Coole Festive Favourites Holiday season again, and it’s time to start thinking about where to meet up with family and old friends. We like to think about atmosphere, Christmas tradition, somewhere cosy, a friendly face, a large fire and lots of time to sit, chat and catch-up. A place where time flies and stands still at the same time; like that’s even possible, but you know what we mean? Here are six of our favourites for those winter get togethers, each with its own character and class, all selectively serving Coole Swan in their bars and restaurants, chilled, over ice, in a cocktail or as an essential dessert ingredient, yum! Hayfield Manor Hayfield Manor is a personal Christmas favourite for our team in Cork; steeped in tradition and 5* luxury. Christmas is a bit special, from once you are greeted at the door to shown to your taxi home you are enveloped in warmth, cosy, soft relaxation and indulgence. You could spend the 3 day Christmas break in the Hayfield Manor moving between The Drawing Room, The Library and The Manor Bar (to name but a few of the beautiful rooms), but we love the idea of savouring in the delightful festive Afternoon Tea with family or friends. with dainty delights and festive delicacies in elegant surrounds of the Orchids Restaurant. The Shelbourne In the heart of Dublin on St. Stephen’s Green, The Shelbourne Hotel is a popular meet up spot over Christmas but this does not make it less of a beauty in our eyes; it retains it’s star quality, enhanced since its recent makeover, celebrating the season for over 200 years. They say, “After a frosty walk through the magical St. Stephen’s Green, the warmest of welcomes awaits you back at the hotel” and we couldn’t agree more. Two great bars on the ground floor (No.27 & the famous Horseshoe Bar) are now complemented by the delightful 1824 Bar tucked away at the grand staircase. The Merrion The Merrion is another firm favourite in Dublin city centre. We like the 2* Michelin delight of Patrick Guilbaud’s but we love The Cellar Bar; the oak-lined walls of the wine vaults of the original Main House are a welcome respite from the cold winter afternoons or evenings. Around Christmas however, we fancy the idea of relaxing in front of the turf fires of The Drawing Room before or after treating ourselves to Festive Afternoon Tea in the Georgian Drawing Rooms. Ashford Castle Out West we love Ashfrod Castle, not only a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World; but simply a stunning 800 year old property with an array of beautiful rooms for dining and relaxing and an estate that offers a huge variety of activities from fishing, to falconry and boat trips on Lough Cong. But back to indoors and Christmas; with a number of dining rooms on offer including our favourite (The Dungeon steakhouse) and several bars to relax in, Ashford Castle is the ideal Christmas hideaway. We’re looking forward to taking it easy in The Prince of Wales Bar, described as “Built in the late 1800s, the bar is to this day reminiscent of its captivating past, with its opulent fabrics, fine wood panelling, traditional furnishings and original fireplace creating a warm and welcoming ambience”. McNean House Combining the amazing cooking of our dear friend Neven; with the wonderful hospitality of McNean House in the hideaway location of Blacklion, Co. Cavan this is the perfect getaway for a small group of close friends or family. We know that this trip will be all about the food, which will be amazing (try for the Chef’s Table), however, it’s the warm welcome that will embrace you into the heart of this treasure; we love that time when dinner is finished and you can relax into the remainder of the evening, knowing that your room is just a short walk away and that your only concern is what to have for breakfast because you know that it too will be amazing. While you’re sitting and relaxing you should try Santa’s Little Helper cocktail, either before or after dinner. It was specially created by Neven using Coole Swan, (even more) cream, vodka and amaretto and spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg; obviously a favourite of ours and also one you can enjoy at home; find out how to make it here. Another thought is that you could do a pre-Christmas adventure and do a “Christmas Made Easy” cookery course with Neven. Chapter One Chapter One is the second Michelin starred restaurant to appear on our list; showing the good company that Coole Swan keeps! Chapter One is tucked away in the north Dublin city centre on Parnell Square and under the stewardship of Ross Lewis is celebrating its 12th consecutive year of its “star”. A special treat for Christmas, Chapter One is a place we consider for a more intimate celebration of the season; we really like it for lunch especially the Friday lunch tasting menu; maybe a gift option to enjoy in the New Year.