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Resort breaks for people who want to switch off and enjoy themselves

Irish resorts offer a range of activities from luxury spa treatments to golf and falconry

A hotel provides you with accommodation. A resort by contrast is designed to also provide you with so much entertainment and so many amenities that you’ll struggle to leave, even to sightsee.

"For lovers of good food there's no better option than a resort, which often offers a variety of food and beverage options," says Victoria Brown, marketing manager at Galgorm in Co Antrim, which has five restaurants, including fine dining, casual and family-friendly options.

“Everything you need is in your resort. There’s no taxi, no bus, no designated driver. Here you have it all, without even leaving,” she says.

Wilson Bird of Breaffy House Resort, just outside Castlebar in Co Mayo, agrees.


“A resort just gives you so much more choice and space,” he says.

Breaffy’s campus runs to more than 100 acres, contains two hotels and offers a variety of food and drink options. It has a leisure centre and spa as well as an events space that, in post-pandemic days, will once more host music and sporting events.

“You can park your car up here for three days and still not have discovered everything we have to offer by the time you leave. Once people get here they just switch off and enjoy,” he says.

Resorts currently hold additional appeal insofar as, 18 months into the pandemic, people are keener than ever to treat themselves to the additional touch of luxury that a resort hotel provides.

Once there, the feeling grows.

“If they go out on the terrace and they see a couple drinking champagne, they’ll feel like ordering a bottle too, and all of a sudden we’re selling 10. People feel: ‘I’m going to treat myself too.’ That wouldn’t have happened before,” says Bird.

It’s the same at the Lyrath Estate Hotel in Kilkenny. “Things are definitely a little different post-pandemic. We’re seeing longer stays, for example: where previously people stayed two to three days they are now staying five to seven,” says Orla Byrne, director of sales and marketing.

Typically people spend the first few days exploring the resort, taking advantage of the pursuits on offer, from falconry and archery to cycling on resort bikes.

“People are just enjoying some much-needed downtime and have a little more cash in their pocket too, which is lovely, so they are treating themselves more, whether it’s to a spa treatment or to a cocktail, there’s a sense of ‘We deserve it’,” she says.

Multigenerational get-togethers

Right now one of the most pronounced trends is for large groups of friends and families to visit together.

“We’re seeing so many multigenerational get-togethers. It has been so lovely to see all the hugs in the car park between people who haven’t seen each other for such a long time. When it comes to extended families meeting up, one person’s house won’t accommodate them, so hotels are the perfect option.”

Resort hotels, which provide a range of amenities for all age groups, are a great choice.

For some travellers, however, the trend this year has been to wait until now before heading off on a resort break.

“The older generation have been holding back a little until autumn, partly because children are unvaccinated, so these guests preferred to wait for them to go back to school and are then happier to come and have a grown-up getaway,” says Byrne.

Many will be making a beeline for Brooklodge Hotel and Macreddin Village, deep in the lush Wicklow countryside.

The hotel, which has won a slew of awards for its Strawberry Tree organic restaurant, also has a spa, as well as an 18-hole golf course designed by Paul McGinley. Apart from the quality of its food, which gets star billing from customer surveys, the spacious country grounds and proximity to even more spacious walks such as Glendalough are a huge part of its appeal, now more than ever.

“What we have noticed this year is that guests are looking for a safe place to stay, and we’re very proactive on that front, sending out our very strong safety programme in advance of guests arriving so that they know they can relax and be looked after as soon as they get here,” says Murphy.

Being in a resort can also bring an additional sense of comfort. “At the moment we are closing the village to non-residents, to focus entirely on residents, though in the quieter months we will reassess that.”

Booking patterns

Booking patterns have changed, even at resorts. “What we are seeing now is a huge demand for short-notice stays. We’ll often have people ringing us now on a Monday making a booking to arrive on a Thursday, with lots more midweek breaks too,” says Anthony Smiddy, general manager of the luxury Johnstown Estate in Meath.

“In our experience what people want from a resort is to put away the car keys, stay for breakfast, lunch and dinner and explore every inch of the property. We’re lucky because we’ve got over 100 acres, a fairy trail, forestry and river walks. Our resort bikes have never been busier.”

The opening of a greenway on the nearby Royal Canal has proven a huge boon. “Whether it’s walking or cycling, people really want to explore the outdoors,” he says.

That helps them work up an appetite for one of the numerous dining options on offer, including a specially developed terrace with heaters, blankets and umbrellas, providing great food in all weathers.

Demand for wellness programmes has grown too. “There’s a phenomenal appetite for them,” says Smiddy. “Only yesterday our leisure centre manager remarked on the huge uptake of our early-morning stretch and yoga classes, which are held outdoors. People want to immerse themselves in everything a property has to offer.”

Four things to look out for in a resort

Great location

“Inchydoney Island Lodge and Spa is a resort but what is really significant for us is its location,” says owner Des O’Dowd.

"When we opened 20 years ago, with our wonderful spa, we thought we were the most important place in the world. But actually, it's the location – the beach, the walks, the proximity to Clonakilty, the various attractions around us and the wonderful food suppliers we work with. It's all of us co-operating together, the shops, the activities, the restaurants, the characterful places – and people – that makes it."

Top-notch service

"People are used to going abroad to resorts where everything is on hand, plus pool and beach. Here we have to be more innovative," says Sandra Murphy of Trigon Hotels, which includes Cork International Hotel.

“We know just getting the kids in the car and bringing them to Cork is enough work in itself. With Covid protocols and so many restrictions, it is only more difficult to organise activities, so we take care of all that for you. When you reserve your room with stay with us, we will contact you to get a rough idea of what you would like to do and explore in Cork and when you would like to do so during your staycation. Once we have that information, our concierge team will get to work on booking tickets for you, reserving the best family restaurants and providing you with directions and any information you may need.”

Child friendliness

“We know that once the kids are enjoying themselves, all the family will be enjoying themselves. We will ensure that your children are treated like the junior VIPs they are, with personalised notes in their rooms, welcome letters addressed to them and even dedicated Spotify playlists and bedtime stories to give them the most memorable family holiday,” adds Murphy.

Choice of activities

“On-site at Galgorm you can discover the ancient art of falconry, go for a short stroll around one of our walking routes, fish in the wonderful river Maine, or challenge yourself to some friendly competition on our championship parkland course,” says Victoria Brown of Galgorm. “Our thermal spa village was inspired by its idyllic woodland location – think signature spa treatments and a smorgasbord of heated and cool spa experiences. This is what pampering yourself is all about when you’re at a resort.”

Sandra O'Connell

Sandra O'Connell

Sandra O'Connell is a contributor to The Irish Times