All Ireland: A room of one's own

One of the joys of traveling in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland is the distinctive quality accommodations that are available.

While Ireland is home to a growing supply of international chain hotels that promise familiarity for American clients -- Radisson and Hilton are two recent additions, and Four Seasons is on the way -- it is the locally owned and operated properties that most reflect Irish traditions of hospitality.

Options are many -- from farmhouse to castle accommodations, from modest family-run bed and breakfasts to luxurious manor homes, from rural cottages to country estates.


These days the quality of lodgings in all of Ireland is better than ever, comments Mark Nolan, general manager of Dromoland Castle, a well-known luxury property located eight miles north of Shannon airport in County Clare. "Ireland is going through a huge boom in tourism. As a result of that, it has increased its standard.

"Also, with the success of tourism, there has been a huge growth in products coming on line. We've introduced things in the last six to 12 months purely responding to competitive pressure," Nolan says.

That pressure has affected the quality of lodgings at both ends of the spectrum and in-between as well. While the norm in bed and breakfast facilities five or 10 years ago was a shared bath, these days a growing amount of bed and breakfasts offer private baths as well as amenities such as in-room television.


Agents and their clients who have never traveled to the Emerald Isle may find confusing the many different styles of lodgings found here and the many terms used to describe them. Following is a glossary.

  • Bed & Breakfast. These offer intimate personalized accommodations in a family home and a communal breakfast. Facilities may offer as few as two guest rooms. Somewhat confusing is the fact that traditionally all lodgings in Ireland are bed and breakfast in that they include a full Irish breakfast; most still do today.
  • Castle Hotel. An historic castle originally built as a fortification that has been converted to a hotel, typically of deluxe status. Some castles are available as self-catering facilities.
  • Country House Hotel. An older rural estate, often a large period residence, now converted into a hotel. These are often family operated.
  • Farmhouse. Bed and breakfast accommodations on a family farm that offer travelers the opportunity to participate with family members in agricultural life and learn firsthand about rural traditions.
  • Guesthouse. These are larger than a bed and breakfast, generally with upwards of half a dozen rooms, and include both family-operated and larger, professionally staffed facilities. Typically informal, the guesthouse is generally more modern than a manor or country house.
  • Manor House. Similar to a country house hotel, a manor house generally contains from three to 12 guest rooms and is usually owner-operated.
  • Restaurant with Accommodation. A country inn that is situated in a small town or village and that operates its restaurant as its main business and offers a few guest rooms.
  • Rural Cottage. Located in scenic areas, these can vary considerably in style. Traditional cottages are apt to incorporate features such as low ceilings.
  • Self-Catering Facility. This category encompasses a wide range of properties -- rural cottages, historic and modern homes, castles, apartments and townhouses -- that are available for rent, usually on a weekly basis. Although the name implies that self-catering guests must provide for their own needs, some come with staff.

    Tour operators to Ireland generally offer a variety of accommodations and for many agents they are the most convenient booking resource. Agents who prefer to work with local suppliers or U.S.-based representative firms may find the following organizations and associations helpful. Rates are net except where indicated otherwise.

  • Castles, Cottages & Flats, Arlington, Mass. Represents mid-range to high-end self-catered homes in Ireland (and elsewhere in Europe), including cottages, single-family homes, apartments on larger estates and some city accommodations.
  • Country Cottages, Boca Raton, Fla. Weekly rentals in about 800 self-catering cottages throughout the Republic of Ireland. Also offers air and car packages. Commission: 10%.
  • Country Havens, Dungannon, Northern Ireland. Group of four family-run bed and breakfast lodgings in Northern Ireland that emphasize personal attention.
  • Elegant Ireland, Dublin. Represents more than five dozen high-end properties in Ireland (one in Northern Ireland), including castles, period houses, mansions and cottages, both self-catered and staffed.
  • Friendly Homes of Ireland, Dublin. Association of 150 bed and breakfasts and small family-run inns, including a dozen in Northern Ireland. Most are historical houses, distinguished by the friendliness of the hosts. Commission: From 6% on fax and phone bookings, 10% on Internet bookings.
  • Green Book of Ireland, Dublin. This organization of 11 country houses, castles and private hotels throughout the Republic features small three-star and four-star facilities that position themselves as providing affordable luxury. Commission: 10%.
  • Hidden Ireland, Dublin, Marketing group representing 43 private heritage houses, including two in the North. Members are owner-managed Irish country houses that offer bed and breakfast accommodations and dinner. The houses are distinguished by their architectural merit and cuisine that features estate-grown produce where available. Commission: negotiable.
  • Ireland's Blue Book,
  • Navan. Association of 38 properties in the Republic and Northern Ireland encompasses elegant owner-managed country house hotels, castles and restaurants with accommodations; membership is by invitation only. The firm is represented in the U.S. by Josephine Barr and Utell.

  • Irish Farmhouse Holidays Association, Limerick. Offers hundreds of farmhouse accommodations throughout the Republic of Ireland.
  • Rural Cottage Holidays, Belfast. Subsidiary of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board; encompasses high-standard self-catering accommodations in four regions -- the Glens of Antrim, the Mourne Mountains, the Sperrins and the Fermanagh Lakelands. Accommodations are in restored rural houses and cottages that are traditional in style.
  • Town and Country Homes, Ballyshannon. An association of more than 1,900 family homes in the Republic that offer bed and breakfast accommodations.
  • Lodgings Phone Book

    Castles, Cottages & Flats: (617) 742-6030, (800) 742-6030

    Country Cottages: (561) 988-4000, (800) 674-8883,

    fax (561) 988-0016; e-mail: [email protected]

    Country Havens: (011) 44-1-8687 84212, fax (011) 44-18687 23891

    Elegant Ireland: (011) 353-1-475-1632, fax (011) 353-1-475-1012; e-mail: [email protected]; Web site:

    Friendly Homes of Ireland: (011)-353-1-667-6463, fax (800) 688-0363; e-mail: [email protected];

    Green Book of Ireland: (011) 800-1-676-2555;

    Hidden Ireland: (011) 353-1-662-7166, (800) 688-0299, fax (011) 353-1-662-7144; e-mail: [email protected]; /hiddenireland/

    Ireland's Blue Book: Josephine Barr, (800) 323-5463; Utell, (800) 448-8355

    Irish Farmhouse Holidays Association: (011) 353-61-400-700, fax (011) 353-61-400-771.

    Rural Cottage Holidays: (011) 44-1-232-241100

    Town and Country Homes: (011) 353-72-22222, fax (011) 353-72-22202;

    JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI