A self drive trip around Eire and Northern Ireland visiting luxury hotels
Driving in Ireland
If you enjoy driving, consider a trip around Ireland. Roads are relatively quiet, the scenery is varied and picturesque and you are never very far from the coast. Start at Dublin and pick up your hire car from the airport. Our drive clockwise around the country took ten days and we covered about 800 miles. You are unlikely to want to visit as many hotels as we did, so just pick and choose. And be prepared to change your mind about not liking Guinness or whiskey.
©Failte Ireland Dublin
It's a compact, fascinating city with interesting architecture and much to see and do. The Westbury is in an ideal spot right in the city centre overlooking pedestrianised Grafton Street. Also in the centre, is the Merrion Hotel, comprising several Georgian townhouses. The Cellar Bar, fashioned from the old wine cellars has atmosphere and good food. At The Shelbourne, they have a genealogy butler who will help to trace your Irish ancestors. The Westin is known for its great beds and is ideal for gym bunnies with workout rooms and kit loan. Finally, The Intercontinental has extensive gardens together with one of the largest whiskey selections in Eire.
Just outside Dublin is The Kildare Hotel at the K Club. Built in French chateau style, this historic resort hotel sits on the banks of the River Liffey. It has two championship golf courses and well regarded spa.
©Cliff House Hotel
County Waterford and Cork
A two-hour drive rewards you with County Waterford, home of the famous crystal and the Cliff House Hotel. Take a dip in the natural rock pool and don't miss the cliff walk.
©Failte Ireland Cork city
An hour or so from here and travelling further south is Cork (meaning 'marsh'), an attractive town situated on the River Lee. It has canals and quays and one of the world's largest natural harbours. Visit the English Market for locally produced food. Hayfield Manor, right in the centre of Cork is a former merchant's house with pretty town garden.
©Tourism Ireland Gap of Dunloe
An hour and a half from Cork and due west is Killarney, the holiday region of Ireland. It's like the English Lake District but without the traffic. The area is popular with golfers having numerous links courses in the area. Here too is the Killarney National Park - 26,000 acres of mountain, lake, forest and walking trails. The Killarney Park Hotel is a good central base if you want to play golf. It has a billiard room, whiskey tasting and large spa.
©Europe Hotel and Spa, Killarney
Still in Killarney, The Europe Hotel has gardens running down to the Lakes of Killarney and an award-winning spa. Nearby is The Dunloe, bordering the River Laune. You may fish here and get chef to cook your catch for supper. Finally, The Aghadoe Heights is handy for golfers and is especially family friendly.
©Olivia Greenway Adare Manor Hotel. View from a suite.
Limerick, County Clare and the West Coast
Driving north for an hour up the west coast, we enter Limerick county. This is the first of our castles and a stunner. Set in 840 acres, Adare Manor enjoys river views, landscaped grounds including a French knot garden, and has its own 18-hole golf course.
A thirty minutes' drive gets you into County Clare and another castle - Dromoland. Built in the 16th century, this castle hotel has its own championship golf course.
Drive for about 90 minutes and you will find your third castle. Ashford Castle re-opened in April 2015 following closure for extensive refurbishment. Dating from 1228 and set on the edge of Lough Corrib it offers fine dining, a 9-hole golf course, cinema, and spa from July 2015.
We now drive north for two-and-a-half-hours to our final castle, Lough Eske, near the border with Northern Ireland. Set in 43 acres, the hotel has wood fires, whiskey tasting, indoor pool and spa.
©Tourism Ireland Belfast City Hall
Northern Ireland and Belfast
You'll only be aware you have driven into Northern Ireland because the signposts are in miles and it's slightly more expensive. Lough Erne is a dream of a location for golfers, with two championship courses. Finally, drive for just over two hours right across the country to spend some time in Belfast, an unsung city with much to offer. The Merchant, a centrally located Victorian hotel has wood burning fires, period features an award-winning bar and spa.
It's now an easy two-hour drive down the east coast back to Dublin.