How to ensure it’s a happy holiday

Got a big family or group of friends looking to spend Christmas or New Year together? Pooling the cost of a big house could be the best gift of all, says Pól Ó Conghaile

SPENDING Christmas together as a family is a great idea... in principle.

What seems like heaven when you’re looking forward to a horde of Sylvanians coming down the chimney, however, can be rather more claustrophobic when you’re all grown-up. So how best to comfortably accommodate a big family or group of friends over the festive season? Renting a country house is one option. Splitting the fee can make it surprisingly affordable, and some even come with catering...

The festive farmstead: Inchiquin House, Co Clare

Set at the gateway to the Burren in Corofin, Co Clare, country house hideaways don’t come much more... well, hidden away, than Inchiquin. This recently restored Georgian farmhouse is surrounded by lakes and thick woodland. Festive decorations, antique furnishings, a huge Aga and turf fires are nicely complemented by a modern kitchen, and five bedrooms sleep up to 10 people. There’s a welcome pack of fresh fruit, local jams, Prosecco, mince pies and the RTÉ Guide, too. Christmas is priced at €2,250.

Sleeps: 10

Availability: Christmas (available); New Year (booked)

Details: 086 8231675; www.inchiquinhouse.com

The country estate: Liss Ard, Co Cork 

Fancy a bit of festive bliss on the Liss Ard country estate? Individual bookings are currently being taken for the 19th century country house, with three nights from €405 per couple. There are 15 rooms, so if you co-ordinate a large group booking, up to 30 friends or family members could have the run of the place to themselves... with a catered Christmas lunch priced extra at €65 per adult. Alternatively (or additionally), Liss Ard’s lake lodge can accommodate up to 20 people, self-catering.

Sleeps: Up to 50 (country house and lake lodge)

Availability: Christmas (available); New Year (available)

Details: 028 40000; lissardestate.com

The 850-acre estate: Ballynatray, Co Cork 

It’s fair to say there are worse places to spend New Year’s Eve than Ballynatray House, an 18th century Georgian mansion set on the River Blackwater near Youghal. Two nights are available from December 30, with €5,000 plus VAT per night securing all eight bedrooms and the 850-acre estate for your group. Facilities include an indoor heated pool, sauna, snooker table, a baby grand piano, canoes, outdoor tennis courts, and you can even add in simulated game shooting or river cruises at reduced rates. Extra guests could book one of several self-catering cottages, which start at €500 plus VAT for a two-bed apartment. 

Sleeps: 16 (with extra numbers in the lodges)

Availability: Christmas (booked); New Year (available).

Details: 024 97460; www.ballynatray.com

The catered oasis: Sandbrook House, Co Carlow

You could spend New Year’s at home. Then again, you could spend it at Sandbrook House, an 18th century manor in the heart of Co Carlow. Sandbrook sleeps 20, offers champagne on arrival, is strewn with antique furniture, open fires and country views, and five elegant reception rooms offer plenty of space to party. A Christmas tree, housekeeper and chauffeur can be provided if required. Alas, it is booked out for Christmas, but there is availability for three nights over New Year from €2,400.

Sleeps: 20

Availability: Christmas (booked); New Year (available)

Details: 059 915-9247; www.sandbrook.ie

The relaxation station: Tullymurry House, Co Down

The Irish Landmark Trust restores heritage properties for holiday rentals, and its latest baby is this 250-year-old house near Newry. Sleeping 10 in five bedrooms, it boasts a wellness zone — a hot tub, sauna, showers and relaxation area fitted into the old dairy barn. Other festive-friendly features include an open fire, piano, and an orchard and rose garden behind the yard. Three nights over Christmas are £666/€832 with an extra charge of £100/€125 for the wellness area.

Sleeps: 10

Availability: Christmas (available); New Year (available).

Details: 01 6704733; www.irishlandmark.com

* All prices and availability correct going to press, but subject to change.

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