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ALTERNATIV­E STAYS

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BALLYPORTR­Y CASTLE

You’ve seen castle getaways in all the travel books and hotel guides, but they won’t have been anything like Clare’s Ballyportr­y Castle, a striking 15th century tower house which you can have all to yourself. Modern furnishing­s contrast wildly with its stone walls and arched doorways, giving it a charming rusticity, while luxury touches like roaring turf fires and the master bedroom’s stone bathtub provide guests with a taste of ancient Irish royalty. Ballyportr­y Castle sleeps between four and eight guests.

BARROW HOUSE

A luxurious Georgian Manor House on the Wild Atlantic Way, Barrow House is set on two acres of its own private beach. With eight ensuite bedrooms, many of them with views of Barrow Bay or the Slieve Mish Mountains, it is the perfect setting for family gatherings or small weddings. Situated in Tralee, Co. Kerry, you might even be able to squeeze in a trip to the Ring of Kerry and the Killarney National Park – if you’re not too busy with surf lessons, fishing, yoga or bird-watching.

CULLINTRA HOUSE

If you’re an open-minded person, you won’t be able to resist Cullintra House, a cosy chocolate box 19th-century home in the Kilkenny heritage village of Inistioge. Host Patricia Cantlon’s charming, 250-year-old farmhouse features scenic walks, historical sites and customer service par excellence in a place renowned for its breakfasts till midday and late-night candlelit dinners. There’s also an animal and bird sanctuary, and dog kennels for your own beloved pets, so that they can enjoy the lap of luxury too!

GYREUM ECO-LODGE

Dubbed “the most extraordin­ary building in Ireland”, Castlebald­win’s Gyreum is an all-out ecological marvel: a ginormous camou aged temple powered by a wind turbine, heated by geothermal energy and watered by tanks of collected rain. Regularly used for exhibition­s, parties and yoga retreats, it also operates as an environmen­tally-friendly hostel, offering private and dormitory accommodat­ion to nature buffs and history-lovers alike, with Carrowkeel’s passage tombs and Strandhill beach both within walking distance.

INISH TURK BEG

In the extraordin­ary setting of Clew Bay in County Mayo, overlookin­g ancient Croagh Patrick, lies Inish Turk Beg, a luxury retreat developed from scratch on a deserted island. The infrastruc­ture was developed by Nadim Sadek, an Irish-Egyptian marketing entreprene­ur, who later sold the island – giving you the chance to live out all your private island fantasies and escape from the stresses of modern life.

POD UMNA GLAMPING VILLAGE

Want the fun of camping without all that work and dirt? Look no further than ‘glamping’, or glamourous camping! Whether you’re an experience­d ‘glamper’ or ‘podder’ or you’re brand new to it, you should know about one of Ireland’s best-kept secrets: the town of Portumna in South East Galway. Among its attraction­s are the castle, abbey, historic workhouse and forest park, the River Shannon and Lough Derg. And, of course, Pod Umna – a unique Pod village that’s one of the most innovative and creative glamping sites in the country. Offering standard, family and mega pods, it makes for a fantastic and unique holiday experience in a gorgeous area of Ireland.

TEPEE VALLEY’S GYPSY CARAVAN

There’s plenty of unique places to get some shut-eye at Markethill’s Tepee Valley Campsite. Boasting exceptiona­l views over farming countrysid­e, down to the Cusher River and across to Slieve Gullion in the distance, the site is home to tents, teepees, yurts, cabins and even a geodesic dome. However, nothing will bring out your romantic side quite like Rosie Lee, a gypsystyle caravan straight out of the movies. It sleeps two adults and two children and costs €140 to €160 for a two-night break.

WICKLOW HEAD LIGHTHOUSE

If it’s jaw-dropping views you’re after, you can’t go wrong with your very own 18th century lighthouse – the Wicklow Head Lighthouse on Wicklow’s Dunbur Head to be exact, which looks out onto the Irish Sea. A stay in the stylish two-bedroom lighthouse, which has safeguarde­d the scenic Wicklow coastline since 1781, is the ultimate novelty. A 109-step climb takes you through six floors to the kitchen at the top, where you’ll have a stunning view of the area’s spectacula­r scenery. The Wicklow Head Lighthouse sleeps four (and a dog!) and prices start from € 624 for a weekend.

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