Belfast Telegraph

Magical Killarney: Welcome to the Kingdom

The gem in Kerry's crown must be seen to be believed.

By Geoff Frazer

Some Irish hotels boast about their large gardens while some make a song and dance about having a lake in their grounds.

But the five-star Muckross Park Hotel and Spa doesn’t need to make a big deal about its scenic credentials.

When it unassumingly says it’s located in the heart of Killarney National Park, it quite simply lets the magnificent Co Kerry countryside do the talking.

For any Northern Irish people unfamiliar with the area, south and west of the town of Killarney is a vast expanse of rugged mountainous country.

This includes the McGillycuddy’s Reeks, the highest  mountain range in Ireland which rise to a height of 1038 metres (188 metres higher than Slieve Donard).

At the foot of these mountains nestle the world famous lakes of Killarney. Here, where the mountains sweep down to the lake shores, their lower slopes covered in woodlands, lies the 26,000-acre Killarney National Park.

The combination of mountains, lakes, woods and the famous Torc Waterfall gives the area a breathtaking level of beauty.

The focal point of the National Park for visitors is Muckross House and Gardens which is right on the hotel’s doorstep.

The house, a late 19th century mansion featuring all the necessary furnishings and artefacts of the period, is a major tourist attraction and is definitely worth a visit — but to be honest it’s Mother Nature who provides the most impressive sights, especially when seen from the back of one Killarney’s traditional jaunting cars (horse and traps).

There’s no denying Killarney is quite a drive from the north — allow yourself around five hours if you are leaving from Belfast — but trust me, it is worth the effort. After that long journey you really couldn’t receive a better welcome than the one offered at the Muckross Park Hotel.

Once you check in you will quickly see why the hotel is listed in the McKenna Guide’s 100 Best Places to Stay in Ireland and has won the Traveller’s Choice Award Top 20 Luxury Hotels in Ireland 2018 from TripAdvisor and the Golfer’s Guide to Ireland Best Boutique Golf Hotel 2018.

The 70-bedroom hotel dates back to 1795 and past guests have included Queen Victoria and George Bernard Shaw.

My family and I were lucky enough to spend two days in one of their self-catering apartments which are ideal if you have children. Each apartment can accommodate up to five guests and all bedrooms can be made up as either a double or twin room.

Apartments have free wi-fi internet, a living/dining room, kitchen with oven, hob and microwave.

There is a large TV and bed linen, utensils and towels are supplied. They really are a home from home — with a much better breakfast of course.

Speaking of food, we were lucky enough to enjoy an evening of fine dining at the hotel’s famous Yew Tree restaurant. It has 2 AA Rosettes for culinary excellence and is a recent Hotel & Catering Gold Medal Award winner for Best Restaurant on the Wild Atlantic Way.

To say the food was amazing is to actually do it a disservice.

We sampled several dishes with my choice of pork belly with baby vegetables, apple and Alsace bacon and the beef fillet with Jacobs ladder rosti, celeriac puree, braised shallot and red wine sauce rating among the best I have ever tasted.

Perhaps more importantly though was the level of service we received during the meal.

As all parents know, it’s never easy keeping a three-year-old on a chair long enough to eat a meal — plus they never pay their share when you’re dividing up the bill afterwards.

But restaurant manager Zsolt was truly wonderful, keeping my little boy entertained and bringing him some special treats throughout the evening.

He has my eternal thanks for helping to make the whole experience so memorable and stress-free.

I didn’t try the award-winning spa at the hotel — to be honest no one ever needs to see a body like mine in a jacuzzi.

But I have friends who have stayed at the hotel in the past and have raved about the herbal sauna, steam room, tropical rain shower and heated loungers as well as the outdoor hot tub, which is set in its own gardens beside a river.

Anyone who wants a pint or two after a long walk in the park should definitely head to the hotel’s adjoining pub.

 Major Colgan’s features Irish music and dancing on a number of nights and while not quite as fancy at the Yew Tree,  the food is top class too.

Travel factfile

Escape for two nights to Muckross Park Hotel & Spa this autumn and stay in a deluxe bedroom.

During your time at the hotel, dine in Yew Tree Restaurant with a two-course dinner served with tea/coffee and chef’s appetizer.

A relaxing full breakfast is included on both mornings with a wide menu selection, buffet and complimentary newspaper.

Stay midweek in September for €250 per person sharing or October/November for €200 per person sharing.

For more information, go to www.muckrosspark.com or contact reservations@muckrosspark.com or 0035364 6623400.

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