There’s nothing quite like a Twixmas getaway, an escape to a hidden corner of the country for a few days between Christmas and new year. Walks, reading a book by a log fire, and quiet cosy dinners are just the thing you need after a busy holiday season.
Clare Island Lighthouse
There can be few more spectacular places to welcome in the new year than a west of Ireland lighthouse. Take the ferry from Roonagh Pier to Clare Island in the afternoon on New Year’s Eve and return three days later. For dinner, guests dine together, as the hosts believe the table to be the soul of an evening, where stories are shared and friendships are made over food prepared using top local produce. The Champagne reception and canapés in the tower will of course be the perfect way to kick off all this conviviality. From €2,250 total stay (based on two people sharing).
Open log fires crackle in vintage hearths in this beautiful 300-year-old listed Georgian country house on a 400 acre wooded estate in the Blackwater Valley in north Cork. There’s plenty for walkers with extensive orchards, a walled kitchen garden and nearby Doneraile Park. Private fly fishing with a ghillie and a falconry display on the lawn can be arranged with prior notice. Dinner here is pretty spectacular, cooked by William O’Callaghan. A two-day package, 28th-30th December, is €450 per person sharing.
The Wicklow Escape
Surrounded by forests, the Wicklow Escape has wood-burning stoves inside and views of snow-capped mountains outside. And, wait for it, an outdoor wood-fired hot tub under an oak canopy which is perfect for gazing at the stars. Right beside the Lugnaquilla mountain trail, you can take things at your own pace, on a guided walking tour of the woodlands, visiting stone circles, or on a more ambitious hike. The food, from Danni Barry, is Michelin star level, with picnic lunches and wonderful dinners. One night, midweek from €296 pps, two nights from €473 pps, inclusive of meals and wine pairings.
One of the most relaxing, but quietly luxurious hotels in Ireland, the country house sense of leave your mucky boots at the door is a given in Ballynahinch Castle. There is always somewhere lovely to hang out, in the sitting room with an open fire, maybe playing a board game, or strolling around the impressive grounds, followed by lunch in the Fisherman’s Pub. There are so many places to visit nearby, from Dog’s Bay to Clifden and Kylemore Abbey. It is just the sort of pace that suits a Twixmas break. Three-nights at Ballynahinch Castle Hotel, from €1,100 pps.
The house at Mount Juliet is utterly beautiful, with relaxing sitting rooms, and a Michelin star restaurant. So, there is always the option of taking things at the slowest of paces, just going for casual strolls and enjoying the grounds. Or you can head out for a few rounds on the Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, which recently hosted the Irish Open; or the Equestrian Centre which offers guests, from novice to expert, the opportunity to enjoy a trek on the estate as well as lessons with a qualified instructor. Hunter’s Yard at Mount Juliet Estate from €340 for two people sharing per night, including dinner.
You don’t need to be living outside Dublin to justify a break in total luxury overlooking St Stephen’s Green. The spa, afternoon tea in Ireland’s most iconic drawing room, The Lord Mayor’s Lounge; people watching from the Number 27 bar while enjoying a glass of crisp white wine and a platter of oysters, an exquisite cocktail beside the fire in the 1824 bar, and dinner in the Saddle Room. An overnight stay in a deluxe king room with breakfast and parking for one car, is from €420 per room per night subject to availability.
Sarah Jessica Parker is among the celebrities who have headed to this corner of Donegal to escape it all. For beautiful winter walks, a visit to Glenveagh National Park is a must, renowned for its Victorian-era gardens and castle tour. Or make the drive to the cliffs of Slieve League which are almost three times higher than the Cliffs of Moher. A two-night winter break in a luxurious suite with breakfast by Lough Eske each morning and a gourmet dinner for two in Harvey’s Point one evening, from €299 pps.
Inchydoney Island Lodge and Spa
A storm watcher getaway may not be the first thing that comes to mind for the days following Christmas, but when you realise that you can have a front-row seat, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean as the drama unfolds, it sounds intriguing. Inchydoney is on the edge of the ocean, and a brisk walk along the vast expanse of stunning beach, a swim, or cycle is the perfect foil to the glowing log fires as you curl up with a book and cup of hot chocolate. For a bit of pampering, The Seawater Spa here offers unique seawater therapies as well as more traditional spa treatments, and access to the seawater therapy pool, the ocean view relaxation areas and the gym is complementary. Rooms are from €269 following Christmas and the two nights storm watcher package is €240 pps midweek in low season.
As you enter the front door, an open fire greets you in the lobby, and that cosy feeling continues into the drawing room fire place. The snug in The Cocktail Bar is the perfect corner for whiskey tasting, or for a glass of fizz, head to The Champagne Bar. Complimentary activities include yoga, meditation, hikes, and hit fitness, and for a bit of pampering there is the Sámas spa. Crisp winter walks through the gardens or a swim from Kenmare pier will be suitably bracing. Kenmare is a lively spot at this time of year, with many of the restaurants, pubs and shops in the town open, not to mention the added attraction of the stunning Ring of Kerry. Rooms from €555 per night, from December 27th to January 2nd.
The Merchant Hotel
Kylie Minogue and Meryl Streep are among the star-studded names who have stayed in The Merchant, which also featured in the hit television series, The Fall, starring Jamie Dornan and Gillian Anderson. An original Grade A listed building, The Great Room Restaurant lies at the heart of the hotel, complete with original Victorian interior, glass cupola and a truly remarkable chandelier.
The Bar, with dark wood and damask walls is very much the place to meet and be seen. And of course, there’s a sauna, steam room and roof top hot tub. It’s in the Cathedral Quarter, so the perfect base for exploring Belfast. A one-night stay starts at £250 per room.