Ireland’s lush countryside offers a wealth of luxe accommodation options
Who said it was a long way to Tipperary? Not anymore. Ireland, with some of the world’s most beautiful countryside, is on the Aussie doorstep. With daily flights to Dublin, and affordable car hire to tour around — they drive on the same side of the road as us, so it is easy — a trip to the Tipp and through to Galway to experience the Wild Atlantic Way has to move to the top of the bucket list. And with the Dublin economy moving at an incredible rate (Google’s head office is moving here in January 2018), the attractions, food and Irish hospitality is the best it has ever been.
WHERE TO STAY
Anner Hotel, Thurles
Nestled amongst the Tipperary countryside is a country manor that has been converted into a 96-room hotel. Upon reading reviews of the Anner Hotel prior to visiting, one would be forgiven for thinking they are a bit over the top. That is, until you get there yourself. One review reads “is it possible that the staff, get friendlier and friendlier every time we visit?” Once you meet the staff, you can see why. The staff are well-travelled locals, so they make meaningful recommendations on the many things to do. It is clear that the staff culture at the Anner is based on pure professionalism and enhancing guest experience.
The building grounds are lush with poplars, water features, romantic benches under blossoming fruit trees, and cobbled stones paths weaving past neatly trimmed hedges. The setting, popular for weddings, is also perfect for family celebrations. The outdoor area leads back to the lovely Romanesque pools, and state of the art gym and leisure area offer something to suit all levels of fitness.
The rooms are neatly appointed, with comfy beds lined with crisp sheets, and burgundy and gold furnishings that are deftly coordinated with the foyer and bar areas. The bathrooms have deep tubs with perfect shower water pressure and fluffy towels for afterwards. The rooms are great value, ranging from singles, doubles, and triples through to family rooms.
This family-run hotel is the perfect base for exploring Cashel Castle and the boutique historical town of Thurles (currently benefitting from recent investment by nearby Coolmore Stud, which employs almost a fifth of the town). Try Mike Ryan’s diner for lunch and a pint, and make time to enjoy the many other historical walks and sights such as The Butlers Trail, a trip to Fetherd, Swiss Cottage and the walled town of Clonmell. There is no end to the richness of discovery, where Gaelic tribes have been singing, dancing and warring for the last 20,000 years.
Rooms start from $140 AUD per night.
Glenlo Abbey Hotel, Galway
Galway’s Glenlo Abbey Hotel sits as a bejeweled icon on a 138-acre estate with rolling hills. Its beautifully restored heritage rooms are complete with chandeliers, tapestries, Victorian furniture, and all the comforts of a five star hotel. Add to that an award-winning restaurant housed in one of the original Pullman carriages which has just won Ireland’s best fine dining for 2017, and there is no reason to leave.
With the cascading hills towards Lake Corrib below, lush Connemara to the west, and only five kilometres from the bustling boutiques of Galway, the hotel is a welcome retreat after a long drive, albeit amongst the quaint countryside scenery. Once the home of noble Irish families, this majestic estate was converted into a hotel in 1992. Lovingly restored in by the Blake family who attended to every heritage detail, the building pays homage to Galway’s wealthy merchant past.
The gardens are exquisite with loads of walks through enchanting forests and plenty of estate activities, including tennis, a nine-hole parkland golf course, a tartan walled games room with antique ornately carved timber pool table and chess set, cycling, archery, croquet, superb fishing, rowing, and the opportunity to come nose to beak with birds of prey in the walled garden with the resident falconer.
Dining options include the River Room Restaurant, the more casual Oak Cellar Bar (with special Oscar Wilde mineral water) and the spectacular Pullman Restaurant that transports you back to a time where conversation, food and travel were the only things that mattered. Breakfast is a feast of freshly baked pastries, with fresh local honey, jams, moreish Irish potted cream that will have you going back for seconds and thirds, cheeses, fruits and meats, including the not to be missed Aran Island Salmon.
The staff at Glenlo Abbey are just what you would expect at a five star hotel: knowledgeable, warm and filled with genuine Irish hospitality. The reception rooms, tea rooms, foyer and other surrounding spaces have elegant interiors with crystal settings, fresh flowers, a grand piano, statement antique pieces and regal looking drapes that, when pulled aside, perfectly frame the timeless beauty of the estate.
This idyllic hotel showcases the best of country Irish values, providing first class service in a glorious heritage building with congeniality, delicious gourmet farm fresh food and, best of all, a great night’s sleep.
Rooms start from $219 per night
The Twelve, Barna
The Wild Atlantic Way is dotted with hotel jewels, but none quite like The Twelve in Barna. Just 12 kilometres outside of Galway, Gaelic-speaking Barna is a quaint town with beaches facing the Atlantic and the Aran Islands. The Twelve is a destination boutique hotel with detailed bespoke interiors, friendly service, an impressive world-renowned wine list, and indelible food.
After a massive €40,000,000 investment, the trophy hotel has won over locals and travellers alike. The striking lobby sculptures, car park light installation, locally embroidered furnishings, and seaweed spa are on-trend hotel features you would expect to find in hipster London, not small towns on the West coast of Ireland. The proprietors clearly took a huge risk in taking on such a project, but despite ancient mystical folklore saying the site is cursed, the hotel has thrived.
Catering to international travellers exploring the Wild Atlantic Way independently in cars or large bus groups, right through to racy hen’s nights — the X11 suite has been voted the sexiest in Ireland — and family weekend trippers, The Twelve is perfectly positioned to be everyone’s home away from home. Rooms have an earthy feel, with the Twelve tree logo being a central theme throughout the hotel, with lots of dark, strong timber, against soft low lights. The bathrooms are sensuous, with deep tubs, fluffy towels, a variety of lighting options including a myriad rainbow version that is similar to that in the car park, and an ultra-violet option that Boeing are looking at installing in plane bathrooms soon. Make sure you indulge in the Voya toiletries. A unique brand that originated in Sligo on the coast of Ireland, Voya is a family owned business of hand harvested organic seaweed products, and used in some of the best hotels in the world (including the Burj Khalifa UAE and the Ritz Carlton), and it is a great fit here at The Twelve.
The restaurants are all fantastic. Pizza Dozzina has a magnificent MV Napoliforni stone oven, and, when quiet, the chef is happy to give kids lessons in perfecting pizza toppings, even letting them make their own. The West Restaurant is influenced by its Irish roots and draws on foraging, fishing and fermentation techniques inspired by the seasons to create the award winning menus.
The Twelve Hotel is like a beacon of warmth and light helping travellers along The Wild Atlantic Way.
Rooms from $200AUD per night.
This really is the best choice for hotels in Dublin! The Dylan Hotel is a lovely, boutique five star hotel with well-designed rooms and bespoke Irish furnishings. It fills up quickly so book well ahead. www.dylan.ie
The Guinness Storehouse.
Even if you don’t drink beer, you will certainly appreciate it after experiencing the thoughtful exhibits, spaces, tributes and history. Ticket price includes a complimentary pint to be enjoyed at the top of the building’s Gravity Bar while taking in the panoramic city views.
A City of a Thousand Welcomes: The Little Dublin Museum.
Locals welcome visitors to the city, with over 2000 Dubliners volunteering their time. With a great wall of history and a special U2 room, this is where the heart of Dublin lies.
The home of many literary greats, including the revered Book of Kells, Trinity College also has free contemporary exhibitions at the Science and Technology Gallery.
Airfield Estate and Farm
Two noble sisters established this inner city estate that showcases vintage cars, a beautiful restored house that tells their historical tale, romantic established gardens with orchards and a working farm, as well as a true farm to fork restaurant.
Oscar Wilde Statue, Merrion Square Park
Immerse yourself in wise quotes and literary genius as you gaze upon the man himself (in statue form).
The simplest and most economical way to get around is to buy a dodublin card that allows you to hop on and off a sightseeing bus with great informative drivers (who are funny).