County Kerry is home to Ireland’s most iconic scenery of rugged coastlines and mountains, lakes surrounded by rolling hills, and endless emerald green farmlands. Three full days here will provide you with ample time to get a taste of the region and experience Killarney National Park, Gleninchaquin Park, Ross Castle and the infamous Ring of Kerry.
Though it will leave you wishing you had more time to indulge in the striking scenery and explore areas like Dingle, Inch Beach and The Gap of Dunloe. If time is on your side then I would recommend spending five days soaking up the exquisite beauty that this county has to offer.
Where to stay?
Positioned as one of the most popular tourist destinations in Ireland, Kerry has countless accommodation options ranging from bed and breakfasts in manor houses to five star hotels.
Sheen Falls Lodge: Outstanding Service and Breath taking Views
Perfectly situated on the Wild Atlantic Way between the Ring of Kerry and the Ring of Beara, 5 minutes away from the quaint and colourful town, Kenmare, and 15 minutes from the idyllic privately owned Gleninchaquin Park, this five star Relais Chateaux hotel provides the perfect location to explore the untamed beauty of the South West.
Set within a 300-acre estate, and surrounded by woodlands and cascading waterfalls, this seventeenth century former marquis-fishing lodge is exemplary of outstanding Irish hospitality, tasteful décor, fine dining and beautiful rooms. But what makes Sheen Falls Lodge truly unique is the exceptional warmth and friendliness of the staff. Every person we engaged with at the hotel went the extra mile to help us plan our stay, find the perfect whisky to taste in their bar, and even make me fresh green juice every morning even though it was not on the menu.
The design of the hotel is based on an Irish Manor House, with traditional furnishings, dark wood, and a dark green carpet running throughout the hotel; balanced with some fresh touches including the striking impressionist al fresco painting on the wall of the reception.
Each of the 66 rooms over look the Bay of Kenmare, providing relaxing vistas and a tranquil ambience. The suits are large yet warm and are a great option as the living room and bedroom are separated; perfect for relaxing after a hike. The bed is exceptionally large and made incredibly comfortable with the cushioning of the mattress topper. In keeping with the spa products all bath products are from the Elemis range. My only disappointment was there was no kettle in the room, though for coffee lovers a Nespresso machine is in every room.
The Sheen Falls restaurant is the masterpiece of the hotel. Art-deco inspired, with long windows overlooking the Sheen Falls, buttoned back chairs, and a grand piano provides a wonderful ambience for a special romantic dinner. To my delight the restaurant has a formal vegetarian menu as well as an informal menu with few vegetarian options; marked against a comprehensive list of allergies from celery to lupin.
The summer pea and wild garlic soup is a must, warm and powerful bringing out the flavours of the fresh peas. The chickpea and vegetable spring rolls were beautifully presented in a bed of roast spiced eggplant caviar, seasoned vegetables and a 12 year old balsamic vinegar. Deserts are classic and well balanced with hints of innovation. The classic crème brule was served with passion fruit, mango sorbet and popping chocolate candy.
Sheen Falls Lodge is the type place I will certainly be going back to, it has a finesse that is in keeping with Relais Chateaux standards and provides unparalleled views of Kenmare Bay and Sheen Falls that will leave you relaxed for weeks to come.
Muckross Park Hotel: Luxury in the heart of Killarney National Park
Whilst I prefer the less touristy Gleninchaquin Park, with 25,000 acres of lakes, mountains and rivers, Killarney National Park is a must on any trip to County Kerry. Muckross Park Hotel, dating 1795 is in the very heart of the National Park, providing a perfect location whilst you explore the rugged mountains that sweep down into the beautiful lake shores.
The rather gaudy and dated ambience in the lobby and reception of the hotel contrast the extremely modern bedrooms, which have soft grey carpet, large silver mirrors and lamps, huge beds and luxurious bath products from Orla Kiely. The bathroom is incredibly large but unfortunately poorly designed leaving large amounts of space unused and important features like the sink hidden behind the door.
The award-winning Spa is truly unique and is much needed after long walks in the national park. The large vitality pool with back and leg jets, thermal room, foot spa area and outdoor hot tub will leave you feeling well rested and rejuvenated. Book your treatments in early as the spa tends to be quite busy. I tried a facial at the spa and found it mainly focused on the surface of my skin and did not provide the deep cleansing facial that I was looking for. Nevertheless I came out of the spa radiant, glowing and relaxed.
A highlight of our stay was dining at the Yew Tree restaurant in the original Victorian reception room of the hotel. Warm, traditional and tastefully decorated, the ambiance provides a delightful backdrop for carefully curated dishes.
I devoured the delicate lemon ricotta in the asparagus veloute with fresh peas and baby herbs. The roast pepper polenta with pomegranate, chickpeas, spring onions and tapenade dressing was bursting with flavour and light enough to leave room for desert. The pistachio olive oil cake served with roast strawberries, rhubarb sorbet and rosewater is rich, decadent and nicely balanced with the rhubarb.
Most tourists who come to Ireland want to experience an Irish pub in its fullest form – Guinness, live music and live dancing. Muckross Park Hotel have their very own pub called Jarvey’s. Whilst the food is similar to what you might get in most pubs for vegetarians – soups, sandwiches, pasta and tarts, the atmosphere is vibrant and rustic with wooden floors, stonewalls, fire places and beamed ceilings. The live music on selected evening is certainly worth going to experience and if your lucky you might just get called up to try Irish dancing.