With lengthening days and spring in the air, a short break away from cities can lift the spirits without breaking the bank. A hotel is a good bet early in the year, offering plenty of comfort and facilities if the weather is disappointing. To get the best rates, travel midweek if possible, give the special offers pages on hotel websites a good browse - and book direct. Here are some of our favourites to try.

Kilkea Castle
Castledermot Co Kildare

One of Ireland’s oldest inhabited castles, Kilkea dates back to the 12th century. The original structure is surprisingly small - a ‘boutique castle’ perhaps - but it is authentic and elegant, with a pleasing ambience that conveys intimacy as well as a certain sense of grandeur. Sensitively restored by the current owner, Jay Cashman, it is now a thriving hotel once again offering lodges, championship golf course, spa, falconry and equestrian activities - and a fairytale wedding venue. Appealing dining options include the excellent Hermione’s Restaurant in the Clubhouse for an informal ambience and fine dining at Restaurant 1180, with a real ‘castle’ atmosphere and magnificent views over the countryside. Special breaks include activities and relaxation (golf, spa & wellness) and there's an especially interesting one with a guided visit to the National Stud Farm (2-3 hour tour) and a self guided visit to the Japanese Gardens and St. Fiachra’s Garden included.



BrookLodge & Macreddin Village
Aughrim Co Wicklow

Evan Doyle and his brothers, Eoin and Bernard, built this extraordinary food, drink and leisure complex on the site of a deserted village in a Wicklow valley in 1999. Today, it is a spacious and welcoming ‘green’ hotel offering everything from conferences and events to a sumptuous spa and wonderful food. The hotel is famous for promoting organic and wild food, and all things sustainable - its main restaurant, The Strawberry Tree, was Ireland’s first certified organic restaurant, and they were among the first to install EV charging points in the car park, long before it became the thing to do. Their second restaurant La Taverna Armento and the atmospheric Actons Country Pub & Brewery echo the same philosophy and off season breaks are good value too with midweek packages (golf, pampering, mindfulness...) from about €225 for two. And there’s all of the wonderful Garden County to explore.

The Lansdowne Kenmare
Kenmare Co Kerry

One of Kenmare’s oldest buildings, the former Lansdowne Arms was built as the town residence of William Petty Fitzmaurice, 2nd Earl of Shelburne, in 1790. Following a closure and then restoration by previous owners, the famous Brennan brothers, it re-opened in 2021 as a lovely ‘new’ hotel with a fresh contemporary look and traditional values. Now, with new owners Patrick and Aileen Hanley (of the super Co Wexford pub/restaurant The Strand Cahore) at the helm, it's very much the heart of the town’s activities once again and a lovely, lively place to stay, eat - and have fun. Various offers are available and longer stays offer best value - when you stay two consecutive nights off season you can have a complimentary third night, for example. Very attractive in-house dining options include the LK Café, The Grill Bar & Terrace, The Piano Lounge (champagne and cocktails…) and great food cooked over coals - and the bars and restaurants of the town are literally on the doorstep.

Fota Island Resort
Fota Co Cork

A sister property to The Kingsley Hotel in Cork city, this beautifully located resort is deservedly one of Ireland’s most desirable destinations. Luxurious accommodation includes a high proportion of suites, many enjoying panoramic views over woodlands or golf course. The three championship golf courses and Fota Spa are big attractions among the resort’s many activities and families are well catered for, with a dedicated kids programme in school holidays - and Fota Wildlife Park and other attractions nearby. Serving local food has always been a focus here, and the excellent offering is wide ranging. Numerous special offers include B&B from about €230per room, leaving you free to choose from a number of great dining options from casual dining in the Amber Lounge (with dining terrace) to The Cove Fine Dining Experience (tasting menu from €75, matching wines €55). As well as having so much to offer on site, Fota Island Resort is very well placed for great days out – including an outing to the newly re-opened Mount Congreve Estate Gardens, just a scenic run along the N25.

Carton House
Carton Demesne Maynooth Co Kildare

Once the residence of the Dukes of Leinster, Carton House is an imposing mansion set in one of Ireland’s finest country estates – and home to two championship golf courses - and it would always be worth a visit, if only to see the property. While the luxurious accommodation is contemporary, prices are relatively reasonable for a hotel of this style (and amenities to match) and the public areas lend themselves to entertainment on a grand scale. The Morrison Room restaurant (fine dining) takes full advantage of the magnificent setting, while Kathleen’s Kitchen and The Courtyard Bar offer informal alternatives. Offers here are ‘Experiences’ rather than deals and there is value to be had considering the range of activities (many of them complimentary, including swimming pool & bikes) and free meals for under 5s in family packages that start at about €650 per stay.

Mulranny Park Hotel
Westport Co Mayo

Set in wooded grounds, this former railway hotel dates back to 1897 (the line is now the Great Western Greenway walking and cycling route) and it has retained some of the original character. Under the caring eye of General Manager Dermot Madigan, it’s a welcoming hotel, with well appointed rooms, good amenities – including a newly renovated Leisure Centre and Seaweed Baths & Treatment Room - and a strong focus on food. Head Chef, Chamila Mananwatta, is closely involved with the Gourmet Greenway (artisan food trail) and his commitment to local produce inspires all hotel menus, notably in the elegant Nephin Restaurant, which has stunning views across Clew Bay. And there’s great value to be had here including off-season B&B from about €130 per room and Greenway Adventure Breaks (walking, cycling) from about €160 including a packed lunch, also multi-generational breaks and Apartment Packages in the modern serviced apartments beside the hotel.

Dunraven Arms Hotel
Adare Co Limerick

Established in 1792, the Murphy family’s large hotel in ‘Ireland’s prettiest village’ has retained the comfortable ambience of a country inn – albeit a very luxurious one. An unrivalled reputation for the quality and value of short breaks offered, and a dedication to giving personal service, make the Dunraven Arms an outstanding example of contemporary Irish hospitality. The delightfully old-fashioned Maigue Restaurant showcases the best of local produce and is set up as smartly for the excellent breakfast as it is for dinner. While prices vary according to the season and day of the week, special offers range from their famous €99 room rate (available at certain times; some deals include a 3-course meal as well as that terrific breakfast) to various options including activities or longer stays – the 2-night B&B with dinner starts at about €109pps, for example, and, is well worth travelling for.

Lakeside Hotel & Leisure Centre
Ballina Killaloe Co Clare

Now well known as the main setting of the RTE series Blackshore, this beautifully located hotel overlooks the River Shannon, with a lovely view down to the famous old 13-arch bridge that joins counties Clare and Tipperary, and the towns of Killaloe and Ballina. With a convenient location and good facilities, it has long been the hub of the local community and, no matter when you visit, there is always something going on whether it be a local fund-raiser or a family event. Recent upgrading has included some desirable high-spec adult-only waterfront rooms with private balconies - and there is a really nice feeling about the place, largely down to the very friendly and helpful staff. Special offers include attractive family deals and it would make a good base for a multi-generational family break, with child-friendly leisure facilities, plenty of things to do within walking distance and much of interest to explore in the area. Along with ever-popular offers for B&B/dinner, the Lakeside includes some more innovative deals – the 2-night Hidden Heartlands Climb a Mountain and Jump in a Lake Break, for example, from about €280…

The Dunloe Hotel & Gardens
Beaufort Killarney Co Kerry

Famed for its spectacular views of the Gap of Dunloe, this luxurious hotel is set on a 64-acre estate, with manicured pathways leading through gardens to the River Laune and the ruins of the 12th century Dunloe Castle. A sister hotel to The Europe (Fossa) and the atmospheric Blue Book property Ard na Sidhe Country House (Caragh Lake), the accommodation is wonderfully spacious and, in the Grill Restaurant, double height picture windows enhance the fine food and vibrant ambience. An exceptional range of activities includes pony trekking on the hotel’s lovely Haflinger ponies, swimming, indoor tennis and complimentary fishing on the River Laune. range of offers from DB&B about €390for 2, Family Room (2+3) B&B from about €450, with complimentary activities including indoor pool horse riding, tennis, fishing, kids club (seasonal). Re-opens early April.

Kelly's Resort Hotel & Spa
Rosslare Co Wexford

Constant reinvention has always been the story at the Kelly family’s renowned fifth-generation seaside hotel – and never more so than now, with recent developments including an increased focus on sustainability in the extensive (and very beautiful) kitchen gardens, which guests are encouraged to visit, and then the introduction of The Sea Rooms in 2022. A stunning two-storey all year indoor/outdoor dining project with sea views and terraces, this design-led contemporary addition has transformed the hotel’s (already impressive) dining options. Add a beachside location, superb leisure facilities, the famous wine cellar, a unique art collection... and, quite simply, Kelly’s has everything. Yet - and perhaps this is the secret ingredient in the Kelly’s success story – there’s always another new plan in the making. All of which made Kelly’s an obvious candidate for the GCGuides Innovation Award 2022 - and explains why it is always so exciting to visit this long-established gem, and see what they’ve been getting up to lately. Their off-season midweek activity breaks are legendary - art, wine, cooking, gardening, you name it – and the offers page is always worth a browse.

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