Ever thought of letting someone else worry about the length of time the turkey should be in the oven? And what about those hours spent peeling vegetables? And don’t even mention the washing up! Isn’t Christmas supposed to be a holiday? Or maybe you have lost a loved one and fancy a change of scene and want to avoid personal traditions. If you are toying with the idea of cosying up on sumptuous couches beside roaring fires with a waiter on hand to pour that next hot port, here’s a few packages to ponder…
1 Ashford Castle, Mayo
Arrive with hunger as you’ll be greeted wth mulled wine and mince pies before sitting ever-so-comfortably in the Drawing Room for a fabulous afternoon tea. The open fires won’t stop the main man appearing in his red suit after the Christmas Eve cocktails and dinner before the sounds of the Carol Service fill the castle air. Enjoy activities? A 9-hole golf competition and a Christmas morning Cruise around Lough Corrib follows breakfast. This will whet your appetite for the festive brunch and the afternoon’s tea and Christmas cake to fuel the treasure hunt. This is all before the cocktails and Black Tie Dinner, with a closing treat at midnight of mulled wine and mince pies. Our advice – opt for the flowy dress over the figure hugging one! St.Stephen’s day is also jam packed with guided walks, another boat trip, a jazz brunch and a chance to try falconry, archery, clay pigeon shooting and in case you haven’t seen enough food, watch a cookery demonstration in the Castle Kitchen. Your outdoor efforts will then be rewarded with another afternoon tea before dinner is served once again a short while after. Two-night packages from €1,320PPS.
2 Dunboyne Castle, Meath
If the entire extended family decide to hang out for the holidays, this is the perfect post. Between the large lobby, Terrace Lounge, Sadlier Bar and Ivy Restaurant there’s plenty of space to spread the cheer… or take time out. Gather for a reception on Christmas Eve before dinner, and if this doesn’t bring on the need to be horizontal, live music livens up the bar. Or, twist and twirl downstairs in the new Industry nightclub with its huge dance floor and ample seating – ideal if new shoes are causing havoc. The Thermal Suite in the Seoid Spa will soothe post-Christmas shopping bodies and prepare you for the incredible 5-course Christmas Day dining. Before checking out and indulging in the fresh country air, settle in for more feasting for the Stephen’s Day buffet in the evening with more entertainment on the side. Three-night packages cost €495PPS and €225 per child.
3 Dylan Hotel, Dublin
For the first time ever, this five-star, boutique beauty hidden just off Baggot Street will light its fires and open its architecturally-pleasing doors for the festive season. Think watching classic Yuletide movies on a heated terrace after indulging in mulled wine and canapés before finding bespoke gifts waiting in your stylish bedroom. Christmas dinner is in safe hands with executive chef Mark Bodie at the helm, along with a top sommelier to pair wines perfectly. Be sure to sip one (if not all) of The 12 Cocktails of Christmas – a creative and delicious nod to the much-loved 12 Days of Christmas. With plenty of board games, casino-style entertainment and leafy parks nearby to walk-off the fine feed, there’s no shortage of family bonding time. From €249PP Per night.
4 Farnham Estate, Cavan
Do you live to a schedule most days? The only timetabled activity in this luxurious restored 16th-century house is lifting a fork to mouth for the Christmas Day lunch and light buffet dinner. The rest of your precious time can be spent lounging in a soft robe in the sumptuous Health Spa with its inviting indoor/outdoor hydrotherapy pool or trying new golf equipment on the estate course. Brisk walks through the forest or along the lakeshore make for photogenic pit-stops and calorie-burning with a handy map to stay on track. Or, snuggle up in the intimate Wine Goose cellar bar where mistletoe might not be necessary! Two-night packages cost from €349 PPS.
5 Galgorm Resort & Spa, Antrim
If toasting marshmallows on an open fire and selfies with Santa is what you’re after then book this Winter Wonderland break. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without that constant full feeling would it? This Northern Ireland retreat close to Belfast won’t disappoint with afternoon tea on arrival, Christmas Eve dinner in Gillies Bar & Grill followed by in-room mince pies and hot chocolate – and that’s only day one. Leaving room for the five-course lunch may seem like a good idea, but it would be a shame to miss the bucks fizz and present-giving Santa at breakfast on Christmas morning! Santa will hang out in his Grotto in the afternoon welcoming visitors, and if the fresh riverside air has you peckish again, there’s popcorn and movies to curl up with, or try the crafts and games. And if you aren’t fit to burst, the Christmas Picnic tray may appeal or the light buffet in the bar, with live music once again for night two. Thank goodness for the late check out on Boxing Day as the Thermal Spa Village allows for unwinding galore. Two-night packages from £375PPS.
6 Lough Erne Resort, Fermanagh
Be serenaded by carol singers and tick that ‘tasted eggnog’ box while little people drink hot chocolate before Mrs Claus reads bedtime stories in the Library. These are just some of the wonderful touches at this five-star hotel. Fabulous food will be served at Christmas lunch with Santa and his elves popping in for a quick hello with lots of surprises! Cuddle up with a movie or play some games before Christmas evening supper, and if you still have room, there’s a festive afternoon tea in between, all accompanied by live harp and piano, amplifying the elegant atmosphere. If ‘Health and Happiness’ or ‘Deep Sleep’ are on your Christmas wishlist and travelling to Thailand was over budget, the Thai Spa will take you there, even just for an hour or two. Golf lessons are also possible or just play both championship golf courses. Love whiskey? There are almost as many choices as there are bedrooms, of which there’s one hundred and twenty. Two-night packages (including transfers to local church services) cost from €318PPS.
Wherever you end up staying, may you have a very happy Christmas!