Yeats 2015: Arise and go… for afternoon tea

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or indeed, bare Ben Bulben’s Head), you’ll know that 2015 marks the 150th anniversary of WB Yeats’s birth.

There’s loads going on to celebrate the anniversary (mostly centred around the actual date of June 13th), but one little splash that caught my eye is The Merrion Hotel‘s Yeats-inspired afternoon tea.

You may be familiar with the hotel’s ‘Art Tea’, based on the artworks in its lovely Georgian dining rooms. The Yeats tea is something similar, with Pastry Chef Paul Kelly cooking up an afternoon tea as imagined through the eyes of W.B. Yeats. The confections include:

‘Innisfree’ – a rhubarb and honey choux bun inspired by lines from The Lake Isle of Innisfree

‘Spectacle’ – a milk chocolate and caramel cremeux with lemon cream paying homage to Yeats’ signature spectacles

‘Mystic’ – vanilla bavarois with strawberry jelly, imagining Yeats’ fascination with the signs of the zodiac in pastry

Pink Clover Cocktail - Yeats's favourite tipple?

Yeats was a member of The Order of the Golden Dawn, a society rooted in astrology and ritual magic. Each of the shapes symbolises one of the five elements – crescent (water), triangle (fire) and circle (earth). A set of Yeats’ Tattwa Cards are on display in the National Library.

Guests can also discover The Life and Works of William Butler Yeats exhibition at The National Library of Ireland – just around the corner. Those with a strong interest in the writer can make the most of a private Yeats tour of Dublin. The Yeats Tea will feature three irresistible pastries after sandwiches and scones, inspired by his poetry, his persona and his passions;

The hotel is also doing one of his favourite tipples – a pink Clover Club. It’s a concoction of gin, lemon juice, raspberry syrup and egg white, and apparently just the ticket for June – best enjoyed in the late afternoon sun amid the roses in The Merrion’s gardens.

Yeats Tea at The Merrion is €38 per person and is available throughout June. Clover Club cocktails cost €14.50.

More on Yeats 2015 at

Royal Caribbean: Cruise takes a Quantum Leap

They’re being billed as the world’s first smart ships – a trio of Royal Caribbean titans setting sail in 2014 (Quantum of the Seas), 2015 (Anthem of the Seas) and 2016 (a third ship, as yet unnamed).

Royal Caribbean says the new, Quantum Class ships will offer customers “the most technologically driven holidays in the world”, with highlights including cocktails served by robotic bartenders in the Bionic Bar, sunset views in the North Star – an observation pod that rises 300 feet above the ocean, inside cabins with virtual windows that show real-time sea views, and the fastest check-in at sea.

HT1, Royal Caribbean, Anthem_Still1

Passengers can compete with Xboxers around the world, get their skates on to enjoy roller discoes, crash about in dodgems and slake their appetites at 18 restaurants to boot… ranging from a sushi joint to a hotdog food truck. The ships aren’t as large as RC’s Oasis class, but they already look like the future of cruise holidays.

HT1, Royal Caribbean, Bionic-Bar

Anthem of the Seas sails from Southampton this year, with a 10-night Canaries cruise priced from €1,777pp including flights from Dublin (based on two sharing an inside cabin), with ports of call including Madeira, Lanzarote and Spain.

Details: 0844 493-2062;

5 Fab Hotels to spend Christmas in this winter

By Genevieve Lyttle

The lure of Christmas in a beautiful, well-organised and well located hotel can be irresistible.

Some seek the peace and quiet of Christmas in a remote location. Others crave the big city seasonal buzz – either way, fantastic hotels await you… as does a complete lack of washing up! Removing the stress of cooking and swapping it for serene and peaceful settings with first class food is proving increasingly tempting for Irish families.

Here are my favourite Christmas hotel offerings.

The Merchant Hotel, Belfast 

Situated at the heart of Belfast, the Merchant Hotel (above) oozes seasonal glory. It’s a splendid Christmas stay, with deluxe rooms to meet your every need. The food offerings are a sight to behold too, with festive banquets, seasonal afternoon teas and deserts to tempt everyone. The hotel is also right by Olly’s Night Club – one of Belfast’s most-loved night clubs which is the perfect way to ring in New Year’s. And if nightclubs don’t tickle your fancy, the Merchant is located at the heart of the Cathedral Quarter – the culture capital of the city. Visiting Belfast is an experience for all ages. Prices start at £160/€202.

Muckross Hotel & Spa, Killarney

Kilarney - Muckross Hotel

Tucked below the magnitude of the Kerry Mountains, Muckross offers a distinctly Irish, warm, and striking welcome. Situated at the edge of Kilarney National Park, the winter air is everywhere, with Christmas packages including a two night stay in a deluxe bedroom with a full Irish breakfast each morning and dinner on one evening in the Yew Tree Restaurant. Both the mountains and nearby lakes are enchanting, and when the time arrives to snuggle up and get cosy, you can take a DVD to your room and treat yourself to room service. Relax in The Spa and enjoy complimentary access to the Vitality Pool & Thermal Area including Herbal Sauna, Jacuzzi, Steam Room, Tropical Rain shower and more. Prices start from around €200.

O’ Callaghan Alexander, Dublin


Dublin is the Christmas capital of Ireland, with shops, markets and a sense of magic decking every street corner throughout the festive period. The O’ Callaghan Alexander is just around the corner from Grafton Street – you’ll find Christmas in Dublin all wrapped up here. The menu is packed with wonderful winter foods for you to enjoy and Christmas Packages are available from €159pps. If you’re seeking a big beautiful Christmas in the city, Dublin has never looked better.

Strand Hotel, Limerick

Limerick Castle

Limerick Strand Hotel is ready and waiting for those who want a Christmas of relaxation and several courses of tasty seasonal food. From the moment you enter this 4-star hotel, you’ll be welcomed with a distinctly seasonally atmosphere. The team at The Strand are so Christmas orientated they even have a welcoming Christmas Team who will cater for your every wish. It’s a Christmas dream come true for every age. You’ll also find a beauty and day spa as well as Niall Colgan’s Hair Salon on site – so all your Christmas glitz and glam needs are met.

Treacy’s Hotel, Waterford

winterval, waterford, christmas

Situated right at the Quay front in Ireland’s oldest city, you find Treacey’s Hotel Spa & Leisure Centre. All guests receive complimentary access to Spirit Leisure Centre which includes a 20m heated swimming pool, Jacuzzi, steam room & sauna. Plus residents receive 10% discount in Spirit Beauty Spa. Shopping in Waterford offers you an excellent choice and of course, the Winterval Christmas Market (pictured) is in full swing. Three night packages from €155pp.

Iceland 2.0

Not long ago, Ireland and Iceland were poster children for the global financial crisis – small, screwed-up island nations that flew too close to the sun and came crashing down in a heap of ashes alongside their bloated banks.

Thankfully, we have turned a page. Both countries are starting to look like Phoenixes rising and – whisper it – Iceland has even gotten affordable.

Fancy a visit? Here’s the best bit: two new direct flights will connect Ireland and Iceland in the coming months, with an EasyJet service from Belfast starting December 12th, followed by a WOW service from Dublin Airport next June. Both are now on sale, with Belfast-Reykjavik starting from £31.99 each way.

Iceland is gorgeous – with hissing geysers, spewing volcanoes and tourist highlights like the Blue lagoon combining with a trendy capital (Reykjavik is like an Arctic Galway) to make a unique short break. The new flights, together with a devaluation of the local currency, mean now is a better time to visit than ever.


Review: Kilronan Castle, Co. Roscommon

Atmosphere, ambition and a warm-hearted staff combine to make this four-star a cracking getaway for discerning visitors to Roscommon and Leitrim. Kilronan opened just as the recession struck (it’s a sister hotel to Lough Rynn Castle in Mohill), but has stayed the course to forge a comfortable niche – and a thriving wedding business – in a very under-rated county.


A fifth star will soon be Kilronan’s for the taking. A classy spa, two AA Rosette restaurant and sprawling country estate overlooking Lough Meelagh position the hotel perfectly for this nascent economic recovery, and luxurious little touches like the baked ham at breakfast, underfloor bathroom heating and shiny new Nespresso machines in the suites distinguish it from other four-stars. A mix of local and overseas staff (including several friendly faces from India and Mauritius) injects added warmth to the grey stone and high wood panelling.


Kilronan is a work in progress, as yet lacking the heritage and fusty elegance of its idol, Ashford Castle – and its hallways, bedrooms and Dungeon Bar can seem a little thinly furnished at times. The weak Wi-Fi also needs a serious boost. Connectivity should be seamless in any four-star.

Kilronan Drawing Room

Best for:

Couples. Whether you’re engaged, getting married, celebrating an anniversary or just enjoying each other in the here-and-now, Kilronan is a go-to option for your getaway list. Weddings are big business (the hotel is just over two hours from Dublin) but don’t worry – there’s enough of a buffer between ballroom and bedrooms to make everybody feel at home.

Concierge’s Choice:

Top of the deputy manager’s list were a visit to nearby Lough Key Forest Park outside Boyle and the Arigna Mining Experience, where the guides are former miners with amazing stories to share.

Ask for room number:

Classic rooms are the baseline when it comes to Kilronan’s 84 bedrooms – comfortable accommodations in the hotel’s modern wing. If you want a dose of old-school romance and luxury, however, splash on a suite in the old castle. A Four-poster with lake views is just the ticket…


Guests of Honour:

Nick Faldo, Victoria Smurfit, Pamela Flood and rugby stars including Donnacha O’Callaghan, Leo Cullen and Bob Casey all feature on a wall gallery in the Palm Court. Brian O’Driscoll and Amy Huberman got married in Lough Rynn Castle, but I’m told they’ve visited Kilronan since.


One night’s B&B and dinner is available from €99pp midweek and €119pp at weekends. A 50-minute full-body massage costs €75.


071 961-8000;

This review originally ran in The Irish Independent.

Keywords: Kilronan Castle Review

Jersey: Channeling Island Life

Think of a holiday island within easy reach of Ireland, and places like Majorca, Ibiza and Sardinia spring to mind. But there’s an intriguing prospect a lot closer to home – one that seduces with quiet charm and idiosyncrasies rather than UV rays, Aquaparks and apartment blocks.

That island is, of course, Jersey.

A quiet little skipping stone set between England and France, Jersey measures just nine miles from end to end. It is at once quintessentially English (red telephone boxes, 30mph speed limits) and charmingly continental (French street names).

This is a place in which you “potter” and “tootle”. Undulating countryside and ravishing coastal views cast a gentle spell, lulling you into the trim and tidy atmosphere. It’s Dorset via the Dordogne, and a week is just enough for our family to explore.


We rented a car at the airport, drove almost every inch of the island, and returned it less than a week later with barely half a tank of petrol consumed.

Jersey is that small. Stashed-away spots like St. Ouen’s Bay (crawling with surfers), Bouley Bay (home to the island’s dive school) and Piemont Bay (where a lovely little café overlooks a cove cut into the cliffs) make it feel like a much bigger and more diverse proposition, however – and that’s a large part of its charm.

Then there are the castles.

Several scenic piles cling to coastal outcrops around Jersey, harking back to the island’s Anglo Norman heritage. Mount Orgeuil (; £11.50/€14.60) was our favourite, spending its retirement after 600 years fending off French invasion by welcoming ooh and aahing tourists.

Views rock and staircases spiral, but our little ones were happiest dressing up in the knight and princess costumes provided for kids.


Jersey won’t slap you with 30-degree sunshine. What it will do, however, is alternate cool breezes, the odd spit of rain and temperatures edging into the twenties … I’d compare it to Brittany, without the 14-hour ferry ride.

It also has several mouth-watering beaches – the best of which were, for us, the neighbouring coves of Portlet and Beauport near St. Brelade’s. Both are accessed via coastal paths long enough to deter the crowds, and both are stunners worthy of the Algarve.

Portlet even boasts its own Martello-style tower on an island 100 yards or so offshore. You can swim out at high tide, or walk across a sandbar when the waters are low. Sea temperatures settle around 18 to 20 degrees in summer, so we were glad to bring our shortie wetsuits – and snorkels.


Jersey wasn’t always an idyll.

From 1940 to 1945 the island was occupied by the Nazis, and a visit to the Jersey War Tunnels (; £11.50/€14.60) reminds us just how squeezed and suffocating life was during the war.

There were no great traumas or battles here – instead, the exhibition unfolding in the subterranean chambers tells a story of a long, slow squeeze on hearts and minds. Rationing, uncertainty and distrust clearly took an insidious toll.

The tunnels themselves were built as a barracks and ammunition store, but the most evocative rooms take the shape of an improvised hospital.

The tour covers a kilometre and takes about 1.5 hours to complete, so remember to bring a fleece – the cool temperatures creep up on you.


For such a small island, Jersey has certainly got its foodie act together, with a push on local produce going way further than the fudge, ice-cream and black butter (an apple, cider and spice preserve) you’d expect.

There are two Michelin Star restaurants, for example – one by celeb chef Mark Jordan at the Atlantic Hotel ( Elsewhere, La Cantina in St Helier ( is a Godsend for coeliacs, with gluten-free pasta and pizza made fresh every day. They do a Nutella pizza for dessert, too.

The little gem we kept coming back to however, was a plain café in the middle of St. Helier’s Victorian market. The Pure Charity Café (103-107 Central Market) does yummy baked potatoes stuffed with fillings like prawns, chives and mayo or chilli con carne (£3.50/€4.40), but the real draw are its cupcakes – topped with what seems like a local sweet shop’s entire stock.


Rain is never far from the Channel Islands, so it’s worth having a daytrip up your sleeve. We loved Aqua Splash ( at St. Helier’s Waterfront Centre. A lazy river, wave pool, diving area and three water slides amounted to one of the best-run (and cleanest) facilities of its type that I’ve ever come across.

We returned three times in a week.


Aer Lingus Regional ( flies direct from Dublin to Jersey. The luggage allowance is 15kg (checked) and 7kg in the cabin.

For more ideas on what to see and do in Jersey, check out, Discover Jersey’s resource for the island. The Jersey Pass ( is the island’s discount card. It costs £42/€53 for 48 hours.

We found an excellent coastal apartment through Freedom Holidays ( The large penthouse slept up to eight people in luxurious comfort from £1,600/€2,030 a week in peak season.

This story originally appeared in The Irish Independent.