Ard na Sidhe Country House, Co. Kerry, Ireland
With a name that translates as “hill of the fairies”, it’s no surprise that Ard na Sidhe is a magical eden. Built in 1913 for Lady Gordon, the 18-bed property feels more like a family home than a four-star hotel. The property stands on the edge of tranquil Caragh Lake, and is escapism of the highest order. Rambling gardens are dotted with toadstools and a fairy fort, antique telephones decorate the hall, and high-speed gadgetry is replaced by roaring fires, Irish coffee and picture books.
If you’re new to this part of the world, the ring of Kerry and Killarney National park are close by and are must-sees. The best way to explore is by traditional pony and trap, which will take you through the mountains at a leisurely clip, so you can watch the scenery unfold before you. If you’re lucky, the driver might treat you to some of his horse whispering (or more like shouting). They seem to have their own special language that only the ponies understand, and which can be heard echoing around the mountains.
If you prefer to stay closer to home, there’s fishing, fairy spotting, or boating on the lake. The hotel can even whip up a picnic basket to take with you. Though, this being Ireland, you’ll likely come in for a downpour, so pack accordingly. The hotel restaurant places strong emphasis on local seafood – we tried Kerry Coast smoked salmon, Atlantic turbot in a champagne and fig sauce and Dingle Bay seafood linguine – which was made infinitely more enjoyable from a cosy corner with a view of the water.
The damage: A standard double in the Garden House starts at 170 Euros per room per night, including all taxes, service charge and a full breakfast.
Come here for: Traditional Irish hospitality, fresh seafood, total escapism.
Foodie diversion: The Brasserie restaurant at the five-star Europe Hotel serves succulent Irish steaks and Atlantic seafood in a chic setting with stunning views out over the lake. The Europe Hotel & Resort, Fossa, Killarney, Co Kerry, Ireland Tel: + 353 (0) 64 667 1300, www.theeurope.com. Bricin – a wood-panelled restaurant above a craft shop, run by a husband-and-wife team – serves fresh local seafood, Kerry lamb and traditional Kerry “boxty” (Irish potato pancakes filled with meat and vegetables). Bricin, 26 High St, Killarney, County Kerry, tel + 353 (0) 64 34902, www.bricin.com.
Review by Katie Monk. Photos by Katie Monk and Killarney Hotels