1. Culloden Estate & Spa, Holywood, Belfast
Once used as a palace for Church of Ireland bishops, this high-end hotel with views over Belfast Loughis surrounded by 12 acres of parkland and famed for dining options including a super-indulgent Hendrick’s Gin afternoon tea and the high-end Mitre restaurant. Chic rooms feature fine fabrics and elegant furnishings, plus there’s a wonderful health club with a spa.
Details: Doubles start from £140 per night B&B (028 9042 1066,hastingshotels.com)
2. Dromoland Castle, Newmarket-on-Fergus, Co Clare
Once the ancestral home of the Dromoland O’Briens whose lineage goes back more than 1,000 years to Brian Boru, the first High King of Ireland, this magnificent castle hotel, dating from the 16th century, sits in 400 acres with an enchanting lake and rolling parkland. Inside, it’s pure opulence: grand staircases, plush lounges with ornate fireplaces, a palatial restaurant and a refined bar. Queen Anne-style rooms are packed with antiques and many have four-poster beds, plus there’s a spa and a golf course. The Wild Atlantic Way and the Cliffs of Moher are a short drive away.
Details: Doubles start from £155 per night B&B (00 353 61 368144,dromoland.ie)
3. Finn Lough, Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh
There’s a space-age feel to the newly opened bubble domes on this country estate on a Lough Erne peninsula. With completely see-through 180-degree walls, the rooms offer views of the surrounding forest and come with four-poster beds, Nespresso machines and bathrooms . . . thankfully in adjoined, blacked-out domes. The resort also offers a host of activities including watersports, tennis and Airsoft, an outdoor role-play game that allows participants to act out famous scenes from movies and video games.
Details: Doubles start from £195 per night B&B (028 6838 0360,finnlough.com)
4. Galgorm Resort & Spa, Ballymena, Co Antrim
Set in 163 acres and just half an hour from Belfast, the Galgorm is home to a new thermal-spa village with outdoor wooden hot tubs overlooking the River Maine and a Celtic ritual sauna with aromatherapy oils. There are also refined rooms and suites, alongside a conservatory restaurant serving afternoon tea and Gillies, a traditional pub with live music.
DetailsDoubles start from £145 per night B&B (028 2588 1001,galgorm.com)
5. The Merchant Hotel, Belfast
There’s a great jazz bar, a rooftop gym and hot tub, and a luxury spa in this plush hotel at the heart of Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter. Set in a former bank that dates from 1850, the hotel drips with period features, including an art deco wing and a Victorian restaurant with a glass cupola and what they claim is Ireland’s largest chandelier. Rooms are equally lavish, with silk curtains and velvet throws, and suites are named after writers, poets and playwrights.
Details: Room-only doubles start from £200 per night (028 9023 4888, themerchanthotel.com)
6. Lough Eske Castle, Co Donegal
Set between Lough Eske and the Blue Stack Mountains, the original castle here was destroyed by fire in 1939 and restored to a luxury hotel in 2007. Since then it’s picked up the World’s Best Luxury Country Hotel award five times, largely thanks to design that marries its baronial heritage with modern luxury touches. Each room is uniquely styled and many feature antique or bespoke furniture, while common areas include landscaped gardens and elegant drawing rooms with open fires. There’s also a Solís spa, a relaxed grill restaurant and activities such as fishing excursions, hiking and horse riding.
Details: Doubles start from £150 per night B&B (00 353 74 972 5100, solishotels.com)
7. The Merrion Hotel, Dublin
Set in four restored Georgian townhouses, one of which was the birthplace of the first Duke of Wellington, this luxe hotel offers elegant rooms with understated decor, a two Michelin star-restaurant and two bars. Best of all, though, is the private collection of Irish contemporary art by painters whose work also hangs in the National Gallery of Ireland, just around the corner. The collection has inspired the hotel’s afternoon tea, with art-themed pastries on mini easels.
Details: Doubles start from £195 per night B&B (00 353 1 603 0600, merrionhotel.com)
8. The Dean, Dublin
Smack bang in the heart of the city, this hip hotel has music-themed rooms that range from Mod Pods and Punk Bunks to Hi-Fis. As you’d expect from their names, most are on the compact side, but come with contemporary decor and classy touches such as Smeg minifridges and retro-style digital radios. There’s also a cool lobby bar with regular DJ sets and a rooftop bar with a barbecue.
Details: Room-only doubles start from £85 per night (00 353 1 607 8110, deandublin.ie)
9. The Dylan Hotel, Dublin
Behind its chic, redbrick frontage the Dylan houses 44 individually styled rooms which fuse contemporary style with high-tech touches such as iPods packed with audio tours of Dublin, and superbly comfortable beds. Unsurprisingly, it’s a sociable establishment — cocktail glasses chink in the silver-and-powder blue Dylan Bar, while the Tavern restaurant pulls off the trick of making hearty dishes look delicate and clever. Dublin’s buzzing heart is ten minutes’ walk away.
Details: Doubles start from £160 per night B&B (00 353 1 660 3100,dylan.ie)
10. Ashford Castle, Co Mayo
Reopened earlier this year after a £50 million restoration, this historic castle hotel is almost 800 years old and was once owned by Lord and Lady Ardilaun of the Guinness family. Set in 350 acres on the shores of Lough Corrib and the River Cong, it has a spectacular backdrop of woodlands and mountains. It also has an old-world feel, and quirks including a Lego butler for kids, Ireland’s first falconry school, a cinema and a zipline course.
Details: Doubles start from £180 per night B&B (00 353 94 954 6003, ashfordcastle.com)
11. Clare Island Lighthouse, Clare Island, Co Mayo
Off the Mayo coast, 27-square-mile Clare Island is home to about 150 people, numerous sheep and this luxury guesthouse in a restored lighthouse dating from the early 1800s. Bedrooms have a feel of pared-back luxury; all have wood-burning stoves, and there’s one with a private sauna and a cross trainer. For those who prefer their exercise outdoors, a craggy cliffside walk leads to a Cistercian abbey with ancient frescoes.
Details: Doubles start from £255 per night half-board (00 353 87 668 9758, sawdays.co.uk)
12. Sheen Falls Lodge Kenmare, Co Kerry
Fans of smoked salmon will love a stay at this foodie country-house hotel overlooking both the Sheen waterfalls and Kenmare Bay. Fish that are caught in the River Sheen are then cured in the hotel’s own smokehouse. The hotel’s Falls restaurant has recently been reopened after refurbishment and there’s a vast wine cellar. Rooms have classic or country-chic styling and come with falls or ocean views.
Details: Doubles start from £130 per night B&B (00 353 64 664 1600, sheenfallslodge.ie)
13. The Europe Fossa, Killarney, Co Kerry
Overlooking Lough Leane, The Europe is another foodie retreat: its restaurant was named Kerry’s best hotel offering at this year’s Irish Restaurant Awards. A modern, functional exterior belies rooms and suites swathed in contemporary luxury; many of them come with lake-view balconies. There’s also a posh spa, tennis courts, a golf course and horse riding.
Details: Doubles start from £175 per night B&B (00 353 64 667 1300, theeurope.com)
14. Inis Meáin Restaurant & Suites, Aran Islands, Co Galway
Explore the remote island of Inishmaan from this contemporary, stone-clad building with huge floor-to-ceiling windows and rugged views. Each of the minimalist, Scandinavian-style suites is equipped with an Exploration Kit containing binoculars, maps, nature guides, beach towels, baited fishing rods and walking sticks, as well as a fridge crammed with wine and local produce. The restaurant, meanwhile, is open-plan and offers almost zero food miles: veg, salads and herbs are grown in the garden, and there’s only wild Atlantic fish, local shellfish and homestead-reared meat on offer.
Details: Doubles start from £180 per night B&B (00 353 86 826 6026, sawdays.co.uk)
15. Ballyvolane House, Castlelyons, Co Cork
Formerly general manager at Babington House, Justin Green grew up at Ballyvolane and took over the family business in 2003. He and his wife, Jenny, have turned the former Georgian home dating from 1728 into one of Ireland’s best country-house hotels, redolent with legends including a tale of buried treasure. There are just six rooms with old-fashioned wirelesses and antique baths, as well as glamping options in the grounds, and an on-site gin distillery. Activities include salmon fishing on the Cork Blackwater and trout fishing on stocked ponds, plus there’s a petting zoo on the estate’s working farm.
Details: Doubles cost from £145 per night B&B (00 353 25 36349,ballyvolanehouse.ie)
16. Ballyfin Demesne, Ballyfin, Co Laois
If you’re rueing the Christmas demise of Downton Abbey, head to this exceptional 20-bedroom hotel set in 614 acres of private parkland with a 19th-century tower, grottoes, follies and a 28-acre lake to play laird and lady of the manor – they even have period costumes on hand to complete the picture. Rooms are beautifully crafted with dramatic wall coverings, substantial beds and individual touches including personal libraries, fireplaces and miniature suits of armour.
Details: Rooms start from £610 per night full-board (00 353 57 875 5866, ballyfin.com)
17. Cliff House Hotel, Ardmore, Co Waterford
Carved into cliffs with Ardmore Bay views and just outside an arty fishing village, this polished retreat offers a heap of things to do, including sea kayaking, fishing, coasteering, foraging and whale watching. Back at the hotel, there are contemporary rooms with balconies, a Michelin-starred restaurant and a majestic sea-view spa.
Details: Two nights’ B&B with a three-course dinner on one night and a whale-watching tour costs from £370 per couple (00 353 24 87800, thecliffhousehotel.com)
18. Monart Spa, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford
Picked as one of the top three spa resorts in the world by Condé Nast Traveller, this hotel and spa set in woodland outside the town of Enniscorthy is centred on an 18th-century Georgian manor house. It offers a thermal suite, detox retreats and men-only programmes, as well as 68 deluxe bedrooms with terraces or balconies with lake or woodland views. Dining options include a fine-dining restaurant, a lake-view lounge and a healthy spa café.
Details: Doubles are from £185 per night B&B (00 353 53 923 8999,monart.ie)
19. Marlfield House Hotel, Co Wexford
Set in 40 acres of grounds with a large kitchen garden, a lake and a bird reserve, this family-run manor-house hotel is the kind of place to bed down when it’s cold outside, thanks to antique-packed interiors with cosy seating areas and roaring fires. There’s also a newly opened fusion/Italian restaurant, The Duck, set in restored courtyard buildings including a coach house, a potting shed and a tool shed. Nearby Gorey is a great shopping town with boutiques and gift shops, and the hotel offers a VIP shopping card offering discounts in many of them.
Details: Doubles start from £130 per night B&B (00 353 53 942 1124, marlfieldhouse.com)
20. No 1 Pery Square, Limerick, Co Limerick
Overlooking People’s Park in Limerick’s Georgian Quarter, this boutique hotel in a townhouse dating from 1830 has 20 rooms with either classic or period-style decor, an organic spa and a stylish bistro restaurant. The central location means the best of Limerick, including arty picks such as the Limerick City Gallery and the Frank McCourt Museum, are close by.
Details: Room-only doubles start from £105 per night (00 353 61 402402, oneperysquare.com)