Wild romantic stays: Eight cosy Irish rentals for the holidays

Plan a break in one of these chic retreats and return with fresh interior design ideas

The holidays are all planned out but the talk with friends is of getting away and regrouping, getting out for walks along blustery shores or boggy hills, having a hot toddy and getting back to base for a big pot of something easy served with plenty of wine or whatever you fancy. There might be board games and even a living-room disco where your moves  might end up trending on social media.

Here are eight divine places to get away with the gang in the new year.

Traditional thatch in Claddaghduff, Connemara, Co Galway

Interior designer Rosie Campbell, formerly of the shop The Natural Interior, runs Unique Irish Homes and her eye is evident in the fresh selection of beautifully turned out homes such as Tír na nÓg, a super-sized traditional Irish cottage on the shores of Connemara, about 10km from Clifden in Claddaghduff where at low tide you can walk out to Omey Island.

Its living room has smoky antique ceiling beams and lintels punctuated by rough plastered whitewashed walls. Occasional Persian rugs are spread on polished ivory-white floorboards and its solid plank doors have rustic black hinges and latches, painted in a subtle shade of khaki green, all ideas that are easy to replicate.


The seating in the sitting room features well-upholstered scroll arm sofas that you can curl up in. Meubles in Co Kilkenny sells Cabana, a smart design with hand-buttoned detailing from €2,289 for a four-seater while its Heather wingback chair, €899, is similar to that pictured. The house, which sleeps nine, could accommodate two families but will only take children over the age of eight. It is on a self-catering, week-long basis only and costs €4,750 in low season. If daytripping to the island be sure to follow the direction poles in the sand that mark the way across and check the tide timetable beforehand unless you will be marooned there when the tide comes in. uniqueirishhomes.ie; meubles.ie

Shamrock chic and fancy fretwork in Mountrath, Co Laois

Roundwood House, at the foot of the Slieve Bloom Mountains, on the outskirts of Mountrath, is an 18th century house rescued from dereliction by the Irish Georgian Society in the early 1970s. It is now run as guesthouse by Hannah and Paddy Flynn, can sleep up to 24 people in its 12 double bedrooms and has a dramatic, double-height entrance hall. Its bow-fronted gallery at first-floor level is composed of deliciously decorative Chinoiserie fretwork and is described by Robert O’Byrne in his blog The Irish Aesthete as “swelling out like a pair of opera boxes”.

It's an idea that would translate really well to the balustrade of a far more modest home, especially if you build the banisters to lead from the treads all the way to the ceiling, creating a screen that is decorative and functional. The green bedroom is another high point. Its walls are Colortrend's Shamrock, a chlorophyll-rich shade. A two-night stay for 24 on a B&B basis will cost from €3,400 while four-course dinner menus featuring local lamb, beef or vegetarian options, cost from €60 per person with a meal served to the children, hotel-style, at the earlier time of 6.30, leaving them free to watch a movie while the adults sit down to their meal. roundwoodhouse.com; theirishaesthete.com; hiddenireland.com

Blowsy florals at Belle Isle, Co Fermanagh

The most charming part of the Belle Isle estate is situated on an island at the very top of Upper Lough Erne, a place that has been inhabited since the 12th century. About one mile square and accessed via a causeway it originally belonged to the MacManus clan whose chief, Cathal Óg MacMaghnusa, was the principal scribe of the Annals of Ulster. The castle and courtyard is now owned by the Duke of Abercorn, whose Baronscourt Estate in neighbouring Tyrone was redesigned by David Hicks in the late 1960s.

The castle can sleep 26 in its 13 bedrooms and has two kitchens, two drawing rooms, a library and a dining room. A two-night weekend stay in January or February on a self-catering basis costs from about €3,860. A three-course dinner will cost from an additional €48 per head with lunch from €18 and breakfast from €19.

From February 14th there is also a bistro on site that can seat up to 40 and further accommodation in the coach houses, courtyard and cottages that can sleep up to 66 people. But it is worth noting that the maximum number you can have in the house at any one time is 60. Decor takeaways from this border beauty include dark Tudor oaks teamed with lots of florals and ikat upholstery.  belle-isle.com

Flagstone floors and exposed red-brick in Clarecastle, Co Limerick

Thomond House and Castle House are two almost identical homes, originally a soldier’s barracks and dating back to 1778 in the village of Clarecastle. Set in a secluded gated courtyard these four-story properties have been brought back to life brick by brick and have the living areas located on the ground floor and the bedrooms spread over the top three floors.

Either will cost from €1,500 for a two-night, weekend stay in January or February, with the former sleeping 10 while the latter sleeps 12. Original furniture in the properties was sourced to fit the homes with many of the rooms boasting rug-covered polished floor boards and contemporary bathrooms. But it is the kitchens that will really appeal.

Here bare brick has been exposed to give texture to the warm russet walls, slender timber beams along the ceiling with quarry tiles underfoot. In each there are in-frame painted timber units with stone countertops and a range set into its chimney breast. The properties are within a few minute’s walk of two good pubs, Power’s and Kate O’Reilly’s. Also nearby is the Castle Eatery serving home-cooked meals – so you don’t have to cook. At the time of writing both properties are available for new year.

Prices for a two-night weekend break in January/February are €1,500 for up to 10 people. dreamireland.com

Brewery barrel floors and Aztec prints in Carlingford, Co Louth

If you’d like rooms with a view then head to Wood Quay and cottage, a historic property on a private pier in the centre of Carlingford, a waterfront setting where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea. Formerly a grain store for the Great Northern Railway, the cut stone property dates form 1840 and has been restored sensitively using salvage materials to give it a shabby chic aesthetic.

The main living space is a long, high-ceilinged room with a relaxing sitting area and large, smoke-blackened, stone fireplace at one end and a large kitchen area with an Aga cooker at the other. Off this is the conservatory, where sofas in Aztec prints sit atop floorboards that were beer casks that came out of Dundalk brewery Macardle Moore. So start scouring salvage yards and DoneDeal.ie and Adverts.ie.

The main house has three bedrooms, two doubles and a triple, that can accommodate seven with another two in the baby house, across the courtyard, on a mezzanine futon bed accessed via a ladder. A two-night weekend stay for nine costs from €850 and you can also participate in all manner of group activities at Carlingford Adventure Centre. Open at weekends.woodquaycarlingford.ie; carlingfordadventure.com

Scrubbed pine tables and cognac stained ceilings in Co Kilkenny

Newly restored Ballybur Coach House, part of Ballybur Castle, is situated about 8km outside Kilkenny city on the Clonmel Road

Mhairi Gray’s parents bought the castle in 1979 as a ruin and restored it and it has been open since 2006 but the coach house, formerly the family home, launched this year. There are five bedrooms; one, a family room, has a double and a single and is home to a baby grand piano and an open fire and there are three doubles with shower ensuite bathrooms, and another four single beds in the loft conversion – a great place for the children to decamp.

It can sleep 13 and you can put another two on a sofa bed in the kitchenette. Much of its furniture came from Costelloe Lodge, designed by architect Edwin Lutyens as a fishing lodge for Joseph Bruce Ismay, once chairman and managing director of shipping company the White Star Line and who survived the sinking of the company’s ship Titanic in 1912.

The furniture includes scrubbed pine tables in the kitchen, which opens through to the long vaulted-ceilinged dining room, and on through to the dining room which is a dual aspect space with limestone mantle. The vaulted tongue-and-groove ceilings have been coated in a rich shade of brown. Osmo Woodwax in cognac, available from Stillorgan Decor, will produce a similar effect. The interior was designed Dominique Schefman, who also worked on the look of Ballybeg House in Wicklow. Ballybur Castle is a Norman keep and a two-night weekend stay in January or February costs from €1,500 on a self-catering basis. ballyburcastle.com

Boardwalk bliss and beach walks in Co Donegal

Equidistant from the villages of Creeslough and Carrigart on the county’s Wild Atlantic Way, the Donegal Boardwalk Resort, formerly Cuan Na Rí, is a real gem of a place if you have a large group and a gaggle of children. The resort comprises 27 houses, each sleeping six, so you could accommodate up to 162 people if you booked the place out. But even with a smaller group it works for there is a restaurant and bar on site that will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner at weekends in low season, from February 1st, which means no one ends up having to skivvy in the kitchen.

The houses are basic in terms of their decor but it is the cool boardwalk that leads from the cafe over the dunes all the way to Trá Mór, a 7km stretch of golden sand, that you should note. It's a well-executed idea that could be replicated countrywide with cottages in boggy hinterlands. The raised weathered walkway stops at the top of the dunes and many children opt to roll down the steep dunes to the beach below. It also means those in wheelchairs can enjoy the same vista although their journey there will be a tad bumpy. There are also playgrounds and a tennis court at the resort. A two-night weekend stay at the pet-friendly locale costs from €291 per house, which can sleep up to six, from January 5th through to April 30th, through Dream Ireland. dreamireland.com

Eiderdown bedding and leaded windows in Co Kildare

When three or more is a crowd then only a romantic getaway for two will do. Batty Langley Lodge, at the old Dublin entrance to the palladian mansion Castletown House and situated between Celbridge and Leixlip with gorgeous views of the river Liffey from its leaded windows.

The seven-stone pinnacled building was designed to be viewed from the river walk, part of the estate’s landscaped grounds. Its Gothic facade was added to an existing rectangular cottage in 1785 to a design based on a “gothick temple” taken from Batty Langley’s book, Gothic Architecture, published in 1747, a reissue of a book Ancient Architecture Restored improved by Rules and Proportions, published in 1742, which explains its name.

The tiny space has a gorgeous little bedroom with small round windows, a mahogany frame bed with quilts and eiderdowns aplenty. If you want to venture outdoors there are gorgeous river walks and plenty of cafes and bars with fires all within a short taxi ride.

A typical two-night weekend stay during January or February 2020 would average at about €372 including energy bills. This property is also pet friendly. You can bring one dog. irishlandmark.com

Alanna Gallagher

Alanna Gallagher

Alanna Gallagher is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in property and interiors