When it comes to holidays, Coeliacs and those on a gluten free or allergen related diet see things differently. Our guide on how to book a gluten free hotel in Ireland will help take some of the stress out of your trip and show how to have the best craic without worrying about foraging in the hedgerows. But that’s option too if you fancy it.
As a “normal” person, booking a hotel is relatively straightforward. You choose your country of destination, identify a few things you would really like to do and see, find a hotel nearby that has suitable prices and good reviews on the top reviews sites such as TripAdvisor, Yelp etc. You compare flight prices and possibly hotels and make your booking.
You might add in car hire, pre-book a tour or maybe a meal in a special restaurant. For family holidays, the all inclusive option might tempt you with main meals included in the hotel booking.
For everyone else on an allergen related diet, particularly gluten free, things are a little different. You choose your country of destination, identify a few things you would really like to do and see, find a gluten free hotel nearby that has suitable prices and then begin the detailed search for a gluten free review; a blog post, even a passing comment on Twitter would do. Maybe you’ll ring the hotel directly to test their knowledge. If you’re travelling to a country with a foreign language it gets really complicated. When you book for yourself you can assume a degree of risk to your own choosing, when you book for someone else in your family the pressure really builds. What if they don’t actually do gluten free? What if the only meal is gluten free pasta and suspicious sauce and we’re stuck there for two weeks with no food?! Believe it or not, booking car hire is a relaxing process for a Coeliac, even if the replacement car turns out to be a Fiat 500 for your family of six.
So how do you ensure a great holiday with a wide range of gluten free options? Here’s our step-by-step guide to book a gluten free hotel in Ireland:
- Identify your country of destination – you’re going to Ireland. Ireland has the highest concentration of people with Coeliac disease and living gluten free so there’s loads of catering options, gluten free resources and the scenery is well known for being spectacular (but do pack a rain coat).
- Choose where in Ireland you want to stay. The top part is Northern Ireland and part of the UK, British road signs (in miles), UK pounds, lots of pubs, home to numerous Game of Thrones filming locations. The North West and everywhere else is Ireland, Irish road signs (in kilometres) Euros, lots of pubs and home to Guinness (which you can’t drink, it’s wheat free but made from malted barley). Don’t panic though, we have a guide for that too. When we refer to Ireland in this guide, we mean the Island of Ireland, which geographically speaking is Northern Ireland and Ireland together.
- Each region of Ireland has its’ own landmarks, beauty spots and range of accommodation. Naturally, the further you travel from the cities, the lower your choices but there are pockets of areas particularly well suited to catering for gluten free. The best known areas are Dublin, Cork, Belfast and Londonderry, which are also the largest cities. Kerry on the South West coast also has a wide range of establishments offering gluten free. The key thing is, gluten free is well catered for with sophisticated hotels and a large tourist trade so chefs are used to catering for a wide range of diets. Now it’s true, not every venue that advertises gluten free is operating a completely gluten free kitchen and staff knowledge varies from kitchen to table so sensible precautions must always be taken. The main thing is to enjoy your holiday – choose what you want to see and do first. These after all will be your main reason for visiting.
The two big tourist destination websites are www.discoverireland.com (for Ireland) and www.discovernorthernireland.com (for Northern Ireland). From here you can search events, landmarks and tours.
- Identify which county you’ll be staying in. (The map on the right will help). You can also find a list of airports, ports and other transit points here.
- Find a gluten free hotel in your chosen county. Use our search for gluten free accommodation by choosing your county and accommodation type. You can also download the entire database as a PDF or eBook for free when you subscribe to our mailing list. The printed guide book is also available on Amazon but the website will give you the most up to date listings.
With your list of gluten free hotel results, have a look through their options and choose your top 3 or 4 based on your own criteria. (Don’t worry about food at this stage). The links in the results will take you to the hotel website or Booking.com where you can see prices and room photographs. Personally I look at price first, location and room styles. Free parking is also good, especially in the centre of the cities.
- Next check the menus, are they up to date? Most hotels publish their menus and many will have several, one from each of their restaurants, bars or room service. This is an area to look closer; each eatery inside the hotel might be managed separately, i.e. the restaurant will have its’ own staff while the bar is run by the hotel staff. They could all be “hotel staff” but be managed quite independently so gluten free options in the restaurant may not guarantee gluten free options in the bar or room service menu. Also check the opening times, these can be vital if only the restaurant has gluten free options but closes at 9pm and you’re arriving at 10pm after a long day of travelling.
- Ask on social media. Our Facebook and Twitter communities are very active with people discussing everything gluten free. They’re a very friendly helpful bunch and will assist you with queries on where to stay or eat out. Pop onto our pages and tell us where you’re going and when and someone will be able to help. Hundreds of the venues in our database come from suggestions by our community so it’s a great resource, especially when you can talk directly to the people who have built it.
There are also a few great blogs out there with venue reviews, written by Coeliacs travelling to and living in Ireland. A list is at the bottom of this post.
- The next search is for restaurants close to the hotel. If the hotel has limited options, menus have changed in the time since you booked or you simply don’t want to be confined to the hotel three times a day, then it’s important to have a local list of nearby restaurants. Using our restaurant search you can find a range of venues by county or search by town name and print yourself a handy list. The same criteria applies to checking the menus of the restaurants as the hotels but with a list of options you won’t be stuck.
- Lastly, look for shops who offer gluten free. The major supermarkets all stock gluten free foods to varying degrees of quality with many of the smaller stores also stocking breads and fillers. These can be a great source for packed lunches where tours may not have allowed for gluten free dining. They’re also handy for snacks, car trips and emergency rations. The biggest supermarkets are Sainsburys, Tesco, Marks & Spencer Food Halls, Dunnes Stores, Aldi and Asda. Lidl also offer gluten free products and can be typically found on the outskirts of towns. Most of these can be found on Google Maps.
- One last note – enjoy yourself! There are endless things to see and do throughout Ireland and food is a tremendous part of any holiday so make sure you’re prepared with a range of venue options and you’ll be well on your way to enjoying a great holiday on the Emerald Isle. Also say hello when you’re here – let us know how you’re enjoying yourself or if you need some assistance while you’re here via Facebook or Twitter. Every review and comment helps fellow gluten-frees enjoy their stay that little bit more.
Some Gluten Free blogs worth checking out:
Major Events for 2016:
- Northern Ireland Year of Food & Drink
- Ballycastle Gluten Free Open Day 2016 (A Gluten Free Ireland event)
- Free From Ireland Show
Dublin: Croke Park, 15th & 16th of October
Cork: City Hall5th & 6th November
If you have visited Ireland before or are planning on coming, tell us about your trip below.