Tankardstown House
Rathkenny Slane Co Meath

Tankardstown HouseRestored and renovated with consideration and taste by owner Trish Conroy and managed with style by a fine team including Helen Byrne, this magnificent Georgian country house near Slane is set in delightful grounds and promises a special experience for groups (who can book the whole house for events) and individual guests. In addition to the main house, which is beautifully furnished and decorated in period style, with romantic accommodation in heritage rooms, there are seven lovely cottages in a 19th century stable yard which are available for self catering or B&B. And you don’t even need to go out to eat as Tankardstown has a well-earned reputation for its food: You may expect memorable seasonal fine dining experience at the sophisticated rustic Brabazon Restaurant, and other options at weekends when light lunches and Afternoon Tea are served in The Tea Garden. For a short break near Dublin, what could be better than this wonderfully luxurious place, set in lovely countryside and with loads to explore nearby - including Slane Castle and its Irish Whiskey Distillery

Parknasilla Hotel Resort & Spa
Parknasilla Sneem Co Kerry

Parknasilla HotelSet in 500 acres of sub-tropical parkland, overlooking Kenmare Bay, this classic Victorian hotel is blessed with one of the most beautiful locations in Ireland and it’s an ideal destination for a relaxed grown-up break. Having opened under new ownership in 2013, with many key staff retained, a long term improvement programme is still ongoing at this much-loved former Great Southern Hotel. Open fires and comfy lounging furniture sum up the indoor mood, as ever, while the hotel and estate offer a very wide range of activities from golf or walking to swimming and spa treatments. Rooms vary greatly too, offering both traditional and contemporary styles, and some - including some public areas such as the beautifully classic Pygmalion Restaurant - have magical sea and mountain views. Holiday villas tucked into woodland near the hotel are not too obtrusive and extend the choice of accommodation.

Hayfield Manor Hotel
Perrott Avenue College Road Cork Co Cork

Hayfield Manor HotelA city break may be just the ticket to mark the new academic year and September is a lovely time to stay at Cork’s premier hotel, which is set in gardens near University College Cork and within pleasant walking distance of the city centre in fine weather. Although relatively new, it has the feel of a large period house and is managed with warmth and discreet efficiency, offering a remarkable level of privacy and seclusion for a city hotel. Spacious accommodation is beautifully furnished, and on-site amenities include an unusual Beautique spa, with indoor pool, and treatment rooms furnished with antiques; overall the interior skilfully blends contrasting traditional and contemporary styles, making for an atmosphere which is noticeably ‘alive’. The two restaurants – Perrotts (informal) and Orchids (fine dining) are favoured destinations for discerning Corkonians, who especially enjoy the smart conservatory ambience and stylish bistro cooking of Perrotts at lunchtime and the chic formality of Orchids in the evening.

Temple House
Ballinacarrow Ballymote Co Sligo

Temple HouseThey definitely don’t make them like this any more - Sandy and Deb Perceval first opened the doors of their vast mansion to guests in 1981, and their son Roderick and his wife Helena are now in the hot seat, bringing their own brand of energy and enthusiasm to running this amazing house and its 1,000 acres of farm and woodland. The original lakeside castle was built by the Knights Templar in 1200 A.D., but the present mansion is Georgian and some of the furnishings are quite recent, dating from a major revamp in 1864… If you’re fed up with cramped city quarters, this is the perfect destination - the whole of the house has retained its old atmosphere and huge bedrooms are furnished with old family furniture (bathrooms are gradually being upgraded). Log fires cheer the enormous rooms, including an elegant sitting room with open fires and comfy sofas - and a very beautiful dining room featuring seasonal produce from the estate, which is also open to non-residents by reservation, notably on Saturday nights when chef Dave Mullen flexes his culinary muscles with a 7-Course Tasting Menu. The great range of activities on-site and in the area includes visits to Lissadell House and Gardens.

Lough Inagh Lodge
Recess Connemara Co Galway

Lough Inagh LodgeConnemara calls many of us when a break is needed and there’s no shortage of great places to stay, including Maire O’Connor’s former sporting lodge on the shores of Lough Inagh, which makes a delightful small hotel. Small and characterful enough to have a country house atmosphere, yet with the service and facilities of an hotel, it has all the advantages and none of the disadvantages of both country houses and hotels. Twin drawing rooms flank the entrance hall, each with an open fire, and there’s a very appealing bar with a welcoming stove, its own back door anda  tiled floor for wet fishing gear. Unusually spacious and comfortable bedrooms with lake and countryside views include several with four-posters, and both the bar and the handsome Finisglen Room restaurant welcome non-residents. While it has special appeal to sportsmen and outdoor types, Lough Inagh makes a good base for exploring Connemara and this pet-friendly gem is only 42 miles from Galway.

Newport House
Newport Co Mayo

Newport HouseFormer home of the O’Donnells, Earls of Tir Connell, this fine creeper-clad house embodies all that is best about the Irish country house and looks especially wonderful in September. It’s been close to the hearts of fisherfolk for many years – owner Kieran Thompson is himself a former fishing guest - but you don’t have to be skilled with rod and line to appreciate the warmth of this luxurious and immaculately maintained place. Everyone enjoys the gracious drawing rooms and the club-fender cosiness of the little back bar – and dining in the lovely high-ceilinged dining room is a real treat, as John Galvin (chef since 1983) displays no interest in fashion, instead producing meals of magnificent relevance. “Cooking which reflects the hospitable nature of the house” showcases home-produced and local foods, notably superb home-smoked salmon (only wild salmon is used) and ultra-fresh produce from a walled kitchen garden that has been worked since 1720, established before the house was completed. A magic place to overnight along the Wild Atlantic Way - and it’s right on the Great Western Greenway too.

Bullitt Belfast
40a Church Lane Belfast BT1 4QN

The other side of the coin to The Merchant's high end style and five star luxury, its younger sister - or should that be brother - Bullitt is a whole new ball game. Very well located near the iconic Crown Liquor Saloon, it’s cool, chilled out and yet nostalgic - this is back to basics with a difference. Atmospherically themed for Steve McQueen’s 1968 movie of the same name, every area of the 'traditional hotel' concept is re-imagined and pared down for maximum comfort, efficiency and fun: forget about baths, wardrobes and minibars, think big beds, flat screen TVs (full Sky package), WiFi, a great range of bars, and local, seasonal food and drinks. Wagyu beef from Noble House is the star of the show at Taylor & Clay restaurant, where chefs entertain customers as they rustle up big-flavoured meals on a huge custom built and sustainably fuelled Asador grill. A great place - and, much as they love it, not just for the young.

Viewmount House
Dublin Road Longford Co Longford

Viewmount HouseLongford may not always have been the first place to come to mind when pondering possible destinations for a weekend’s escape, but James and Beryl Kearney’s immaculate 1750s house just outside the town has changed all that and - especially since it became a dining destination - this Blue Book property has been very much on the short break radar of late. Once owned by Lord Longford, Viewmount is set in beautiful wooded gardens, which have been designed by James as a series of themed rooms, and it’s a delightful house with a great sense of hospitality that makes guests feel very comfortable. And, once the Kearneys had joined the house to restored outbuildings alongside, it gained not only some spacious new garden view bedrooms, but also the very successful VM Restaurant. Set in one of the classic stone outbuildings and full of character, it is rightly renowned for the good food served and has introduced many a townie to this under-visited area. Longford could surprise you.


Castle Murray House
St. John's Point Dunkineely Co Donegal 

A short drive west from Donegal Town, Marguerite Howley and Peter Lawler’s beautifully located clifftop property has wonderful sea and coastal views over the ruined castle after which it is named. It is an exceptionally comfortable and relaxing hideaway, with a proper little bar, a cosy and very comfy sitting area with an open fire, and a large decked terrace that can be covered with an awning in a good summer, so food may be served outside. Most of the stylish bedrooms have sea views - and, although the once-famous restaurant no longer operates, a delicious breakfast (and light evening meals for residents on some nightys) are served where it once was, in the seaward corner of the building. A very special place - and pet friendly too.


The Old Convent Gourmet Hideaway
Mount Anglesby Clogheen Co Tipperary

The Old Convent Gourmet HideawayJust the place for couples ‘seeking a short getaway from it all experience’ at the end of the long summer holidays, Dermot and Christine Gannon’s restaurant with accommodation is in one of the most beautiful and unspoilt - yet relatively little known - parts of the country. Tellingly styled a ‘gourmet hideaway’, this unusual, very comfortable, and beautifully designed and decorated country house has mountain views across the famously scenic ‘Vee’- and is emphatically not for ‘family weekends’ (bookings are not accepted for children under 12). The lovely gardens include a field  which is being developed to provide as much home produce as possible for the kitchen, and as an interesting amenity for guests. Dermot is one of Ireland’s finest younger chefs, Christine is a charming and a solicitous host, and the surroundings are wonderful – a heady combination that has those in the know beating a path to the door at weekends.

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