Pictured: The fabulous hotels on the shores of Ireland’s tranquil lakes and wild Atlantic coastline, from a fairytale castle to a modern retreat built into a cliff face
- Take in views of Lough Corrib, the Republic of Ireland’s largest lake, from ancient Ashford Castle
- For a lively weekend stay check in to The River Lee Hotel in Cork city – its River Club is popular for cocktails
- Those seeking rest and relaxation should make a beeline for the spa at Park Hotel Kenmare in Kerry
Take a holiday in Ireland and you’ll find that you’re never far from water. Any thorough tour of Dublin will criss-cross the slow-moving River Liffey repeatedly, and many of those who head out west traverse a stretch of the 1,600-mile Wild Atlantic Way – the world’s longest defined coastal driving route, extending from the highlands of Donegal to the pastures of Cork.
Even in the Emerald Isle’s dewy heartlands, the fields are pockmarked by lakes and cut by surging rivers. And wherever you go, of course, the threat – or promise – of rain is never far away.
But one benefit of being in an infamously wet country is that so many of its hotels, whether inland or coastal, enjoy spectacular waterside settings.
Wineport Lodge (pictured) is set slap-bang in the centre of Ireland on the banks of Lough Ree in Westmeath
Wineport Lodge, decked out Scandi-style, features tranquil, lake-facing rooms with balconies or verandas
Staff at Wineport Lodge can arrange boat trips, though guests often come here just to rest and read or enjoy afternoon tea
Take County Westmeath’s Wineport Lodge. Set slap-bang in the centre of the country, this Scandi-style hotel on the bank of Lough Ree features tranquil, lake-facing rooms with balconies or verandas. Staff can arrange boat trips, though guests often come here just to rest and read or enjoy afternoon tea.
From about £200 B&B per room per night (wineport.ie).
Over the border by Lough Erne in County Fermanagh, the forest hideaway of Finn Lough enjoys a spectacular waterside setting and it’s even better for stargazing. Its most famous bedrooms are so-called Bubble Domes with transparent roofs so that guests can stay cosy in bed as they admire the skies above.
From £175 B&B per room per night (finnlough.com).
By Lough Erne in County Fermanagh, the forest hideaway of Finn Lough enjoys a spectacular waterside setting
Finn Lough’s most famous bedrooms are so-called Bubble Domes with transparent roofs (pictured)
A lounge area at Finn Lough. Guests can admire the skies above from inside the bubble domes
Rooms at Finn Lough – a retreat that’s ideal for stargazing – are priced from £175 per night
Further north, Donegal’s Rathmullan House is an 18th Century Georgian Manor set beside a two-mile beach.
With expansive grounds and Victorian walled gardens that provide produce for its Cook & Gardener restaurant, it’s a homely retreat with friendly staff who have served here for years.
From about £150 B&B per room per night (rathmullanhouse.com).
Donegal’s Rathmullan House (pictured) is an 18th Century Georgian Manor set beside a two-mile beach
Rathmullan House is a homely retreat with friendly staff who have served there for years. Rooms are priced from about £150 per night, including breakfast
Rathmullan House’s Victorian walled gardens provide produce for its Cook & Gardener restaurant
Near the peak of the country, Rathmullan House also makes a handy starting point for a Wild Atlantic Way itinerary that could eventually weave its way down to Mayo’s Ice House Hotel, where floor-to-ceiling windows in rooms offer unimpeded views of the River Moy.
On the terrace of its Chill Spa, sunken hot tubs overlook the water, while seafood is the star of the menu at its 54° 9° restaurant.
From about £130 B&B per room per night (icehousehotel.ie).
The floor-to-ceiling windows in the rooms at Mayo’s Ice House Hotel (pictured centre foreground) offer unimpeded views of the River Moy
Above are the sunken hot tubs and seaweed-filled bathtubs on the terrace of Ice House Hotel’s Chill Spa
Enjoy a drink in the Ice House Hotel parlour (pictured) before heading to the restaurant, where seafood is the star of the menu
Ice House Hotel’s Bartra Suite. Rooms, with breakfast included the following morning, are priced from about £130 per night
Further south on the Galway-Mayo border, ancient Ashford Castle stands on the shore of Lough Corrib, the Republic’s largest lake, and faces a scattering of pancake-flat forested islands.
Dating from 1228, the building feels like something from a fairy tale and the experience of staying here is equally magical.
The castle’s friendly, dozy Irish wolfhounds Cronan and Garvan appear in the lobby each morning, and blissed-out guests laze post-treatment in the spa’s lakeside relaxation room as tendrils of mist float up from the Corrib. In the evening, a harpist might play as drinkers share stories at the wood-panelled Prince of Wales Bar.
From about £480 B&B per room per night (ashfordcastle.com).
Green and pleasant land: The glorious grounds of Ashford Castle on the Galway-Mayo border
Ashford Castle’s Connaught Room. Dating from 1228, it feels like something from a fairy tale and the experience of staying here is equally magical
In the evening, a harpist might play as drinkers share stories at the wood-panelled Prince of Wales Bar (pictured) at Ashford Castle
A bed and breakfast stay at Ashford Castle starts from about £480 per night. Above is a Junior Stateroom
Ashford Castle’s friendly, dozy Irish wolfhounds Cronan and Garvan (pictured here with a member of staff) appear in the lobby each morning
It can be hard to leave, but another of Ireland’s best hotels is just an hour’s drive away.
Occupying a 700-acre estate and with Connemara’s Twelve Bens mountains providing a magnificent backdrop, Ballynahinch Castle is a haven for those drawn to the great outdoors. Hiking trails circle the grounds and the bountiful Ballynahinch River delivers ample opportunity to fish for salmon and trout.
Seafood features heavily on the menu at its romantic Owenmore Restaurant, which can be followed by a drink next to the crackling log fire within the Fisherman’s Pub.
From about £200 B&B per room per night (ballynahinch-castle.com).
Ballynahinch Castle (pictured), which occupies a 700-acre estate, is a haven for those drawn to the great outdoors
Snap up a room at Ballynahinch Castle, pictured, from about £200 per night with breakfast included
Seafood features heavily on the menu at Ballynahinch Castle’s romantic Owenmore Restaurant, pictured
Beauty: Drink in County Kerry’s show-stopping beauty from the Park Hotel Kenmare (pictured)
Down south, Park Hotel Kenmare is one of the most handsome locations from which to explore County Kerry’s show-stopping beauty.
Recently remodelled by locally born designer Bryan O’Sullivan (known in Britain for his work on Claridge’s and The Berkeley), its Dining Room is one of the best hotel restaurants in the country while its Drawing Room lounge is wonderfully cosy.
There’s also a standout spa and complimentary activities available including yoga and meditation by candlelight, though guests should make an effort to pry themselves from the property.
While one side of the estate faces a peaceful bay, the other is a minute’s walk from the lively pubs of Kenmare and just a short drive from the protected wildlands of Killarney National Park.
From about £310 B&B per room per night (parkkenmare.com).
Make a pitstop to spend the night at The River Lee Hotel (pictured) in Cork city while travelling along the Wild Atlantic Way
With a Manhattan-meets-the-Mediterranean feel, The River Lee Hotel’s River Club (pictured) is popular for cocktails
Wake up in The River Lee Hotel and stroll over to the nearby Glucksman gallery or the English Market. Rooms are priced from about £200 B&B per room per night
From there, it’s another scenic journey along the last leg of the Wild Atlantic Way to The River Lee Hotel in Cork city.
Though the bedrooms lack aesthetic flair, it’s otherwise a well-regarded retreat right on the water’s edge.
With a Manhattan-meets-the-Mediterranean feel, its River Club is popular for cocktails, and weekend stays here are agreeably lively.
The morning after, a dip in the pool or an unhurried full Irish breakfast should revive anyone, perhaps before admiring the modern-art collection at the nearby Glucksman gallery or picking up provisions, such as locally made cheeses from Toonsbridge Dairy, from the English Market.
From about £200 B&B per room per night (doylecollection.com).
Cliff House Hotel, pictured above, is a modern destination with an impressive spa in Ardmore, County Waterford
Rooms at the Cliff House Hotel, which is built into a rock face, are priced from about £270 per night
The views from Ardmore’s Cliff House Hotel seem to stretch on endlessly. Above is the shower in one of the hotel’s rooms
An oyster dish at the Cliff House Hotel. The House Restaurant offers fine dining with views over the water
From Cork, venture just a bit further to discover a County Waterford hotel with a wondrous setting right on the water. Though you’re hardly in Miami, the relatively temperate climate enjoyed here means this part of the country is known in Ireland as ‘the sunny south east’.
The higher chance of blue skies also means the views from Ardmore’s Cliff House Hotel seem to stretch on endlessly.
Built into the rock face, this is a modern destination with an impressive spa and an especially strong culinary reputation.
The House Restaurant offers fine dining with views over the water, whether you’re inside or out on the terrace. With the sound and smell of the sea surrounding them, guests can enjoy a meal to remember as the waves roll in from the Atlantic.
From about £270 B&B per room per night (cliffhousehotel.ie).
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