luxury hotels

DestinationsEuropeFavouritesTravel Guides

20 Luxury Short Breaks for Special Occasion Holidays

Nobu Hotel Ibiza

From Ibiza to Iceland, Santorini to St Emilion, I’ve got 20 luxury short breaks to mark that special occasion in style.

Bucket list holidays are one thing, but sometimes we don’t have the time to embark on a two or three-week trip to a far flung destination. I am often asked about luxury short breaks to celebrate a big birthday or special occasion. I have chosen 20 holiday ideas that are easily accessible, but are also luxury destinations that are ideal to mark that milestone in your life.

InstagramI have included luxury hotels, unique experiences, as well as some top class adventures that I think you will love! And, if you are looking to travel further afield or for a longer duration, this post might be of interest:

Read: 25 Bucket list holidays around the world

We are fortunate to have such a great choice of luxury short breaks that are easily accesible from Ireland, I hope you will find one here to suit you.



Luxury Short Breaks in Europe

1. Book a room with a view in Positano

driving the Amalfi Coast is one of Europes best travel experiences

Positano is an iconic place to celebrate a special occasion. Even if you have been fortunate to visit the Amalfi Coast, you probably stayed in one of the nearby towns of Sorrento or Amalfi. A stay in Positano, is a bucket list experience in its own right, but to have a room with a view of the Bay of Naples is the ultimate way to mark that special occasion. 


The five-star celebrity hangout Il San Pietro de Positano is regarded as the best hotel in Positano, but it will have a price tag to match. However, there are many alternatives to choose from – the location and views are arguably more important than the five-star rating.

Read: The ultimate guide to the Amalfi Coast, and where to stay 

Read: The 10 best movies to showcase Italy



How to get there:

Fly direct to Naples with Ryanair or Aer Lingus. Transfer time to Positano is one hour and twenty minutes, but the Amalfi Coast is one of the world’s best scenic drives, so you may decide to hire a car instead.

Search flights here
Search hotels here

Search car hire here



2. Stay inside the city walls of Dubrovnik


The medieval city of Dubrovnik should be on everyone’s wish list. It is so well preserved and looks like something straight out of a fairytale.

There are many great hotel choices both inside and outside the walled city. If visiting for a short break it is good to stay inside or at least very close to the Old Town. 


The Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik is the closest luxury hotel to the Old Town, and is located just minutes from the beach. Set in a historic building, this hotel blends old world charm with contemporary style beautifully.


Alternativly the Rixos Premium Dubrovnik’s location – set into cliffs with panoramic sea views, is a great choice for spa and beach lovers, and a 15-minute walk will take you to the city walls of Dubrovnik’s Old Town. If visiting with friends, there are some gorgeous villas inside the walled city, see lots more in this post:

Read: The best places to stay in Croatia



How to get there?

Dubrovnik can be reached direct from Dublin airport with Aer Lingus and Ryanair, and from Cork airport with Aer Lingus.

Read my top tips on discovering Dubrovnik

Search flights


Search Hilton here


Search Rixos here 



3. Stay at the Splendido Hotel, Portofino

Best hotels in Europe - Splendido Hotel, Portofino
We had a pleasure of  staying at the Splendido Hotel for an overnight escape about 20 years ago, and it is still one of my top travel experiences. It is one of the world’s best hotels and it also happens to be located in one the most idyllic locations in Italy.


Set on a hillside overlooking the bay and colourful buildings of Portofino, the Splendido not only offers outstanding service and lavish furnishings, but it is less than 10 minutes walk from the pretty harbour and its multi-million Euro yachts.

Splendido Mare, is its little sister, which is more reasonably priced and is located in the harbour. Guests have also access to facilities of the Splendido hotel, and a complimentary shuttle connects the two properties.



How to get there?

Ryanair have announced direct flights to Genoa this winter, so there has never been a better time to visit. Transfer time from the airport to Portofino by car is approximately 40 minutes, which makes it an ideal destination for luxury short breaks.

Search flights here


View Hotel here



4. Book a villa holiday in the Algarve


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Sarah Slattery – Travel Expert (@the_travel_expert)

Sometimes special occasions are best celebrated with friends or family, and a villa holiday in the Algarve is a great way to do it. Vale do Lobo and Quinta do Lago are the most popular areas for villa holidays, however look to the resorts of Alvor and Lagos if you prefer a more low-key vibe. 


Villa Casa Aggi is a luxurious detached villa with a large outdoor pool and bright modern interiors. It is only 15 minutes walk to the superb Meia Praia beach, and a short drive from the historical town of Lagos, which has a great selection of shops, bars and restaurants.



How to get there?

Aer Lingus and Ryanair fly regularly from Dublin, Cork, Shannon and Ireland West airports. Transfer times vary depending on the resort you choose. 

Search flights here


Search Casa Aggi here


Search Vale do Lobo


You will find these and lots more in this post:

Read: 25 luxury villas in Portugal to inspire your next trip away



5. Stay at a Château in St Emilion, France

Saint-Emilion, France

Combining wine tasting with a stay in a French Château is my idea of the perfect luxury short break. There are several wine tasting trails to choose from – the Alsace and Loire Valley trails are probably the most famous, but the picturesque villages and charming Châteaux on the Bordeaux trail took my breath away.


We stayed near the UNESCO World Heritage village of Saint-Emilion many years ago and loved it. The home of Pomerol, Margaux, as well as countless lesser known vineyards, this region is a little piece of heaven.

The Château Hôtel Grand Barrail is surprisingly good value, but for the ultimate bucket list experience check out the Hôtel de Pavie. Located in the heart of the village, this old stone building is steeped in history and boasts a 2 Michelin-starred restaurant. This hotel is on my Europe bucket list and I can’t wait to stay there one day.

Read: Europe bucket list – my top 20 travel experiences in Europe



How to get there:

Fly direct to Bordeaux with Aer Lingus or Ryanair, or if time allows take the ferry so you can bring some wine back with you! Brittany Ferries sail from Rosslare and Cork to Cherbourg and Roscoff respectively, while Irish Ferries sail from Dublin to Cherbourg.

Search flights here
View Château Grand Barrail 

View Hôtel de Pavie



6. Combine culture and sophistication in Istanbul

best luxury short breaks in Europe at Four Seasons Bosphorus Istanbul

Istanbul is a city that is on my own wish list. Where else can you visit Europe and Asia on one trip? As well as exploring the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and the Grand Bazaar, its diverse cuisine and bustling nightlife is sure to please. 


There is only one place to stay if you are looking for a luxury short break for a special occasion and that’s the Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at the Bosphorus. As the name suggests, its idyllic location on the banks of the Bosphorus ensures epic views of Europe and Asia from morning till night.


What was once a 19th century Ottoman palace, this hotel combines historical architecture with lavish decor beautifully. With an indoor and outdoor heated pool, as well as a garden with spacious terrace, you may forget you are in a city hotel at all. If you can manage to tear yourself away from its beautiful surroundings, you can take the hotel shuttle bus or a water taxi to the old town.

How to get there?

Turkish Airlines fly regularly to Istanbul from Dublin airport. Transfer times by taxi to Four Seasons Hotel at the Bosphorus is 35 minutes.

Search flights here


View hotel here



7. Celebrate in style in Ibiza 

Best luxury short breaks in Ibiza

Contrary to what you might think, Ibiza is not just for 18-30 year olds. If you are looking for luxury short breaks in top class hotels with celebrity-style hangouts, Ibiza is where it’s at. Party all night in the chic Ibiza Town or catch the best sunset in the original sunset bar, Café del Mar.


The adult-only Ushuaia Ibiza Beach Hotel is the most popular for those looking for lively celebrations, while the Robert de Niro-owned Nobu Hotel Ibiza Bay is ideal for those who want to be away from the hustle and bustle, and also like to enjoy great food. The latter is a member of the Small Luxury Hotels in the World.

Read: My top picks for a girls weekend away



How to get there?

Ryanair fly regularly to Ibiza during the summer months and transfer times by taxi to Ushuaia and Nobu Hotel is only 6 minutes and 15 minutes respectively.

Search flights here


View Ushuaia here


View Nobu Hotel



8. Take the Orient Express from London to Venice

orient express bucket list holidays

The legendary Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is the most famous train journey in the world. Step back in time to the 1920’s and enjoy top quality dining and superb service in a unique setting.


London to Venice is the most iconic journey, and what better way to complete this Europe bucket list holiday than a stay at the famous Cipriani Hotel Venice, with a Gondola ride thrown in for good measure.

Read: The top things to do in Venice and where to stay

See more here



9. Book an Eiffel Tower room in Paris

Eiffel Tower Room at Le Walt Hotel, Paris

You can never go wrong with a weekend in Paris. With numerous daily flights and inexpensive airfares, Paris is one of those cities that you can fly off to at a moment’s notice! Take a cruise on the Seine, stroll around the pretty streets of Montmartre, and shop till you drop at Galeries Lafayette.


However, a special occasion, deserves something a little more special. Why not book an Eiffel Tower room at Le Walt, or if money is no object, book a suite at the Shangri-La.

Read: My Paris travel guide, the top things to do in Paris and where to stay

Search flights here
Search Le Walt 

Search Shangri-La



10. Book a luxury suite in Santorini

a cave stay in Santorini is on every Europe bucket list

The popularity of Santorini was taken up a notch over the last few years with the introduction of direct flights from Dublin. There many different accommodation choices to choose from if planning luxury short breaks for a special occasion. 


Many hotels are built into the caves which lead out to a private jacuzzi, where you can enjoy the stunning sunsets and Caldera views. 


The Aliko Luxury Suites tick all these boxes and more. Aliko Suites have luxury written all over them, from the beautifully furnished domed area to the large private terrace with comfortable loungers. They also offer a pillow menu, bathrobe, slippers and a fully stocked mini bar.


Another alternative, if you can manage to get availability, is a favourite with Celebrities – Cavo Tagoo. All modern suites here include either a hot tub or a private pool, and the hotel can arrange boat trips and private cruises to explore the rest of the island.

However, if you prefer a self catering option, I have some gorgeous Airbnbs in this post:

Read 10 amazing Airbnbs in Santorini – caves, windmills and private pools

How to get there:

Fly directly to Santorini with Aer Lingus or Ryanair and take taxi or transfer to your hotel.

Search flights here
Aliko Suites here 

Cavo Tagoo here 



11. Stay in a Glass Igloo at Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, Finland

Glass Igloo at Kakslauttanen with the Northern Lights.

Not all special occasion holidays need to include sunshine or city breaks. A stay in the iconic glass igloos at Kakslauttanen Arctic is sure to tick more than one item off your Europe bucket list. Its location places you in a prime position for viewing the Aurora Borealis.


Although this natural phenomenon can never be guaranteed, the location of Kakslauttanen, 250km north of the Arctic Circle in Finland’s Lapland, means the odds are certainly in your favour.


The Glass Igloos offer a memorable opportunity to watch the magic come to life through the thermal glass. But if you’re staying for a few nights, I would recommend having a look at the Kelo-Glass Igloos which combine the cosy amenities of a log cabin, including private sauna and fireplace, with the spectacular glass roof above the bedroom.

The Glass Igloos at Kakslauttanen are on every Europe bucket list

The best time for viewing the northern lights is from September to March, and the winter months offer an array of exciting snow activities such as husky safari, cross country skiing, ice fishing and snowmobiling. A short stay in an igloo in Lapland is one of the best luxury short breaks for special occasion holidays.

Read: How to see the Northern Lights through your own glass igloo



How to get there:

Fly via Helsinki to Ivalo Airport. Kakslauttanen Resort is located 38km from the airport and can be reached either by taxi or car rental.

Search flights here
Search igloo here 



12. Relax at The Retreat at Blue Lagoon, Iceland

The Retreat at the Blue Lagoon in Iceland

Iceland is an ideal destination for luxury short breaks from Ireland, but if you want to make your trip even more memorable, book a stay at The Retreat at Blue Lagoon. This exclusive suite hotel is nestled into the stark volcanic landscape and encircled by the mineral rich waters of Iceland’s famous Blue Lagoon.


During your stay you can gain unlimited access to the Retreat Spa, the Retreat Lagoon, the Blue Lagoon, and Blue Lagoon Ritual. Enjoy unique spa experiences such as an in-water massage, the steam cave, or beauty treatments using the Mineral-rich geothermal Blue Lagoon water.


The views through the large glass windows in each of the suites offers a dramatic scene of moss-covered lava fields, and the interior décor compliments the outside beautifully.

The time of year you visit will also determine the dramatically changing landscape, and who knows, if you’re lucky enough, you might even be treated to a display of the Northern Lights.

Read: Top things to do in Iceland



How to get there

Fly direct to Reykjavik airport with Icelandair or Play Airlines from Dublin airport. The Blue Lagoon Retreat is located 37km from the airport and can be reached either by taxi or car rental.

Search flights here
Search hotel here 



13. Book a room with a view in Venice

luxury short breaks in Venice

The unique floating city of Venice is one of best destinations for luxury short breaks. There are so many iconic sights, that simply wandering around its streets and canals will captivate you. However, sipping a latte on St Mark’s Square and taking a gondola ride through the canals have to be done too! 


There are many luxury hotels to choose from – the St Regis is probably the best but expect a price tag to match. The legendary Danieli Hotel can often be reasonably priced despite its superb location and five-star rating. Its three buildings date back to the 14th, 19th, and 20th centuries, and are connected by covered bridges.

Read: Top things to do in Venice and where to stay



How to get there

Venice can be reached from Dublin airport with Aer Lingus and Ryanair, and from Cork airport with Ryanair.

Search flights


View Danieli here


View St Regis here



14. Go 5-Star in the South of France

luxury short breaks in the South of France

The South of France is the sophisticated choice for luxury short breaks. Nice is a good option as it has a gorgeous old town, a long sandy beach and is located just 7km from the airport.


For the ultimate bucket-list experience, check-in to to the famous Le Negresco Hotel on Promenade des Anglais. This 100 year old Belle Époque palace is a landmark in the city, and has housed many guests including Queen Elizabeth II, Grace Kelly and James Dean.

Antibes is also a favourite with the rich and famous, and the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc is often referred to as one of the best hotels in the world.


The train hugs the coast so take time to visit Cannes, St Tropez or even Monaco, and if  you really want to splash out you can go by boat. Although hotel prices can be expensive, airfares to Nice are usually good value, and dining out is not as expensive as you may think.



How to get there?

Aer Lingus and Ryanair fly regularly from Dublin to Nice. Use the super tram service from the airport, or hop in a taxi and you will be at your hotel in minutes.

Check flights here


Le Negresco


Hotel Cap Eden Roc



15. Stay in a Cave in the ancient city of Matera, Italy


Matera is not only visually stunning, but staying inside an ancient cave in a luxury hotel is a unique experience. It is one of Europe’s most fascinating cities and is a great choice for luxury short breaks for special occasion holidays. 


The 4-star Palazzo Del Duca Luxury Hotel is one of the most popular hotels in Matera. The deluxe junior suite comes with an arched entry, and a fully marble bathroom with the shower inside a natural cave.

For a special occasion check out the unique 5-star Sant’Angelo Luxury Resort, which is made up of 21 historic dwellings. Find out how to get there, and why I think it deserves a place on this list of luxury short breaks in this post:

Read: A magical weekend in Matera – Italy’s best kept secret

Search Bari flights  

View 4-star hotel


View 5-star hotel



16. Laze at Lani Suites Lanzarote

Luxury short breaks in Lanzarote at Lani's Suites

If you are looking for luxury short breaks in the winter time, and fancy some sunshine, then look no further than the five-star Lani Suites in Lanzarote. This adult-only boutique resort has just 25 luxury suites with seaviews, and the hotel has direct access to the beach.

Read: Why Lanzarote is my favourite Canary Island



How to get there?

There are regular flights from Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports with Aer Lingus and Ryanair. Just let Lani’s Suites know when you are arriving and they will arrange a complimentary airport transfer for you.

Search flights here
Search hotel here 



17. Ski in Switzerland

luxury short breaks in Switzerland

If a ski holiday is your way of celebrating in style, this luxury chalet might just do the trick. It is superbly located, with ski-in ski-out accommodation during the winter, less than ten minutes walk to the centre of Zermatt and just 150 meters from the ski bus station. With two bedrooms a sauna, an outdoor jacuzzi and a large heated terrace, it is the perfect choice for luxury short breaks with friends or family.

Read: Luxury Airbnbs in Europe to inspire your next vacation

See more here 



Luxury Short Breaks Outside Europe


18. Book a weekend in New York


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Sarah Slattery – Travel Expert (@the_travel_expert)

New York is one of those cities that even if you have visited before, it is still a super choice to mark a special occasion. There are always new attractions opening up, and there is so much to see and do in the city that never sleeps.

Read: Top things to do in New York


I have lots of accommodation options in this post, including the iconic Plaza Hotel, but New York is the type of place that no matter where you stay, you are guaranteed to find an iconic location to celebrate in style. 

Read: My ultimate guide on where to stay in New York




19. Holiday like a Celebrity in Dubai


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Sarah Slattery – Travel Expert (@the_travel_expert)

Love it or hate it, Dubai is a great destination to celebrate a special occasion. Everything in Dubai is bigger and better than anywhere else! There are countless luxury hotels to choose from as well as some bucket-list experiences. Cruise around Dubai on a luxury yacht, enjoy a dining experience at the Burj Al Arab Hotel, or try a hot air balloon ride over the Arabian desert. 


Depending on your own individual style, choose Atlantis, The Palm for some fun aqua adventures, the Address Dubai Marina to be close to Dubai’s vibrant nightlife, or Nikki Beach Resort for a short break away with the girls. 

Read: Top 10 things to do in Dubai

Read: Top tips for a family holiday in Dubai

Atlantis, The Palm


Address Dubai Marina


Nikki Beach Resort


View Experiences



20. Marvel at Niagara Falls

luxury short breaks to Niagara Falls

It may surprise you to know that Niagara Falls is located just 90 minutes from Toronto, and with daily flights from Dublin it is easily accessible for a luxury short break.


You can choose to stay in Toronto and book a day-trip to Niagara, or book a hotel overlooking the Falls for the complete bucket-list experience. Another option is to book a two-centre holiday – a few nights in Toronto followed by a night or two at Niagara.

There are many great hotels in Toronto including the Four Seasons and the Shangri-La, but when it comes to Niagara Falls, it is vital you book a hotel with a Falls View room.

Search flights here


Search hotels here


I hope one of my luxury short breaks will help you plan a special trip away soon. Please note that hotel facilities are subject to change. Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, where I  receive a small commission if a booking is made, but at no additional charge to you. 



Seven of the Best Hotels with Infinity Pools


The evenings are getting shorter and the nights are ever colder. This doesn’t mean you need to hibernate until Spring comes around. There is nothing like an outdoor infinity pool to not only make you feel like royalty, but also to warm you right up. Here is a selection of what I think to be seven of the best hotels with infinity pools across Europe.

Let’s be honest, when we remember our past, nobody remembers the routine things that you have done a thousand times before. The things that stand out in a good sense are the times when we decide to throw caution to the wind. If you are looking to bring more of these moments into your life, these seven hotels with infinity pools, should give you some inspiration to get the ball rolling.

1. The Cambrian, Adelboden, Switzerland.

The Cambrian Adelboden is an absolute gem nestled high in the Swiss Alps. Known for its fantastic array of wellness facilities you can enjoy one of the most breathtaking, panoramic views imaginable from their outdoor infinity pool. The picture is only a taster, nothing will ever compare to the real thing.

Book This Hotel Book Your Flights

2. St. Brides Spa Hotel, Saundersfoot, Wales

Best Hotels With Infinity Pools: St. Brides Hotel Saundersfoot

This magnificent hotel in Wales overlooks Saundersfoot Harbour. It is the perfect place to relax and unwind and when you’re not getting pampered, you could be enjoying a meal in The Cliff restaurant. This could be a great option if bringing your car over to Wales or even flying to Cardiff and renting a car over there.

Book This Hotel Book Your Flights

3. King Street Townhouse, Manchester, UK.

Best Hotels with Infinity Pools: Kings Street Townhouse

Manchester is one of my favourite cities but this is a Manchester experience that you probably thought didn’t exist. The Kings Street Townhouse has a truly epic outdoor infinity pool, where you can enjoy the unique cityscape that this musical hub possesses.

Book This Hotel Book Your Flights

4. Epic Sana Lisboa Hotel, Lisbon, Portugal.

Best Hotels With Infinity Pools: Epic Sana

Lisbon is a beautiful and colourful city where it is always possible to pick up a travel bargain. The Epic Sana Lisboa Hotel offers you the chance to enjoy the Portuguese capital in style. Flights to Lisbon are always reasonably priced and you should be able to pick up a great price for flights in the off peak months too.

Book This Hotel Book Your Flights

5. NH Collection Grand Hotel Convento di Amalfi, Italy.

Best Hotels With Infinity Pools: NH Collection Amalfi Coast

The Amalfi Coast is just one of those rare locations that doesn’t need any assistance from Photoshop! It also is the perfect destination for an infinity pool. The mountainous setting offers you the perfect vantage point of the Tyrrenhian Sea and perhaps the perfect setting for a blossoming romance? 😉

Book This Hotel Book Your Flights

6. Hotel Riu Gran Canaria

Best Hotels With Infinity Pools: Hotel Riu Gran Canaria

The Canary Islands are the gift that keeps on giving in terms of weather. It’s perpetual sunshine make it the ultimate escape from dull and dreary weather conditions. If you’re feeling like you need a bit of natural Vitamin D, the Hotel Riu in Gran Canaria fits the bill perfectly.

Book This Hotel Book Your Flights

7. Cave Tagoo, Mykonos, Greece.

Best Hotels with Infinity Pools: Cave Tagoo

If you’re looking to throw caution to the wind and have a bit of money to play around with, look no further than the Cave Tagoo in Mykonos. With a view that is quite simply one of most amazing you are every likely to see, a stay here would be a truly unforgettable experience.

Book This Hotel Book Your Flights

The nightly price of these hotels can vary depending on the season but if you play around the dates you should find something reasonable. If it’s out of your budget, why not consider staying one night as a part of your wider trip and book something cheaper for the rest? Luxury is there for everyone to enjoy, I hope this list inspires you to allow some into your life.

Please note that these links are affiliate links where we receive a small commission if a booking is made.


Martin McKenna – The Travel Expert Team

468x60Newsletter Banner

Holidays in Ireland

Living It Up At Lough Erne Resort


Wonderful walks, lodges straight out of a fairy tale and a food lovers paradise – find out how I lived it up at Lough Erne Resort.

It was my first time to visit Fermanagh. For someone who has visited every other county in Ireland, I felt almost ashamed that it took me this long to get there. I was kindly invited by Lough Erne Resort to stay with my family for two nights, so I accepted with open arms.


I had of course heard of the prestigious Lough Erne Resort, that has won numerous awards and accolades, including 2017’s hotel of the year in the Northern Ireland Tourism Awards. In fact, the G8 Summit was held there in 2013, so I guess if it was good enough for Barack Obama, it was good enough for me 😉.

lough erne resort

Once we reached the entrance to Lough Erne Resort, we had to drive past two golf courses to get to the hotel. You get the feeling that you are driving on to an island. The 600 acre peninsula where Lough Erne Resort is located is stunning, and the frosty day make it it look even more dramatic. It was a good start!  This was nicely followed when we were given the keys to our self catering lodge, which has ideally located beside the hotel.

lough erne resort self catering lodges

The lodges are an attraction in their own right.  My daughter shrieked with delight when she saw them, and thought that our new two story home, complete with a turret, resembled Rapunzel’s tower!  Needless to say the kids decided they wanted the upstairs bedroom. Both bedrooms were extremely spacious and my first thought was that the lodges certainly deserved their five star rating.


The bathrooms were equipped with large double showers and free standing baths. The main living room was spacious too, although the kitchen area was quite small. One other thing to point out is that while our kids (ages 7 and 10) were at the perfect age, families with younger children may not like sleeping on a different floor to their parents.

I loved that breakfast is included in the hotel when you book one of the self catering lodges. I haven’t found this to be the case in many other hotels with lodges in Ireland, and I think it is a massive bonus. Not only did it give us an incentive to rise early in the mornings (breakfast is served until 10.30), but the à la carte breakfast was delicious.  This is standard for anyone staying in one of the twenty five lodges at Lough Erne resort.

breakfast at lough erne hotel

Speaking of food…. Lough Erne Resort is renowned for its culinary delights and locally sourced produce. The Executive Head Chef Noel McMeel  has worked with some of the world’s most respected chefs, and is no doubt the reason why Lough Erne resort is the proud winner of the Hotel Restaurant of the Year. 


We dined in the Catalina Restaurant, Lough Erne’s fine dining offering, and we were suitably impressed. While myself and Cormac were given an ‘amuse bouche’ of goats cheese to start, the kids were not overlooked. They two were given their own ‘amuse bouche’ – a strawberry, blackberry and raspberry on a cocktail stick, it was a lovely touch!

dining at Lough Erne

My starter of braised cheek ravioli was perfectly cooked, as was the halibut, but the pièce de la resistance was the chocolate soufflé. It really was superb! The kids were happy too, as there were plenty of options to choose from the kids menu. Alex had a tasty pasta dish, while Luke enjoyed the chicken curry. Prices for two courses are £45, or £52 for three courses, quite reasonable I thought for such high quality food in a five star hotel.

fine dining at Lough Erne Resort

There are other more casual options at Lough Erne Resort if you don’t fancy fine dining. The Blaney Bar, where we had pre dinner drinks served light bites, and the Loughside Bar and Grill overlooking the Nick Faldo golf course, offers tasty steaks and seafood. Did I mention there were two championship golf courses here?


The following morning the hotel staff recommended we take the 40-minute walk around the Nick Faldo designed golf course, so off we went. Although freezing, (it was actually -2 degrees), it was bright and sunny which showcased just how stunning the hotel grounds are. We stopped at the 10th hole which offers breathtaking views over Lower Lough Erne. For someone who has never played golf I suddenly began to understand the attraction.

After about 40 minutes we realised that we must have taken a wrong turn because we were still miles away from the hotel. We popped into what was aptly called The Halfway House at the 9th green, only to find out that we had still another 20 minutes to go. We left our room without wallets or cash but thankfully the friendly barman said he would call reception and allow us to put any purchases on our room. We opted for some tasty homemade soup and hot chocolates before we set off back to the hotel.

The grounds are superb and there are many different walks to take. The following day we walked across Reeds Bridge on Castle Hume Lough. This is located at the rear of the hotel and offers the perfect view of the hotel and it’s conical lodges.

If you are feeling adventurous there are much more arduous walks in the surrounding area, the most famous being the newly opened boardwalk at Cuilcagh Mountain, which is only 15 miles from the resort. Often described as Ireland’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’, this is now considered one of the top things to do in Northern Ireland. However the walk takes approximately 6 hours in total and is not for the faint hearted. With cold temperatures and two small kids in tow, we decided we would have to try this another time.


We opted for Lough Navar Forest instead – located just 15 minutes drive from our lodge, this is a beautiful forest walk. You can also take the seven-mile drive through the forest and stop at many of the viewpoints, if you don’t fancy walking. Make sure you visit Magho Viewpoint which offers panoramic views over Lower Lough Erne, Donegal Bay and the Blue Stack and Sperrin Mountains. Other popular tourist attractions in the area are the Marble Arch Caves , Belleek Pottery, Castle Coole and EnnisKillen Castle.

Of course, staying in such a luxurious hotel, it can be difficult to leave…. The following day we enjoyed a morning swim in the large indoor pool. Children are allowed in from 8am-11am and 4.30-5.30pm. There is also a Light Therapy Sauna and Tropical Rain Shower, a Steam Room and relaxation areas.


There are ten spacious treatment rooms including a dual treatment room. I thought it would be a nice Mother and Daughter treat perhaps. The Thai Spa offered a winter saver package of a 30 minute facial, 30 minute body polish and full use of all the facilities for £75 which I thought was good value for a luxury spa.

swimming pool at lough erne resort

While Lough Erne Resort is not a typical family hotel, children are well catered for. At check-in, Luke and Alex were delighted to receive a nice swim bag with a colouring book and crayons inside. There is also Ernie’s Den, a kids playroom that offers a range of fun games including, table football, air hockey, table-tennis and a pac-man machine.


Ernie’s Den is open from 9am – 9pm, so we were able to enjoy a drink in the bar in the evening, while the kids played happily for an hour. This is handy for older kids who don’t need to be supervised, and I am sure there are many new friendships formed here in the busier Summer months. Children can also have golf lessons on site, try mountain bike trails, or take a guided pony trek nearby.

Ernies Den playroom at Lough Erne

We stayed at Lough Erne Resort for two nights, and we decided to go into Enniskillen for our second night and check out the local scene. We were amazed at how busy the town was. There was no sign of anyone opting for ‘dry January’ in Enniskillen. Francos was recommended to us, as a family friendly restaurant but it was fully booked all evening.


We decided to make use of our luxury lodges and went back to Lough Erne resort and ordered pizza from the local delivery service. On a cold January night, I decided to do something I hadn’t treated myself to in a long time, soak in a hot bath, chill out in front of the TV and enjoy some take away pizza! It was our home away from home.


Of course my FOMO (fear of missing out) kicked in and I still wanted to see if Franco’s lived up to the hype! We decided to pop in for lunch on our way home. Decorated from head to toe, it was the perfect place to finish off our fabulous stay at Lough Erne Resort.


For prices and bookings click here

Like holidays in Ireland? Read more here



The Travel Expert



5 Top Long Haul Holiday Picks in 2018

long haul

I have teamed up with Tropical Sky, the long haul holiday specialists, to bring you five top long haul holiday picks for 2018.


If you are looking to try somewhere new, and in search of adventure, then go long haul in 2018.  From South Africa to Sri Lanka, Alaska to Australia, Tropical Sky will have a holiday to suit you. I have selected five of their top long haul holiday picks for 2018, all are recommended hotels and great value. Note all of these holidays are based on seven nights but you can extend your stay or even combine them with another destination. All prices include flights, hotels and transfers so there is no need to worry about adding on extra expense!

top long haul holiday picks

Maldives – Meeru Island Resort & Spa, 1 week, Full Board, €1499!

The Maldives are the islands associated with barefoot luxury, over water bungalows and incredible diving and snorkeling. Meeru Island Resort is the only resort found on the island of Meerufenfushi. Accessible by speed boat from Male (included in the price), you will be surrounded by picture perfect beaches and stunning lagoons. You can choose to spend your days lazing on the beach, take boat trips or even go island hopping. There is a spa and fitness centre in the resort as well as regular beach volleyball, in case you find lazy beach days too relaxing! There are five restaurants to choose from including the Hot Rocks where your meal is cooked in front of you on volcanic rocks.

Tropical Sky is offering a seven night stay on a full board basis, including flights and speed boat transfers from only €1499. If you are looking for some action at the beginning or end of your trip, why not combine this with a few days in Dubai.

Click here for more details:


Nashville & New Orleans Tour, 6 Nights, €1279!

Looking to try something different in 2018, check out two of America’s most fascinating cities, New Orleans and Nashville. You will start your tour in Nashville and visit the famous recording studios where Elvis and many famous artists recorded. You will also have the opportunity to see a live country music gig on Broadway.  You will then fly to New Orleans and experience one of the best jazz scenes. Visit the historic streets in the French Quarter, take a boat trip along the Mississippi on a traditional paddle steamer, and enjoy some delicious creole cuisine.

top long haul holiday picks

American Sky is offering a six night tour of Nashville and New Orleans from €1399 including all flights and hotels. Book before the 31st of January and you will save €120 making this only €1279! This tour can also be combined with other American cities. Why not visit Memphis or Chicago and complete the iconic music trail?

Click here for more details


Dubai, 5* All Inclusive at Movenpick Ibn Battuta Gate, 4 Nights, €1299!

The worlds tallest building, the world’s largest shopping mall, the world’s only seven star hotel and now the world’s largest indoor theme park! Dubai never settles for anything less than the best! However bars and restaurants in Dubai can be expensive, so this all-inclusive deal in the luxurious 5* Movenpick Ibn Battuta Gate is the perfect way to enjoy this great city. Centrally located with free access to the Riva Beach Club, you can enjoy city life, with the benefits of Dubai’s beaches. There is also a rooftop lap pool if you are not a beach lover. There are nine restaurants to choose from so you don’t need to worry about dining in the same restaurant each night. Families are catered for too with a kids club and play area. If you want to get out and about, the hotel offers a free shuttle bus to the Riva Beach Club and Dubai Parks. For more info on things to do, read the top ten things to do in Dubai.

top long haul holiday picks

Tropical Sky is offering a four night all-inclusive stay at the Movenpick Ibn Battuta from only €1299 including flights and transfers. This includes a staggering €500 discount and a room upgrade if booked by the 15th of January!

Click here for more details:


Mexico – All Inclusive at the 5* Moon Palace Cancun, 1 week, €1629 with $750 Resort Credit per person

Dine in any of their fifteen restaurants, have cocktails in any of their twelve bars or if you fancy a nightcap on your balcony – enjoy a drink from your well-stocked minibar. All of these are included in the price of your stay! And that’s not all … for a limited time you will get $750 resort credit per person, absolutely free!

The Moon Palace has everything you need on site for an action packed holiday, with numerous sports and entertainment options to choose from. All rooms come with a private balcony and a hammock as well as a double Jacuzzi in the bathroom. Families are well catered for too with family rooms, kids clubs, a kids waterpark. If you fancy a night out, Cancun is only a half hour away and you can also explore the nearby islands of Cozumel and Isla Mujieres. The Moon Palace also happens to be sitting on a stunning white sandy beach, facing the Caribbean Sea, so it’s fair to say you might not want to leave it.

top long haul holiday picks

Tropical Sky is offering a seven night, all inclusive stay including flights and transfers from €1629 per person, which includes a €550 discount per person. For a limited time, you will also receive $1500 resort credit per room. Fancy bringing the kids? They have a ‘kids go free’ offer valid from the 22nd of June to 18th of August.

Click here for more details:


5* Luxury at Kata Rocks, Phuket, 1 week, B&B, €2049

Kata Rocks has been voted one of the top 25 resorts in Asia by Conde Nast and it is often classed as Phuket’s best luxury resort. Each villa has its own infinity pool with a outdoor sun deck and stunning sea views. Dining is superb with some of the best Thai food on the island as well as an excellent Mediterranean restaurant, which offers a romantic sunset dinner over looking the Andaman sea. The award winning spa offers 30 unique treatments and even children are catered for with a kids club, children’s menu and a choice of two, three and four bedroom villas. If you can manage to tear yourself away from the hotel, the town of Kata is only a short walk away, while Phuket Town or Patong beach are about 20 minutes by taxi.

top long haul holiday picks

Tropical Sky is offering 30% off room rates if booked 60 days in advance as well as children ( under 12 ) dining free when accompanied with a full paying adult. Prices for a a seven night stay on a bed & breakfast basis from €2049 including flights and transfers.

Click here for more details:


Prices are correct at the time of issue but are subject to change. This post was sponsored by Tropical Sky but all views, as always, are my own.




travel deals




Like long haul?  Click here for more long haul holidays and destination reviews.

AmericaLong Haul

Is UNICO 20°87° The Best All-Inclusive Hotel In Mexico?


Imagine staying in a hotel where spa treatments and golf are included, where you can enjoy free excursions and swim with dolphins, and just pay a 20% service fee. UNICO 20°87° is an all-inclusive resort like no other.


UNICO 20°87° is a new adult-only luxury hotel, located on a stunning white sandy beach in Riviera Maya, Mexico. It has broken boundaries on so many levels. You may expect to dine in any of the restaurants, enjoy premium drinks and avail of a host of water-sports; but it is their extra inclusions that make the all-inclusive arrangement so unique. Where else would you find excursions included in the price of your say? You can visit the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza and Tulum, zipline in Selvatica Park, swim with dolphins or enjoy a romantic dinner on a tall ship. All of these tours are included in the price of your stay, you just pay the 20% service fee!

Fancy a relaxing massage or a detoxifying facial? Why not treat yourself to a pedicure or a blow dry. You can even get a couples massage, so men need not feel left out 😉. Imagine paying €6 for a manicure, or €10 for a blowdry – that is (approximately) what the 20% service fee equates to! You can also enjoy a round of golf, or golf lessons with a Pro or enjoy personal training sessions and a host of fitness classes. Whether you fancy yoga on the beach or a spinning class in the fitness centre, Unico 20°87° have you covered. You can see a full list of all inclusions here.


Rooms are pretty special too! Choose an Alcoba swim-up pool room, or a room with an ocean view and an outdoor spa tub. If you are travelling with friends and fancy your own private villa, they have that too, complete with a huge terrace and two spa tubs! Regardless of what room you choose, you will have your own personalised Anfitrión, (private butler), available 24 hours a day. They will help you with restaurant reservations, organise tours, un pack your suitcase and even organise your laundry!


If you just want to relax, why not chill out in one of the three swimming pools? You might fancy a cocktail in one of the cool bars or some delicious food in one of the five restaurants; which, like most things at this hotel, are included in the price of your stay.  They also offer unique cultural experiences, including cookery classes and a cocktail hour in a nearby Mayan village. And if you still need convincing, check out the amazing reviews on tripadvisor, where Unico 20°87° gets a five star rating and is rated the best hotel in the Riviera Maya.


Tropical Sky have exclusive offers in Unico 20°87° with prices from €1459 for a seven night stay, on an all-inclusive basis with flights and transfers.  


Click here for more details:


Like Long haul ? See more here.  This post was sponsored by Tropical Sky but all views, as always, are my own.



travel deals


Long HaulTravel

5 Star LUX* Grand Gaube, Mauritius, Reopens With Prices From €1279 Including Flights!

GrandGaube Overview7-10-23 at 16_opt

Looking for informal luxury in one of Mauritius’ best hotels? Check out the newly refurbished LUX* Grand Gaube hotel and prepare to be captivated!


LUX* Grand Gaube was one of Mauritius’ best hotels before they decided to refurbish it, but now it is even better! LUX* Resorts & Hotels engaged iconic designer Kelly Hoppen to add her signature look of neutral palettes and beautiful textures, with a retro-chic style. Check out this short slideshow, it reminds me of a luxury beach house and it is clear that Kelly has delivered a sophisticated, yet informal look with lots of open spaces. ❤


It’s not only the decor that will captivate you, it’s location is pretty special too. Situated in the pretty town of Grand Gaube, LUX* Grand Gaube combines stunning Indian Ocean views with lush tropical gardens. Your hardest decision will be which of the two beaches or two swimming pools to spend your days in. Of course if you fancy some shade, just chill out in one of the many hammocks around the grounds.

Lux* Grand Gaube

LUX* Resorts & Hotels are renowned for their sensory experiences, and you will find plenty of these at LUX* Grand Gaube. With a wide selection of restaurants and bars, you will find dining experiences throughout. Favourites like the Creole Smoke House and INTI – Mauritius’ first Peruvian-Argentinian restaurant, offer a feast for the senses. Even the buffet restaurant, Palm Court, offers live cooking stations and an ocean view from every seat. The bars are pretty special too. Try one of the 88 varieties of rum at the Rum Treehouse or enjoy a sundowner at the G&T 100 Club, their Gin bar.

Lux* Grand Gaube

The sensory experiences don’t end there. The LUXMe Spa offers bespoke treatments, a hydrotherapy pool, sauna and steam room, as well as plenty of wellness facilities and inspirational classes to keep you feeling good throughout your stay. Sports enthusiasts will love the tennis academy, golf and complimentary non motorised water sports.

Lux* Grand Gaube

All rooms are spacious with gorgeous views and modern decor. Couples will love the romantic junior suites which have a four poster bed, an outdoor double bath and chill out loungers.  The staggering 35% discount available for honeymooners is an amazing offer and is sure to prove popular. You can also choose to get married at LUX* Grand Gaube, where they guarantee to only have one wedding per day. For more details click here.

Lux* Grand Gaube

LUX* Grand Gaube also has a three luxury villas which have with a private pool and garden, and a 24 butler service. With a kids club and activity program on site, these villas will no doubt prove to be the most sought after villas for families in Mauritius.  Hmmm, now there is a thought…..


How to book:

Tropical Sky is offering up to €800 off holidays to LUX* Grand Gaube. With prices starting at €1279 for a seven night stay including flights and transfers, this is incredible value for one of Mauritius best hotels.

Click here for more details:


This post was sponsored by TropicalSky but all views, as always, are my own.




travel deals

City BreaksDestinationsEurope

Living like Royalty at the Hotel du Palais

Hotel du Palais

I stared at the menu and there were no prices. I looked around the dining room at the Hotel du Palais and wondered, was this how the other half lived?

I knew it was going to be expensive, a Michelin star restaurant in one of France’s best hotels, but I wanted to know how expensive. Should I order the lobster a la plancha or play it safe and go with the thick cut prime beef? It was only when I raised my concerns with my husband Cormac, he told me there were prices on his menu. The penny dropped – the Hotel du Palais did not just look old world, it actually was.

I know this may no longer be politically correct, and don’t get me wrong, I’m all for empowering women. But this however wasn’t meant to be offensive; and in a strange way, it felt quite romantic. In a world where so much revolves around money, where price takes precedence over quality, it was refreshing to see that chivalry was alive and well in the Hotel du Palais.

From the moment we drove through the gates and entered the lavish grounds, I knew this stay was going to be something special. Perched at the edge of the town facing the ‘Grand Plage’ in Biarritz the location is perfect. The outdoor pool and snack bar have stunning sea views and once I entered the hotel, the lavish furnishings transported me back in time.

I envisaged balls, long gowns, parasols, horse and carriages and old fashioned romance. After it was given by Napoleon to his wife, it became their summer residence in 1855. Kings, queens, presidents and celebrities stayed here and now I was going to join them.

Our room or should I say rooms were probably the largest I have stayed in. We had two massive interconnecting rooms with amazing sea views, complete with marble bathrooms, dressing rooms and large living areas. The Hotel du Palais managed to blend modern facilities with old world charm perfectly.

In fact this is true all over the Hotel, the large indoor swimming pool manages to look like an old roman bath forum, yet has a very modern feel. Incidentally the kids loved the pool and could use it from 10 -12 and 5 -7 each day.

hotel du palais

The town of Biarritz has a fantastic beach right beside the hotel, perfect for surfing, swimming or strolling. There are lots of cafés along the seafront, which are the perfect place to watch the world go by. Don’t miss the daily food market and the many tapas bars located beside it.

The town is crammed with specialist boutiques, art galleries and trendy surf shops. I loved that there were no large department stores here. I picked up some great bargains in Morgan and overall I thought it was a great place to shop.

hotel du palais

I also liked that there are not hundreds of things to do in Biarritz. Sometimes city breaks can be exhausting trying to scratch everything off tripadvisor’s top ten things to do list.

I walked along the beach towards the Le Rocher de la Vierge, where a statue of Mary stands on a small peninsula that juts out to sea. With the waves crashing against the rocks it was quite dramatic.

I also paid a quick visit to the indoor market but decided against climbing the 242 steps to the top of the lighthouse. Of course you can also pop into the nearby towns of St Jean de Luz or Bayonne. We had just completed a week long road trip where we visited BilbaoLa Rioja and San Sebastian, so we decided to stay put.

We also loved the hotel so much we didn’t want to just use it as a base, but instead we made the hotel the destination. We decided we would splash out and dine in the hotel’s Michelin star restaurant, La Villa Eugénie.

We enjoyed some aperitifs in the bar where a pianist played beautifully. Cocktails were €18 but were served with substantial hors d’oeuvres. In fact they were so substantial we really didn’t need a starter. However, I couldn’t resist the crispy langoustines with mango sauce, and they were ample for sharing.

I was surprised overall at how large the portions were, especially for a Michelin star restaurant. The service and food was outstanding. They catered so well for children too and have a separate kids menu, complete with prices! Luke and Alex chose the pasta with tomato sauce €16, and a hamburger and French fries €22.

It was my daughter Alex’s 6th birthday and they brought out a plate with ‘bonne anniversaire’ written in gold icing, a lighted candle and some tasty chocolates, all complimentary, and such a lovely touch.

This summed up my stay at the Hotel du Palais, The lavish surroundings and impeccable service really made me feel like I was somewhere special. I was somewhere special , it was Napoleon’s summer house and I felt like an invited guest. Yes it is expensive but for a luxury weekend or a special occasion, it is a hotel experience that is worth every penny.


Check prices here



The Travel Expert Sarah Slattery

Pin It on Pinterest