Weekend Getaways

8 Incredibly Romantic Weekend Escapes in Ireland

For a country so small (Ireland's 32,595 square miles roughly equates to that of Indiana), the Emerald Isle sure packs in the romance, from its endless green pastures and picturesque castles to its cozy countryside inns and wild coastlines both rugged and tranquil. If you and your favorite person are in dire need of an escape, these idyllic getaways—from the streets of Dublin to the cliffs of the Aran Islands—will put you back in the mood.

Senior Editor, Jetsetter | @lindseytravels | lindseytravels.com

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Living room at Ballyfin in Ireland
Dining room at Ballyfin in Ireland
View of pond and buildings at Ballyfin in Ireland
Bedroom at Ballyfin in Ireland

For Over-the-Top Luxury: Ballyfin Demesne

The term “country-house hotel” gets a serious makeover at Ballyfin, where an 1820s family manor has been painstakingly restored into one of the most luxurious Regency-style hotels in Ireland. Rare leather-bound bools, antique rugs, Edwardian portrait paintings, and inlaid floors are just the start of the hotel’s mesmerizing features, and that doesn’t even include the 20 guest rooms, where you’ll find four-poster beds, ornate stucco ceilings, and even chandeliers in the bathrooms. When you tire of your chambers, there are more than 600 acres to explore—and afternoon tea awaits after every round of croquet or sail around the lake.

View of Dunbrody at night

For Foodies: Dunbrody House

This 19th-century Georgian manor has all the trimmings and trappings of a regal stay—expansive gardens, charming guest rooms, period antiques, cozy lounges—but in a category when most spots only serve breakfast, it’s the quality—and variety—of food here that impresses the most. Full Irish breakfasts are, of course, available, as well as a champagne seafood bar, a cozy pub called The Local (which pours craft beers from Dunbrody’s micro-brewery and earns extra props for live music weekends), and an award-winning restaurant called Harvest, where star Irish chef Kevin Dundon maximizes seasonal and local ingredients (including those picked from the on-site garden). Feeling inspired to brush up your own culinary skill set? The hotel’s cookery school offers demos and hands-on classes on themes like “Quick Suppers” and “The Art of Slow Cooking.”

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For Getting Off the Grid: Inis Meain Restaurant & Suites

At first glance, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was the remote Faroes. The Aran Islands, a three-isle outcrop at the mouth of Galway Bay, are only accessible by plane or ferry and a true escape from it all: windswept grassy fields, rocky limestone cliffs, prehistoric sites, and tiny villages lost to time. Inishmaan, the quietest and least populated of the three, is the setting for Inia Meain, a hotel and 16-seat destination restaurant whose menu sources main ingredients from the islands themselves (locally reared meats and fresh-caught crab, for two). And despite how remote it feels, the hotel is surprisingly upscale: all five guest rooms feature Aveda toiletries, Philippe Starck fixtures, and private outdoor patios, and the service is unwaveringly excellent (the owners have island bicycles, fishing rods, backpacks, maps, and packed lunches at the ready for days of exploring).  

Restaurant at The Old Convent
dish at The Old Convent
View of The Old Convent in Ireland

Images Courtesy of Joleen Cronin


For an Adults-Only Retreat: The Old Convent

It’s a decidedly grown-up affair at this former convent in the foothills of the Knockmealdown mountains, beautifully restored by head chef Dermot Gannon and his wife Christine. As you might expect, the restaurant is excellent: there’s just one seating for Gannon’s eight-course tasting menu, which puts an updated twist on traditional Irish plates (slow-cooked beef with chestnut mushrooms, lovage pastry, and oak-smoked potato purée; lemon and ginger sorbet). The guest rooms are no less thoughtful—separate sitting rooms, freestanding bathtubs, down duvets—and all have access to the library’s books and board games and lounge’s snacks and drinks.

RELATED: Ireland's Most Charming Bed and Breakfasts

Bedroom at Ballynahinch Castle in Ireland
Lobby at Ballynahinch Castle in Ireland
Outdoor dining at Ballynahinch Castle in Ireland
View of lake and grounds of Ballynahinch Castle in Ireland

For Outdoorsy Types: Ballynahinch Castle

Of course, the castle is beautiful—the 250-year-old estate, all fireplaces, antiques, and plaid fabrics, was once owned by a humanitarian and a cricket legend and Indian prince before it became a hotel—but it’s the setting in the Connemara countryside that everyone comes away talking about. A rushing river, home to the hotel’s own fishery, cuts through the 450-acre estate and serves as the anchor of your stay. Both restaurants (fine-dining at Owenmore and the more relaxed Fisherman’s Pub, with its roaring fire) spotlight salmon and other local bounty, countless fishing photos line the walls, and your daily pursuits—angling, hiking, cycling—follow the river’s path. In fact, the longest time you may spend indoors here is diving into (and then recovering from) their lauded slow-braised pork belly. Washed down with an Irish whiskey, of course.

View of Park Hotel Kenmare
Bedroom at Park Hotel Kenmare
Pool view at Park Hotel Kenmare
Spa at Park Hotel Kenmare in Ireland

For Wellness Seekers: Park Hotel Kenmare

As pretty as the town of Kenmare is (with its coastal walks and proximity to the Ring of Kerry and Killarney National Park), travelers in need of an indulgent pick-me-up head straight for this 1897 Victorian sleep and Samas—arguably the country’s most luxurious spa. Whatever ails you can be treated here, thanks to an exhaustive program that involves fitness, nutrition, and therapeutic services. Even if you’re only here to relax, you’ll find your escape at the outdoor heated infinity pool, steam room, or relaxation room, whose floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the surrounding pine forest. There’s also a 12-seat movie theater and yoga pavilion onsite, but these modern additions miraculously do nothing to take away from the hotel’s historic charm—working fireplaces, Victorian antiques, gold-framed fine art, and staff in dinner jackets are there to keep it classy.

Bedroom at Number 31 in Ireland
Foyer at Number 31 in Ireland
Breakfast at Number 31 in Ireland

For City Slickers: Number 31

For urban Jetsetters who can’t get enough of the city life, it doesn’t get much better than Number 31, the former Dublin home of a Modernist architect who designed it exactly to his taste that’s now a boutique hotel. Divided between a modern coach house and Georgian townhouse, all 21 rooms here follow their theme: rooms in the former might feature pop-art pillows and rattan headboards, while those in the latter might have cornice ceilings or mosaic-tiled walls. The place you want to hang out at is the sunken living room lobby, with its horseshoe-shaped black sectional and modern art, as well as the small but pretty garden.

RELATED: The Best Hotels in Dublin to Book Now

Living room at Adare Manor in Ireland
Pool at Adare Manor in Ireland
Grounds at Adare Manor in Ireland

For a Classic Castle Experience: Adare Manor Hotel

You won’t find a truer castle experience in Ireland—or the world, some say—than that of Adare Manor, an 1832 Gothic Revival chateau that ticks every box when it comes to style, service, and sheer pomp. It once housed earls and now welcomes the day’s hottest celebrities. The 840-acre grounds still feature sprawling French-style gardens but added a championship golf course. The façade is as imposing (stone archways, castellated walls, pointed Gothic windows) as its interiors are impressive, from the 100-foot long Minstrels’ Gallery to the eight guest rooms with their hanging tapestries and parkland views. (Just don't let the Downton Abbey-like service get to your head.)

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