Minimoons provide couples with the perfect short, nearby escape after their big day wraps up. But make no mistake – these are no ordinary weekend breaks.
In this month's issue of IMAGE magazine, JILLIAN BOLGER unveils the Irish destinations that provide newlyweds with the ultimate VIP treatment.
Cliff at Lyons
Lovers’ lodgings Bijou and boutique, the atmospheric Cliff at Lyons serves up a slice of contemporary luxury within a historic setting on the banks of the Grand Canal. The unusual 16-acre estate in Co Kildare is a perfect bolthole after a Dublin wedding; within half an hour, you can be worlds away from big city life. A rejuvenated village of rose-coloured buildings, It features a barracks, forge, mill and cottages all lovingly restored alongside exceptional gardens. The Orangery, a handsome Turner-style conservatory, makes for a dreamy dining location, whether for breakfast, afternoon tea or candlelit dinner (with plenty of foraged and locally grown fare on the menu). Book a pampering day at The Well in the Garden, a gorgeous spa in a converted carriage house, or just curl up in your swanky bedroom and chill.
Honeymoon high Enjoy the fine weather with a gentle cycle along the Canal towpath, which offers a unique and secluded view of the idyllic countryside.
The bill The Blueway Getaway package includes a two-night stay with breakfast, a three-course dinner one evening in The Orangery, full-day bike hire for two adults, and a gourmet picnic, from €525 for two. B&B from €199, cliffatlyons.ie.
Lovers’ lodgings It’s hard not to feel envy when you learn that Mayo’s magnificent Mount Falcon was commissioned in 1872 by a love-struck gentleman as a wedding gift for his new wife. A Victorian Gothic confection that will take your breath away, it was designed by the architect that created Ashford Castle and Farmleigh House. It’s a knockout, inside and out, with fabulous antiques, open fires, towering ceilings, spacious bedrooms and a super restaurant situated in the original kitchen of the old house. Surrounded by lovely woodlands, the River Moy runs through the 100-acre estate, making it a tranquil and intimate retreat. The 17m swimming pool has wrap-around glass windows connecting you to the encroaching woodland, making it a fabulous chill-out spot after a session in the Elemis Spa.
Honeymoon high Plan a day trip to Achill Island, pack a picnic and take a dip at pristine Keem Bay.
The bill B&B from €160 per couple, mountfalcon.com.
Lovers’ lodgings A boutique country house in Co Wexford, Marlfield House has been beloved by luxe lovers since 1978. Elegant and intimate, this legendary Regency bolthole offers big house comforts, with generous bedrooms, four-poster beds, gorgeous grounds and superb hospitality. The dazzling Conservatory restaurant, with its frescoed walls and views over the gardens, is seriously romantic (especially by candlelight) and given there are just 19 bedrooms, you’ll enjoy privacy, attentive service and a thrilling sense of exclusivity.
Honeymoon high Explore the beautiful gardens at Marlfield with Jasper the Jack Russell in tow (or resident cat, Roman) or head off for a stroll on nearby Curracloe Beach, with its seven miles of soft sands and shells.
The bill The 40th anniversary package, including full-body massage, champagne and homemade chocolates in your room on arrival, and a five-course dinner in the Conservatory, from €528 per couple. Alternatively, bed and breakfast and three-course dinner in The Duck from €290 per couple, marlfieldhouse.com.
Lovers’ lodgings Ticking so many minimoon boxes, Tankardstown in Slane manages to be cool, comfortable, chic and classy. Generous bedrooms, antiques, wonderful gardens and a terrific restaurant are some of the reasons guests fall in love with this exclusive Georgian hideaway. The luxurious décor and pretty setting is matched by attentive service and a choice of outstanding dining options. Top of that list is the atmospheric Brabazon Restaurant, where excellent seasonal cooking is served by a cosy open fire in winter and on a sunny terrace in summer. For the ultimate in romantic lodgings, be sure to book the Library Suite, which has been transformed from the house’s original library into a deluxe bedroom complete with half tester bed and a fabulously elaborate bathroom.
Honeymoon high Find a spot in the woodland for a private picnic (shared perhaps with passing bunnies and birdsong). Staff will deliver the hamper to your pre-designated patch or will happily select the perfect spot for you.
The bill B&B in the Library Suite is €350 per couple, tankardstown.ie.
Lovers’ lodgings Driving up the long, leafy driveway to Mount Juliet just heightens the sense of stepping back in time at this landmark Georgian manor. One of Europe’s great estates, the magnificent house and lands were created through an enduring love story whose history is palpable in every nook and cranny of the original manor. Today, exquisite period décor meets modern luxuries, creating an idyllic five-star bolthole. Mount Juliet is famous for its horses, so be sure to plan a romantic ride out and experience the leafy Kilkenny estate, just as the eponymous Juliet would have done more than 150 years ago. Walking trails, falconry and afternoon tea are some of the country pursuits on offer alongside a spa, pool and championship golf course. And you have charming Kilkenny City on your doorstep.
Honeymoon high Dinner à deux in the Michelin-starred Lady Helen is one of the finest dining experiences in Ireland. Housed in the manor’s formal rooms, and overlooking the River Nore, it’s a full-on gourmet thrill, whipped up by the supremely talented Ken Harker.
The bill Bed and breakfast at the manor starts at €229 for the weekend, mountjuliet.ie.
Parknasilla Resort & Spa
Lovers’ lodgings Kerry is all kinds of romantic, but a minimoon to the Kingdom is especially idyllic when billeted at the excellent Parknasilla Resort & Spa. Nestled between the Kerry mountains and Kenmare Bay, this historic manor house, purpose-built in 1879, benefits from the perfect seashore location. Victorian era décor meets modern comforts to create a beautiful four-star property that is delightfully luxurious, stylish and comfortable. Reconnect with nature, escape to the subterranean spa for a couple’s treatment, explore the wilderness on your doorstep (the estate is 500 acres), enjoy a romantic dinner at the Pygmalion restaurant or simply take a duvet day with spectacular views out to sea.
Honeymoon high Head off on a chilled-out kayaking tour with a Parknasilla picnic to keep you refuelled or take a RIB boat trip across Kenmare Bay to Kilmacalogue for a memorable al fresco lunch of seafood on the pier.
The bill B&B in a Parkland room from €175 per couple. Suites from €299 B&B, parknasillaresort.com.
Lovers’ lodgings One of Ireland’s most famous hotels, Ashford Castle was recently rumoured as the minimoon location of Prince Harry and Meghan. If you fancy some world-class pampering, that’s undoubtedly fit for royalty, snag the coolest accommodation at this five-star landmark. The Hideaway Cottage, the estate’s former boathouse tucked away on the shores of Lough Corrib, has been transformed into a luxury one-bedroom cottage. Décor is ultra luxe and you’ll have your own bikes as well as a personal Hideaway Assistant to cater for your every need. Of course, you can avail of all the amazing castle and estate amenities too, from horse riding, golf and fishing to zip-lining, falconry, spa treatments, your own row boat and private dining in the cottage or on a private pier by the moonlit lake.
Honeymoon high Plan a private screening of your favourite movie in the castle’s own cinema while snacking on champagne and popcorn.
The bill B&B high season rates for a Corrib room from €625, ashfordcastle.ie.
Lovers’ lodgings A famous Irish address, Castle Leslie is one of few Irish castle estates still in the hands of its founding family. From the authentic architecture to the dramatic interiors, and sweeping 1,000-acre estate, it’s a magical retreat deep in the Monaghan countryside. It’s the ideal place for escapism, and to reconnect and enjoy each other’s company, you won’t find TVs, minibars or radios in your bedroom (though you will find WiFi for your envy-inducing Instagram posts). You’re encouraged to relax and indulge here, with lavish bedrooms, incredible bathrooms (request one of the rooms with a bath big enough for two!) and breakfast served until 11am. By day, ride out on a steed from the castle’s own equestrian centre, indulge in a spa session at the Victorian treatment rooms or row out onto beautiful Glaslough Lake with a gourmet picnic. There are plenty of dinner options too, from country house casual to formal dining at the estate’s lauded Snaffles restaurant.
Honeymoon high Arrange a sunrise or sunset hot air balloon, taking off from the estate.
The bill B&B from €140 per room, castleleslie.com.