Sweeping seascapes — the Irish hotels with the best views

Sweeping seascapes — the Irish hotels with the best views

TONY CLAYTON-LEA gives the run down on Ireland’s top coastal escapes

The view from the Parknasilla Hotel (Wikimedia)

Parknasilla Resort & Spa, Sneem, Co. Kerry

Set like a work of art on a 500-acre estate, Parknasilla may have changed over the past few decades from a secret kept to a secret shared, but the essential elements that make it a must-visit remain. It’s a 19th-century manor house with strong affiliations to Irish writer George Bernard Shaw (its swish restaurant is Pygmalion; its residents bar is Doolittle). Along with bookish connections there is a sturdy link to the elements, which is why we love this place. Something else we love (apart, that is, from the luxury rooms and the supremely classy ambience) is the resort’s Guided Seashore Discovery Walk, which is overseen by resident marine biologist Vincent Hyland. Exploring coastal habitats such as sand dunes and underwater areas, you also learn to understand more about the coastal wildlife that thrives here. The something-something else we love about this add-on is that there is no add-on – it’s free. www.parknasillaresort.com

Armada Hotel, Spanish Point, Co. Clare (Tourism Ireland)

Armada Hotel, Spanish Point, Co. Clare

In the 18th century, Armada House was known as a ‘gentleman’s residence’, but is now open to all. Inclusiveness aside, we like the cut of this Armada’s jib. For starters, they do what every other hotel and guesthouse should do: provide their customers with complimentary tea and coffee in the lounge areas. You’ll need that because the windswept beauty of Mal’s Bay and its stunning beaches might just knock the stuffing out of you. The hotel also provides (perhaps not for free – you’ll need to check) day hampers, which you’ll definitely need if you’re heading to the beach to relax as you watch those ridiculously slim surfers slide in towards the sand. www.armadahotel.com

Cliff House Hotel, Ardmore, Co. Waterford

Your first glance at the five-star Cliff House Hotel will surely make you ask the following question: how on earth did the builders manage to fit the hotel right into the cliff face? To say it is perched on the cliff is an understatement, but there you have it. Luckily, the crystal clear and generally calm waters of Ardmore Bay are there to soothe away any anxious moments.. As are the Cliff House rooms, all of which have stunning sea views. Factor in the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant, House (overseen by Chef Patron Tony Parkin), and what are you waiting for? www.cliffhousehotel.ie

Redcastle Oceanfront Golf & Spa Hotel, Co. Donegal

Another hotel that has recently undergone a significant renovation (to the highly pleasing tune of €500,000), you might think all you need to know about the place is its ‘let’s-mention-everything-we-do’ title, but there’s more, thankfully. Firstly, its location on the edge of the craggy Inishowen Peninsula directly oversees Lough Foyle, so if it’s sandy beaches and seascapes you’re after then you have surely come to the right hotel. www.redcastlehoteldonegal.com

Inchydoney Island Hotel (Wikimedia Commons)

Inchydoney Island Lodge & Spa, Clonakilty, Co. Cork

Inchydoney has many selling points – the rooms have panoramic views of the sea, the Gulfstream restaurant is a byword for elegance, and the selection of thalassotherapy treatments in the seriously well-appointed Island Spa. The USP, however, is its location on a minor bluff that divides the generous ribbon of beach. You pay your money, and you take your choice, of course, so if you want to stay on dry land and drink in the views with your eyes then that’s fine. You would, however, be missing what we think is the best and smoothest stretch of sand in Ireland. www.inchydoneyisland.com

Kelly’s Resort Hotel, Rosslare, Co. Wexford

Kelly’s is a family-operated luxury four-star property that has an operational calmness to it thanks to the super organised father-and-daughter combo of Bill and Laura. Because of the hotel’s family-oriented friendliness, this is perhaps the best place in which to spoil your children – not only is there a leisure centre for the rainy days, but if it’s dry there are five miles of soft, golden beach. After the kids (and, indeed, the adults) finish building sand castles, pop inside and walk slowly around the hotel to gaze at its superb art collection. www.kellys.ie

Slieve Donard Hotel with the Mournes behind (courtesy of Tourism Ireland)

Slieve Donard Resort & Spa, Newcastle, Co. Down

It’s true what Percy French sings: the Mountains of Mourne really do sweep down to the sea. This hotel has recently experienced a lush makeover courtesy of new owners Marine and Lawn. Originally built in the late 1800s by the Belfast and County Down Railway as a ‘final stop’ luxury destination, the hotel (now fully refurbished in keeping with the Victorian characteristics of décor and design) is wonderfully located at the foot of the Mourne Mountains. Many of the 180 renovated rooms provide vistas over the mountains and the Co. Down coastline, so prepare yourself for old-school ambience and forever scenes to dream about. www.marineandlawn.com/slievedonard

Ocean Sands Hotel & Spa, Enniscrone, Co. Sligo

We have been to the Oceans Sands more than once – the first was in the winter, the second during the summer. On each occasion, the miles of beach on the hotel’s doorstep rolled out like the biggest golden carpet you've ever seen. Admittedly, the first time we set foot on the beach we were wrapped up and protected against the coldest of bitter winds, but the majesty of the location supported our walk from one end of the beach to the other. As for the summer visit – well, knock me down with a feather, but the sun beamed out from the sky and there wasn’t a breeze that we didn’t lean into. The beach, like every beach we have strolled along, comes into its own before the crowds arrive and after they depart. Check in here for a couple of nights, have a drink from the bar overlooking the silky strand, and you’ll know all about downtime. www.theoceansandshotel.ie

Arriving on Inis Meáin (Wikimedia Commons)

Karst House, Inis Meáin, Aran Islands, Co. Galway

Karst House might be a new name to some, but long-time observers of Irish coastal getaways might recall its previous title of Inis Meáin Restaurant & Suites. Although still operated by Aran Islands native Ruairi de Blacam and his partner Marie-Thérèse, a twist to the airy, contemporary property is that Karst House now offers longer stays on Inis Meáin. The previously much-acclaimed restaurant may have been replaced with an equally fine-dining deli service, but nature in all its thunderous splendour hasn’t changed one iota: other worldly, cobweb-blasting, unforgettable.www.inismeain.com/houses/karst-house

The Garryvoe Hotel, Ballylongane, Co. Cork

Despite the onslaught if not assault of contemporary living, it is in many ways reassuring that tradition has never gone out of fashion. Say a suitably conventional hello, then, to the Garryvoe Hotel, which has been on the same beachfront for about 120 years (and which has recently undergone a substantial interior design transformation by Douglas Wallace Consultants). Actually, when we say ‘beachfront’, what we really mean is that the hotel stands proudly at the edge of five miles of a yellow-fringed shoreline. While you’re there, not experiencing the views towards Ballycotton Bay, the island, and the sun glinting off the sea surface in the morning isn’t an option. After you have walked the legs off yourself from one end of the beach to the other, you might just be inclined to snack. We are happy to report that the hotel’s Lighthouse Bar will fulfil (with the emphasis on the second syllable) your needs and satisfy your hunger pangs. As if that wasn’t good enough, the hotel also has a new leisure centre as well as plans for a new spa area. Go Garryvoe! www.garryvoehotel.co