Turtle Bunbury

Writer and Historian

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The best New Years are usually the ones spent away from home. That’s why Turtle Bunbury recommends six of the top places to stay to ring in the New Year (2008) with a bang.

Galley Head Lightkeepers Houses

Location: Clonakilty, Co. Cork.

Why? Absorb the epic influence of the sea in these two stunningly restored houses set upon the headland of Dun Deide overlooking St. George’s Channel. By night, the lighthouse emits a wonderful arc of light, designed to amuse the Sultan of Turkey when he stayed at nearby Castle Freke.

Things to Do: Start with a breakfast of pure Clonakilty black, then follow the trail of the ‘Big Fella’, Michael Collins. Get the tempo up with a surf and swim on Inchydoney Beach. Tone down again with a poker game by candlelight that evening.

Perks: A powerful sense of history and the wonder of the ocean with its expansive horizon right in front of you. A truly amazing location, restored by the Irish Landmark Trust.

Cons: The cliff-top setting may induce vertigo and, if the sea is rowdy, it can get loud. Also, if you don’t take both houses, you may have other people staying next door.

Damage: The property can be taken as one house sleeping six or two sleeping twelve. Each house has one double, one twin and one double sofa bed downstairs. Available for a minimum of five nights over the New Year period for €1510.

Distance: 40 minute drive from Cork City.

Contact: T: (01) 670 4733; www.irishlandmark.com


Location: Tom Duff, Borris, Co. Carlow.

Why? Escape from it all with this flamboyant retreat on the slopes of Mount Leinster. Part Alice in Wonderland, part Marquis de Sade, this architecturally fascinating building boasts nine staircases, eight split levels and more thumbs ups than you’d see in a Roman amphitheatre. Things to do: For in-house entertainment, Moongate has a billiards table and its own dance floor. By day, you can explore the landscaped gardens, head off up Mount Leinster, Ireland’s second highest mountain, or gander around the lovely villages of Borris and Rahanna.

Perks: The house can sleep 15, making it an ideal party house. There’s a twin, a single and six double bedrooms, all themed, including one Moroccan, one Venetian and one Indian in style. The kitchen is tailor-made for self-catering.

Cons: You can only stay if you rent the whole house.

Damage: Available for a minimum of three nights over the New Year period for €3300. In-house catering can be arranged at an extra cost.

Distance: 2 hour drive from Dublin.

Contact: T: (0044) 795 650 9028; www.moongatesite.com

Wood Quay

Location: Carlingford Harbour, Co. Louth

Why? Bang in the centre of the village, Wood Quay has a keen sense of humour and plenty of intelligence. Cook on an Aga, dream by a log fire, gaze out at the panoramic sea view stretching from the Mountains of Mourne to Lambay Island.

Things to Do: It’s been busy in these parts ever since the Vikings rolled up 1200 years ago – the town boasts nine fine restaurants, seven smart-thinking pubs and a welter of historic buildings. Follow the adventures of Cuchullain, Queen Meadhbh and the Brown Bull of Cooley on the Tin Trail through the Cooley mountains.

Perks: Right on the waters edge, it’s exclusive, spacious, full of personality and just the place to unwind with a bunch of pals while you all enjoy the soul of the sea.

Cons: Being on the waters edge is a two-way thing; revellers may need to consider armbands.

Damage: One house has threebedrooms and sleeps six. The smaller house sleeps two to three. Get them both together for three nights at a bargain price of €800 over the New Year period.

Distance: 1 hr 35 minute drive from Dublin.

Contact: Irene Quinn on 087 2053541; www.carlingford.ie/accomodation {

Bath Lodge

Location: Ballycastle, Co. Antrim

Why? Located on the lush coast of north Antrim, Bath Lodge is one of the prides of the inestimable Alistair Sawdays Guides. It’s colourful, historic, unique and geared for all ages.

Things to Do: Isn’t it high time you actually went to see the Giant’s Causeway? And then discussed the matter over a glass of Bushmills from the nearby distillery? What about contemplating a wee sailing lesson before the day is over?

Perks: A wonderful series of rambling converted 18th century miner’s cottages pitched on golden sands looking out to Rathlin Island and Scotland. Excellent ambience and mighty Aga in kitchen for self-catering maximum bliss.

Cons: You may have to watch Finding Nemo again to cope with the seagulls screaming overhead.

Damage: €300-€800 per week. The house sleeps eleven (one double, two triples, two bathrooms; and one suite for three with basin & wc).

Distance: 3 hour 30 minute drive from Dublin.

Contact: Sarah Mills on +44 (0)771 759 7904; www.special-escapes.co.uk

The Felin Fach Griffin

Location: Felin Fach, Brecon, Powys, Wales.

Why? Considered the best thing to come out of Wales since Llewellyn the Great, the Felin Fach just scooped the prestigious 2006 Les Routiers award for Welsh Wine Pub of the Year. Constant applause from the press, fantastic service, attention to detail – you can't go wrong.

Perks: Try a feast of roast lamb and wild pigeon by Ricardo van Ede before sinking into a bed that'd make Rapunzel wriggle with glee. A doily-free environment of unadulterated comfort, exceptional wines and rural bliss with a contemporary twist.

Cons: If the idea of being in the middle of nowhere alarms you, steer clear.

Things to Do: Walk off your hangover in the Brecon Beacons and Black Mountains. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy canoeing, caving and climbing, although, a roaring fire on a winter's day is often all that's needed.

Damage: There are seven beautifully designed bedrooms - three four-posters, two doubles and two twin/doubles. B&B is from €140-180 per person per night (incl. VAT).

Distance: Approx 3 hours drive from London, 1.45 hours from Cardiff, 4 hours from Holyhead or 2 hours from Fishguard.

Contact: T: (01874) 620 111; www.eatdrinksleep.ltd.uk

Drynachan Lodge

Location: Cawdor Estate, Inverness, Scotland

Why? Shakespeare himself raved about how "the air [at Cawdor] nimbly and sweetly recommends itself unto our gentle senses." You’d be hard pushed to find a more luxurious cottage or a more gorgeous part of the world to celebrate Hogmanay than this 700 year old family estate.

Perks: Unbeatable beauty and splendid isolation. History galore. Stay local for fishing, stalking pony treks and simple walks in rugged highlands , or zip off 30 km to try some Scottish skiing at Aviemore.

Cons: Absolute seclusion means you might want to double-check who’s coming. Also Drynachan sleeps up to 22 so if you don’t take the whole lodge, you may be sharing with strangers.

Things to Do: The fairytale Cawdor Castle is right beside Culloden where Bonnie Prince Charlie’s army came a cropper. Lassies can trawl through tweed and cashmere emporiums while lads may prefer to sniff out the whiskey distillery.

Damage: Approx. €4840 (including VAT, fuel supplement, daily housekeeper and all linen) for up to 16 guests for the minimum seven night’s stay.

Distance: 25 minute drive from Inverness.

Contact: T: (0044) 1667 402 402; www.specialescapes.co.uk