As our furry friends become more and more a part of our lives, Melanie Morris packs the car for a new style of Irish family holiday, visiting some enlightened hotels that offer a little luxury to humans and hounds alike. Et voila:?the best places in Ireland to go on holiday with your dog.
Three years ago, Flumpy Frederick Rigley came into our lives. A miniature schnauzer with a massive personality, it became harder and harder to leave him behind when my husband, Trevor, and I set off on a minibreak, so we started to look at the options. Luckily for us, it's become quite ?the thing? for hotels to offer special pet-friendly packages, welcoming dogs along with their owners by allocating them special rooms with balcony or garden access, and spoiling four-legged guests with their own beds, blankets, bowls and treats, while the concierge teams offer great advice on local parks, forests and off-lead options for daytime pursuits. So, what can you expect from Ireland's leading doggie hotels? In our travels, we have eliminated all pseudo 'dog-friendly? places (no, outdoor kennels are not alright, nor is 'recommending a local minder/kennels?). These, in Flumpy's opinion, really are the cream of the crop...
WHAT A really lovely, homely, four-star family hotel where you can completely let go and unwind. It's the sort of place that belongs to an era when families of all ages holidayed together, visiting a seaside spot for a fortnight.
WHERE Salthill in Galway, with the most beautiful old gardens that stretch all around the hotel and access to the West of Ireland for all sorts of adventures and expeditions.
THE DOGGIE PACKAGE The hotel's dog-friendly rooms are possibly the best appointed of all hotels we visited, with sunny, south-facing garden terraces leading into the hotel's expansive grounds. On arrival, there was a water bowl, treats (instantly wolfed down) and a dedicated suggested itinerary of things to do for a four-legged family.
OUR VERDICT Here's where we relaxed the most and didn't have to fret over our petiquette; possibly because, on arrival, we saw a spaniel on the knee of a snoozing gent in a deep sofa in the lobby. We knew Flumpy was genuinely welcome and really, the wonderful owners and management of the hotel see dogs as being very much part of the family. And testament to the fact, the (off season) night we stayed, every single dog-friendly room was filled with a furry inhabitant. THE DOGGIE VERDICT Flumpy adored The Ardilaun gardens ... and the sausages from the ?human? breakfast.
THE COST €119 B&B per room (based on two adults sharing) plus €15 per night for your dog.
WHAT One of the original dog-friendly five-stars, thanks to former GM Marie Chawke's lovely, late, Bichon Fris? called Louie, who'd often be seen at reception, welcoming pooch pals. The renowned?luxury, outstanding service and meticulous attention to detail is legendary, and the team are keen to hold that reputation with their dedication to ensuring guests - two- and four-legged - a gloriously relaxing holiday. WHERE Just outside Killarney, overlooking the stunning lakes and mountains along?the Ring of Kerry route.
THE DOGGIE PACKAGE Second floor, dog-friendly rooms have their own balcony (which Flumpy never wanted to destroy), and easy access to the spa entrance, which leads onto plenty of grassy spots for constitutional breaks. While dogs aren't allowed in common indoor areas, there is a suntrap terrace for long lunches, snacks and sundowners, while The Heights Lounge also has outdoor balcony seating; Fido is welcome at both.
THE LITTLE EXTRAS Bottles of San-Pet-egrino await in the room, along with torch, poo bags, dental sticks, and a comfy bed with blanket, bowl and fluffy dog mat. There's also a dedicated canine room service menu with doggie burgers, chicken and rice, and other delectable treats.
OUR VERDICT Utter bliss. We spent our days adventuring in The National Park, climbing mountains, visiting the beautiful Dooks beach, and refuelling with huge platefuls of cake al fresco at Avoca, Moll's Gap. In the evening, we tag-teamed to the spa so one of us could stay in the room with Flumpy. By night, we took short trips for dinner onsite when we were sure our exhausted dog was chilling to the sounds of Lyric FM and Voya's hypnotic spa video.
THE DOGGIE VERDICT Flumpy, now a regular visitor, loved it so much he brought his best mate Rizzo on our last trip. COST €269 per room per night including breakfast for you and your pooch. Owners sign waivers on arrival confirming they'll pay a 'deep clean? fee if necessary.
WHAT Sister hotel to The Europe in Killarney, The Dunloe is a glorious, spacious five-star retreat that is hugely popular with American and European guests along with holidaying Irish families ... and their dogs. They offer everything from horse riding to fine dining; from garden games to blissful spa experiences.
WHERE The hotel is in the heart of the impossibly picturesque Gap of Dunloe in Kerry, surrounded by green fields and overlooking some of Ireland's most incredible scenery.
THE DOGGIE PACKAGE Choose between indoor/ outdoor kennels in the adjacent stables (no thanks), or opt for one of four dog- friendly rooms, each with their own terrace, and breathtaking view. There are also dog-friendly family rooms. In-room amenities include very posh bed and blankets, bowl and some doggie treats, including the all-important lil? black bags.
OUR VERDICT When the sun shines, there's loads to do and plenty of great spots in the hotel to relax with man's best friend. The garden is huge and there's an excellent Garden Caf? with an extensive, mouthwatering menu.
THE DOGGIE VERDICT Flumpy was obsessed with the horses (and foals!) in the nearby paddock, but spent more time snoozing on the first-floor suntrap terrace while his owners had afternoon tea.
COST Midweek overnight stays from €180 per room including breakfast; a three-night stay in a family room for two adults and three children, €890, includes breakfast each morning and dinner for two adults on one night. In all cases, dogs cost €10 per night extra.
WHAT A large resort hotel with a huge heart, the non-stuffy welcome of Powerscourt is exactly what Irish breaks are all about. Since rebranding in 2014, the hotel has become synonymous with modern luxury and decadent downtime.
WHERE 30 minutes outside Dublin, in Wicklow's picturesque Powerscourt Estate. It's perfect for last-minute getaways or a lost weekend away from the madding crowds.
THE DOGGIE PACKAGE We stayed in a beautiful sixth floor suite, with access to the hotel's wraparound balcony (which Flumpy adored trotting around, when he escaped while Trevor was photographing the view!). Dog-friendly rooms have beds, blankets and a very posh wooden-encased bowl.
OUR VERDICT A complete hit. Flumpy started each morning with an off-lead trip or two around the hotel's walled formal garden, after which we (humans) tucked into the most enormous, delicious buffet and individually cooked breakfast. To work it off, we all explored the Powerscourt waterfall and forest, followed by an al fresco snack in Enniskerry before returning, exhausted, for a really excellent dinner in Sika restaurant. Flumpy had room service, and had brought his own grub before passing out on the deep-pile carpet. An outdoor casual dining option?is available in clement conditions, which doggies can join in on.
THE DOGGIE VERDICT Possibly the grandest hotel Flumpy has visited, with the nicest receptionists - most forgiving of the odd enthusiastic bark. Warning for those bringing dogs out for early morning duties ... beware the opulent pillars in the lobby - we very nearly mistook them for lampposts.
COST The Pampered Pet Package starts at €170 for a midweek getaway for two including breakfast; an additional €50 deep clean cost may apply, but that's up to your hound's behaviour.
This article originally appeared in the May issue of IMAGE magazine as ?We're all going on a doggie holiday?. Follow Melanie Morris on Twitter @melaniemorris
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