Dublin's only Urban Resort'.

 

Park Hotel Kenmare
Kenmare Co Kerry

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 handsome 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 comes in at €1,300pps for a Superior Room, 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 €555pps.

 

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 attractively priced, given the type of hotel and its setting - the 2-night Christmas package costs from €1,125pps and there's also a 2-night New Year package from €747pps. 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 offers includes a 2-night Dine & Dream package between Christmas and New Year from 1550pps and a 3-night New Year break from €1,500pps – 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 - and, next door, The Inn at Dromoland offers a 3-night Christmas package from €600 per adult sharing (€275 for 3-12 year olds, under 3s free) that will be of special interest to families.

 

Glenlo Abbey
Bushypark Galway

Originally an eighteenth century residence, Glenlo Abbey is just two and a half miles from Galway city centre 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 at €1200pps for the 2-night stay (€1600 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 €499pps, 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 25th November-5th January (excluding 24-26th December) from €32 per adult, or €38 with a glass of prosecco, and €14.95 per child.   

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 about €1300 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 €639pps, and dinner only at €120.

 

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