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McKeefry Banner – January 2017

Nine mid-winter breaks in Britain and Ireland to help you beat the January blues

Bellinter House in the Boyne Valley [Picture: Tourism Ireland]
Bellinter House in the Boyne Valley [Picture: Tourism Ireland]

Bellinter House, Navan

Bellinter House, Navan, Co. Meath, famous these days for its food and its spa, can also organise fly-fishing packages that take advantage of the three-mile stretch of the River Boyne that runs through its grounds, or hiking holidays that feature the bucolic countryside of the Boyne Valley.

The hotel is currently offering spa breaks which includes spa treatment, full use of the spa’s facilities followed by a three course evening meal in the 2AA Rosette award-winning Eden Restaurant and full Irish breakfast the following day.

Cost €135 per person.

Enjoy a quirky break in Devon

At Glazebrook House, South Brent, Devon, all looks normal from the outside. The Georgian hotel is set back in a wooded, secluded countryside on the edge of Dartmoor National Park — that most spooky, empty, awe-inspiring, and bleak part of England.

But on entering the hotel, the first thing you notice is a reception desk in the shape of a Spitfire wing.

On the walls are bugles, bowler hats, drums, butterfly collections, illuminated magnifying glasses. Nearby is a stuffed flamingo and an emu skeleton.

Glazebrook’s playful mix of quirk and cool works magnificently well, and has you wondering what might be in store as you ascend the tartan-rugged staircase to your room.

The White Rabbit room, that’s what. Curiouser and curiouser. Alice in Wonderland holds sway here, with each bedroom, such as the Caterpillar room or Cheshire Cat designed by Mancunian designer Timothy Oulton.

Downstairs there’s a whiskey snug, a cocktail bar and a restaurant — and outside some rugged countryside.

Double rooms from £219.

The Norfolk countryside has plenty to offer [Picture: Visit Britain]
The Norfolk countryside has plenty to offer [Picture: Visit Britain]

Log on in Norfolk

The woodland lodges at Kelling Heath Holiday Park near Holt in Norfolk are a mix of camping, static and touring caravans and three-bedroom log cabins.

With indoor and outdoor pools, an on-site pub, adventure playgrounds and cycle trail, a break can be a mix between the energetic and the relaxing.

There is a whole range of nature activities conducted by the knowledgeable conservationist staff — from early morning hikes to bat walks at dusk, and star walks at night.

The three-bedroom lodges have en-suite facilities TV lounge and dining area and veranda with seating.

Woodland lodge sleeping up to four costs £279 for four nights.

 Whitesands Bay near St. David's on the Pembrokeshire coast in Wales [Picture: VisitBritain]
Whitesands Bay near St. David’s on the Pembrokeshire coast in Wales [Picture: Visit Britain]

Go for the world’s longest seaside stroll in Wales

The Wales Coast Path, at 870 miles long, takes in most of the Welsh coastline — snarling in places where the full force of the Irish Sea crashes in, to almost gently tropical in its sheltered coves.

The Coast Path has been named as the world’s number one walk in the Lonely Planet Guide, ahead of a stroll in the Alps, a dander in Dolomites or a walk in the Black Forest.

One of the best places to begin the coastal odyssey is on the Gower Peninsula, and one of the finest places to stay is Fairyhill in Reynoldston.

Despite its rather fey name, Fairyhill offers solid, unpretentious luxury in a charming 18th-century house surrounded by 24 acres of parkland.

The place is owned and run by the genial Paul and Andrew, who have somehow created an ambience that’s half traditional country house party, half contemporary boutique hotel.

It’s relaxed and informal, and the kitchen staff really know their stuff: salt-marsh lamb, generous portions of meltingly good beef and scores of distinctive cheeses are the rule.

Double rooms for two £200.

Stay in a treehouse in Somerset

For a truly chilled break, try a weekend in a treehouse in deepest rural Somerset. The treehouse in question is at Harptree Court between West Harptree and Chewton Mendip.

To reach the woody abode, the ultimate in branch offices, you are 4x4ed about a mile across open pastureland.

The treehouse is located high in a Turkey oak, which is helped in its support work by several beams, stanchions, pillars and engineering what-nots.

The structure is basically two wooden tower-shaped rooms joined together, which from a distance look like the turrets of a Rapunzel castle.

One tower acts as the bedroom – complete with huge bed, crisp cotton sheets, Persian rugs, leather armchairs and beautiful views across the woodland.

An unbeatable combination of opulence and ruggedness, and obviously, in this woody wonderland, you’ll sleep like a log.

Next door a kitchen and dining area is equipped with all mod cons – dishwasher, microwave, oven, gas hob and fridge. In fact the mod cons do everything bar put the washing out. WiFi, a DAB clock radio with iPod dock are all included.

A fridge is stacked with local farm eggs, bacon and sausages. Home-made jam, home-made lemon cake, and freshly baked bread means that you really can pull up the rope ladder and not stir for the weekend.

The Treehouse sleeps two adults (sorry, no kids). Prices begin at £260 per night.

All bookings are through Canopy and Stars.

Enjoy a funky stay in Belfast

Malmaisons have a philosophy of turning formerly unsuitable premises (brothels, mad-houses, prisons) into offbeat, luxury boutique hotels.

The Belfast Malmaison is a former seed warehouse, refurbished to within an inch of its life.

It lies on the edge of the city’s Titanic Quarter, and hard by some of Belfast’s great pubs and music venues such as The Crown Liquor Saloon and Kelly’s Cellars.

Nearby is the cultural heartland of Belfast, the Cathedral Quarter.

Belfast’s old warehouse district surrounding the impressive St. Anne’s Cathedral features music venue Oh Yeah by, amongst others, Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol. You’re likely to find something to your taste at the Metropolitan Arts Centre.

This stunning asymmetrical tower of brick and volcanic stone houses galleries, art installations, performance spaces, experimental works and endless goings-on. All sorts.

Malmaison’s itself has a fine cocktail bar and a very cool restaurant.

Double rooms from as low as £69.

The Royal Mile Pub in Edinburgh [Picture: Visit Britain]
The Royal Mile Pub in Edinburgh [Picture: Visit Britain]

Visit Britain’s finest city

Edinburgh provides one of the finest urban tapestries in Europe. Despite its reputation for being a tad stuffy, it’s a friendly, rollicking place, with more music going on than you could shake a bodhrán stick at.

Sandy Bell’s or the Royal Oak (both in the Old Town) have terrific music sessions, while for atmosphere, the Grassmarket’s Last Drop, in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle, is dark, dimly lit, and situated where the public hangings used to take place. In short, everything you could want from a pub.

Deacon Brodie’s on the Royal Mile is the place to eat haggis, if you must. And spare a thought for James Connolly while you quaff your pint afterwards — he was a road sweeper on this very street, cleaning up chip and sweetie wrappers before deciding to go and set Ireland free.

The Balmoral Hotel on Princes Street is the top-notch digs in town — clean sheets, hot water, stiff drinks, while the Hotel du Vin is about as out-there as it gets — square crockery, decidedly un-square clientele.

Double rooms from around £110.

Swinton Park offers a range of accommodation, from castle to cabin [Picture Swinton Park]
Swinton Park offers a range of accommodation, from castle to cabin [Picture Swinton Park]

Rough it in Yorkshire

You can stay in the main building of the luxury Swinton Park Hotel, or “rough” it in one of the nearby bivouacs.

The site also features camping barn and luxury yurt, and the ever-helpful staff can point you in the right direction for the extensive gardens, or a range of activities including falconry, hiking, mountain-biking, climbing, riding and fishing.

Double rooms in the main hotel (breakfast included) from £156. Yurts and bivouacs are cheaper, and around the £175 mark for a weekend stay.

White Lighthouse in Fanad Head, Donegal.
White Lighthouse in Fanad Head, Donegal [Picture: Tourism Ireland]

Have some down time in Donegal

Donegal was recently named ‘the coolest place on the planet’ by the National Geographic Traveller.

To fully appreciate Donegal’s physical attractions as well as its music and people, McGrory’s of Culdaff on the Inishowen Peninsula is the place to stay.

The hotel and pub is a well known venue hosting major international stars, local artists, pub rock and traditional sessions.

It’s a cosy and welcoming three star B&B, comfortable and efficient. It’s a spellbinding area, and that’s before you even start listening to the music.

Double rooms, B&B from €59.

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Kelly Bar – MPU – January

Mal Rogers
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Mal Rogers is a columnist and reporter with The Irish Post

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