Garden Stays & Outdoor Dining - 10 of the Best

The soothing surrounds of a beautiful garden are just what’s needed for a break right now – and better still if al fresco dining is offered in this lovely setting. Here are just a few early summer garden stays with outdoor dining (and many also with self catering options, or own-door suites) to tempt you… 


Marlfield House Hotel
Gorey Co Wexford

Once the residence of the Earls of Courtown, this famous Blue Book property outside Gorey was opened as a luxury hotel in 1978 by Mary and the late Ray Bowe. Their daughters, Margaret and Laura Bowe, now continue the family tradition of outstanding hospitality - and, while they treasure the traditional qualities of Marlfield House, they have broadened its appeal. Beautiful grounds include a fine kitchen garden and, since 2015, the lovely café-restaurant, The Duck, has charmed visitors and local diners alike with its informal style and doors opening onto a terrace beside the immaculately maintained fruit and vegetable beds, which are awash with roses as well as garden produce all summer. Accommodation options have also widened to include Duck Lodge, a contemporary 2-bedroom self-catering cottage, and, more recently, the luxurious Pond Suites, all of which has made a visit to Marlfield even more irresistible. And - as well as their own extensive gardens and woodland - other gardens in the general area that are open to the public include Ram House, Mount Usher, Powerscourt, Altamont and Kilmokea (see below)


Virginia Park Lodge
Virginia Co Cavan

Beautifully located overlooking Lough Ramor, Chef Richard Corrigan’s eighteenth century sporting lodge charmingly combines informality and grandeur. Surrounded by parkland and productive gardens, which now also proudly supply his London restaurants in season, it is best known as a desirable private venue for weddings, corporate events, sporting weekends, and pop up meals and weekends for individual guests. But it is an hotel and this year it is open to all throughout June and July for stays in the main house and other accommodation on the estate, which can be booked online. Main house guests can dine in the restaurant or on a new dining terrace, while The Piggery covered barbecue area in outbuildings behind the house provides self-catering guests with delicious simple fare. Everything at Virginia Park Lodge is done with great style and attention to detail, but without fuss. The rooms in the main house are elegant and supremely comfortable, and self-catering options include shepherd’s huts and cabins in the grounds which are available all year - and the ingredients-led cooking food is simple, beautiful and full of flavour. What’s not to love.


Liss Ard Estate
Skibbereen Co Cork

This stunning 200-acre property near Skibbereen offers everything you could wish for in a holiday destination, all in one beautiful package. At its heart is an elegant 19th century country house, which may surprise with its fresh contemporary style. Extra rooms include some with private gardens that are ideal for family groups, while a lakeside Victorian Dower House is available for exclusive use. The gardens offer trails, woodland walks - and artist James Turrell’s fascinating Irish Sky Garden, ‘The Crater’. And then there is the food.... Well known chef Alex Petit arrived with his team recently for the first season in the estate's new ownership, a move that promises further development of its established ethos - especially in the aptly named restaurant Garden at Liss Ard Estate, where the aim is to create” a true ‘Garden‘ dining experience – see, hear, smell and taste nature at its finest.” Reservations are being taken for a new outdoor dining area, opening on June 7th.

Mount Juliet Estate
Thomastown, Co Kilkenny

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, after considerable sensitively undertaken redevelopment which includes the addition of what is effectively a second (modern) hotel within the complex, it retains an aura of eighteenth century grandeur, as the elegance of the old house has been painstakingly preserved - and the gardens remain reassuringly complete and there is much to explore, including a wonderful walled ornamental garden with stunning double herbaceous borders which provide an ever-changing spectacle of colour from early summer to late autumn. And the kitchens are well supplied too – exceptional cooking based on the best of local produce has long been a point of pride at Mount Juliet (notably in the elegant Lady Helen Restaurant), and it is home to one of Ireland’s largest herb gardens. Afternoon Tea is a particular treat and can be served - weather permitting – in ‘the tranquil surrounds of the Manor House gardens’ and The President’s Bar has extensive outdoor seating.

Kilmokea Country Manor & Gardens
Great Island Campile Co Wexford

Mark and Emma Hewlett’s peaceful Georgian country house is set in seven acres of Heritage Gardens where the Three Sister rivers, the Suir, the Barrow and the Nore meet, and they are members of the Wexford Garden Trail. It’s very much a family home offering pet friendly ‘boutique B&B’ rather than a hotel, with elegantly furnished rooms in the main house, also newer rooms and self-catering suites in an adjoining coach house, which allow for greater independence – and, as well as light daytime food in the conservatory café, dinner in the Peacock Dining Room is normally available by reservation. An organic ‘potager design’ vegetable garden supplies the kitchens and Mark and Emma have invested in beautiful outdoor furniture, so guests can eat al fresco in style. The gardens are fascinating, with much to interest everyone, whether you are on a tour, a serious horticulturist, a keen historian or just having a family day out (the Fairy Village will delight little people). A thoughtful recent addition is a peaceful Memory Garden, designed as a place of solace and reflection, and they a new Shinrin-yoku, Forest Bathing offering is launching this season. A place to relax and to reconnect with nature.

Hunters Hotel
Rathnew Ashford Co Wicklow

Thanks to its beautiful setting alongside the River Vartry and charming old-world ambience, a visit to Hunter’s Hotel is always special – particularly in summer, when afternoon tea is served in the lovely gardens and the herbaceous borders are at their best. One of Ireland’s oldest coaching inns, it was built around 1720 and has been in the same family for five generations - brothers Richard and Tom Gelletlie take pride in running the place on traditional lines, as many guests will remember their late mother, the legendary Maureen Gelletlie, doing for many years. People come here for old-fashioned comfort and food based on local and home-grown produce – with the emphasis very much on ‘old fashioned’, which is where its charm and character lie. It’s a lovely place to be based when visiting gardens around the county dubbed the Garden of Ireland and the large kitchen garden that provides fruit and vegetables for the hotel is always interesting for a browse. The gardens are normally open to visitors all year from 10am-dusk; voluntary contributions to the Irish Cancer Society are encouraged. Hotel re-opens on Saturday the 5th of June 2021, with limited outdoor dining from Monday 7th June.

Burtown House & Gardens
Athy Co Kildare

On the Carlow-Kildare border, just 10 minutes' drive west of Athy, Burtown House is an early Georgian villa surrounded by beautiful gardens, parkland walks and farmland. It is one of only two houses in Co Kildare to have remained in the original family. Latterly it was home to the late Wendy Walsh, one of Ireland’s finest botanical artists and a wonderful gardener. Her favourite specimens are established here in the gardens that her daughter Lesley, also a highly regarded painter, and her son James Fennell, the photographer (best known for the famous Vanishing Ireland series, with words by his historian friend Turtle Bunbury of nearby Lisnavagh), have extended and improved. Burtown is a member of the Carlow Garden Trail and a must-visit when planning a trip to the Kildare/Carlow area - and it is also a wonderful place to stay, with a range of characterful and very comfortable self catering options (house, apartment, studio...) on the property. And, of course, Burtown is also home to The Green Barn Restaurant & Shop, which overlooks the walled kitchen gardens and outdoor garden rooms, and Jo’s Pantry which stocks goodies like homemade pestos, hummus and dips, all made to recipes that Joanna has perfected over the years.

Dunbrody House Hotel
Arthurstown Co Wexford

Renowned as a dining destination, chef Kevin Dundon and his wife Catherine’s elegant Georgian manor is a tranquil retreat on the Hook Peninsula, across the estuary from Waterford city. The extensive grounds and productive gardens are a joy and converted outbuildings house what must be Ireland’s most stylish cookery school, with a beautiful day spa beside it - also a rustic bar, The Local Pub, an atmospheric spot offering a complete contrast to the country house vibe and which, as the name implies, is popular with guests and locals alike. Likewise, Dundons’ Champagne Seafood Bar & Terrace offers a stylishly informal alternative to the main restaurant, The Harvest Room, and given the year that’s in it there will be hot competition for al fresco tables on the terrace. Accommodation options capture the zeitgeist too, with a charming Cosy Cabin available in the garden as well as an impressive Steward’s House and Gate Lodge.

Park Hotel Kenmare
Kenmare Co Kerry

This iconic property was established as a railway hotel in 1897 and the current owners, Francis and John “At Your Service” Brennan - together with their famously friendly and nothing-is-too-much-trouble staff - have made it a benchmark for exceptional standards of service, comfort and cuisine. The magnificent waterside and mountain views belie its con-venience, right at the heart of this compact Heritage Town, so guests not only have sumptuous accommodation, the deluxe Sámas spa (‘Indulgence of the senses’) and all the advantages of the beautiful setting, but also the buzz of the charming town just a few minutes walk away. A recent re-design includes more outdoor space on The Terrace, overlooking the gardens - and this is also reflected in the new dining experience, including less structured menus, all overseen by Head Chef, James Coffey and a talented team. Nearby, Dromquinna Manor offers additional accommodation and informal waterside dining - and their new town centre hotel, The Lansdowne, opens in July.


Kilkea Castle Hotel & Golf Resort
Castledermot Co Kildare

The oldest inhabited castle in Ireland, Kilkea dates back to the 12th century and approaching it, through gates and along a tree-lined driveway beside the golf course, is a memorable experience. Following a sensitive restoration programme under the current owner, Jay Cashman, it is now a thriving hotel with championship golf, spa, falconry and equestrian activities - and a fairytale wedding venue. Public areas include an entrance hall complete with knights in armour, and a relaxing bar that opens on to a terrace - overlooking restored gardens and the golf course, this can be a magical spot on a warm summer evening... The original structure is surprisingly small - a 'boutique castle' perhaps - but it is atmospheric and elegant, with a pleasing ambience that conveys intimacy as well as a certain sense of grandeur and extra accommodation is offered in courtyard rooms and lodges. Dining options include several alfresco areas and the excellent first floor Restaurant 1180, which has a real ‘castle’ atmosphere and magnificent views over the gardens and countryside.

Fitzgeralds Woodlands House Hotel
Adare Co Limerick

Just outside Adare village, the Fitzgerald family’s low-rise hotel is set quietly in immaculately maintained gardens - and, having developed from Mary and the late Dick Fitzgerald's original 4-bed B&B to the 89-room 4-star hotel that is today - it has a special tale to tell. Not only has it grown dramatically since opening in 1983, but several of Mary and the late Dick Fitzgerald's children are now bringing new energy to the business - and, while Mary herself remains a driving force, both at the hotel and in the wider hospitality industry, her daughter Elaina is now President of the Irish Hotels Federation. Systematic upgrading and redevelopment has gradually transformed the whole hotel and it has recently entered an exciting new phase, with the establishment of Mary’s Organic Garden, which is part of the Woodlands Walking Trail. Guests are encouraged to visit it and it supplies the kitchens with many of the seasonal ingredients on the menus at Timmy Macs Bistro - a convivial spot that informal dining with outdoor seating, including a barbecue garden area with a thatched cottage feature. Very Adare!

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