By Sarah Richardson, Travel Planner

My favorite aspect of foreign travel is the opportunity to discover a different way of life, even if it’s just for a week. A mere 5 hour flight from the east coast is the supremely green, magical country of Ireland. I didn’t see a fast food chain for 6 days of our journey across southern Ireland. Not one Starbucks. Imagine looking around a restaurant and not seeing a single cell phone in sight – I witnessed it night after night. The “eat local” movement we’ve adopted at home is Irish reality…farm fresh, local products in every restaurant, all the time – and let me tell you…it’s all delicious! But the best surprise are the wonderfully happy people of Ireland! From the farmer at the pub in Kenmare who shared a pint of Guinness to the business man on the street who directed us to his favorite museum in Dublin, there is a spirit of genuine joy and native pride. It’s unexpected and palpable. I’m swooning for Ireland…here’s a look at some special places to discover on your next trip:

 

ASHFORD CASTLE, Cong

Ashford Castle

Just under two-hours drive from the Shannon airport is this stunningly gorgeous renovated castle offering a host of Irish leisure pursuits such as pony trekking, fishing and falconry.  There’s something for everyone here. And, at the end of the day, a casual dinner awaits in the Dungeon or upstairs in the fancy George V dining room.

Our clients receive:

    • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
    • Full Irish breakfast included in rates daily served in restaurant
    • $100 USD equivalent Food & Beverage credit to be utilized during stay (not combinable, no cash value if not redeemed in full)
    • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability

 

GREGANS CASTLE, The Burren

Gregans

While the word castle here is a bit misleading, this 21-room property is a haven nestled amidst the limestone rocks of the region, known as The Burren. Fans of Tolkien will be happy to know this area of Ireland inspired his middle earth descriptions. Foodies will delight in the award-winning restaurant complete with fabulous accomodations to cap off a superb dinner.  This is a favorite for a last night before flying out of Shannon Airport.

 

SHEEN FALLS LODGE, Kenmare

Sheen Falls

Guests cannot go wrong here as every room overlooks either Kenmare Bay or Sheen Falls – what a treat! All rooms will be fully renovated by Spring of 2016  and will feature locally woven blankets, modern Danish furniture, and Nespresso machines. The adorable town of Kenmare is a two-minute drive away with the Ring of Kerry and Beara Peninsula closeby and perfect for day tripping.

Our clients receive:

    • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
    • Continental breakfast daily, for up to two in room guests
    • Round trip transfer to Kenmare for guests during their stay
      • (while our normal 1936 Roadmaster Buick convertible is under repair)
    • 2 CDs of music from our resident pianist Jim Kiely
    • Complimentary bottle of house wine in room on arrival
    • Early check-in/late check-out
      • subject to availability
    • Complimentary valet parking

 

HAYFIELD MANOR, Cork

Hayfield Manor

This 5-star property located in the college town of Cork is family owned and operated and quite fantastic! From the restaurants, the gorgeous guest rooms and the proximity to the famous English Market, this hotel is a true winner. The port towns of Kinsale and Cobh are great day trips from here.

Our clients receive:

    • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
    • Daily full Irish breakfast
      • for up to two I room guests, in restaurant
    • Hayfield Manor’s Champagne Afternoon Tea
      • for two people-to be enjoyed once during the guest’s stay
    • Early check-in/late check-out
      • subject to availability

 

CLIFF HOUSE HOTEL, Ardmore

View at the Cliff House

If you need a romantic, relaxing getaway from your busy trip to Ireland, look no further than this modern, sexy hotel perched on the edge of Ardmore Bay. Highlights here are the guided Cliff Walk and the seclusion of this tiny water town, about 2.5 hours from Dublin and an hour from Cork. It’s worth the detour from the typical southern Ireland tourist route!

 

THE MERRION HOTEL, Dublin

The Cellar Bar at the Merrion

Four Georgian manor houses make up the facade of this classic gem with a large garden wing addition. A perfect location for walking all over Dublin, The Merrion is a great choice with Patrick Guilbaud’s two star Michelin restaurant and the more casual Cellar Restaurant.

Our clients receive:

    • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
    • Daily full breakfast, for up to two in room guests served in the restaurant
    • For Superior King & Twin rooms in the Garden Wing receive; 2 Cocktails and 2 Appetizers served in The Cellar Bar
    • All bedrooms and suites reserved in the Main House in addition to our Garden Wing Suites and Penthouse in the Garden Wing receive; A complimentary lunch or dinner for up to two people per room, once during stay, excluding alcohol, taxes and gratuities

 

Sarah prepared this terrific photo slideshow, featuring lovely Irish music: