For travellers with holly in their hearts, Ireland is a magical place to visit come the holiday season, and Cork City’s Hayfield Manor is where Santa himself would go, if a December vacation wasn’t so ill timed with his hectic work schedule.

When guests enter the gates of Hayfield Manor, they step back through time, back to an era where afternoon tea was not a question of having time enough to enjoy it, but more a question of what time one would be meeting friends that particular day.

The charm of this 5-star hotel—the first of its kind in the city—catches you at every corner, which is why it’s no surprise that Condé Nast Traveler readers should have crowned it with a Readers’ Choice Award, voting it onto the magazine’s “Top 10 Hotels in Ireland” list.

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Family-owned and operated, there is a warmth felt in the suites here that distinctly separates Hayfield Manor from hotels of the chain variety. Room decor is comprised of antique beauties, like beautiful wingback chairs worthy of an Austen setting and gorgeous clawfoot bathtubs upon marble floors; while the amenities are a bounty of modern luxuries, including orthopaedic beds and heated towel racks—a comfort all can appreciate during the winter months. And how could we not mention the golf putter? It’s an in-room quirk that is entertaining even if you don’t know the difference between wedges and putters.

Outside the hotel, a short walk through the historic University College Cork campus (stop for a photo opt when you come to the quadrangle, a Tudor Gothic style design, which bares a striking resemblance to Harry Potter‘s Hogwarts), takes you to the city centre, where the English Market should be any hungry visitor’s first stop. It’s favourite of the Queen’s, and that alone is enough for us to wait in line for a scrumptious sausage roll and hearty bowl of seafood chowder at the market’s Farmgate Café.

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Delicious fare is also on offer back at the hotel’s two award-winning restaurants —Orchids (fine dining) and Perrotts Garden Bistro (casual dining)—with breakfast at Perrots being a delight that every guests should treat themselves too. First enjoy sipping on a warming cup of tea, while choosing a hot plate (may we suggest the traditional Irish breakfast), then hit the buffet, where delicate pastries, local cheeses and cured meats will quiet your rumbling morning stomach. And of course, what would breakfast be without a mimosa? You’ll find enough champagne and fresh squeezed orange juice here to tempt you back to the buffet bar at least twice through breakfast. Or, perhaps it will be the cheeky Virgin Mary station that will have you getting out of your seat for a second round.

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Romance—of the horse drawn carriage variety—hangs in the air at Hayfield, making it the perfect place to spend the holidays with the one you love. Tranquility is possible during the festive season, as unattainable as it may often seem this time of year. Hayfield’s 3-night Christmas package, complete with attentive staff (including the wonderful aestheticians at the hotel’s Beautique Spa) catering to your every need, is the gift to give yourself if life’s daily stresses are bogging you down. Alternatively, the New Year’s Two Night Retreat package, which includes tickets to the hotel’s New Year’s Eve Gala Ball—think champagne reception and 7-course gourmet meal—would be the sort of gift any girl would like to see paired with a little blue box and a bended knee come midnight. Hint, hint gentlemen! Or, should the actual holidays themselves be kept to large family gatherings (the kind that resemble the Griswold’s family reunions), than reserve the hotel’s Twixmas package for a date between Christmas and New Year, to help recover and fortify for your next holiday gathering.

With holiday cocktail parties and dinners with extended family taking over your December, a getaway is a well-deserved sanity break. I mean, why spend the holidays National Lampoons style as you always have, when you can spend it at Hayfield Manor living like the Crawleys? Tis the season for magic.

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