The Kerry way

KERRY has always been a family favourite of the O’Riordan clan, but we’d never stayed in Kenmare before — just passed through.

That all changed when we made the four-star Kenmare Bay Hotel & Resort our base for a weekend.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

The hotel, despite being built in 1971, doesn’t look its age. It’s obviously modernised with the times and has added 14 luxurious lodges, one of which we stayed in. From the outside they looked small: a massive deception as we discovered when we entered ours.

THE LODGE

It was exquisitely decked out, ultra modern and just yards from the main hotel itself.

As most parents of teenage children will testify, their offspring’s idea of a break can be at odds with their own middle-aged tastes.

This certainly wasn’t the case in the lodge, where they had plenty to entertain themselves.

For a start, the lodge gave them the privacy and space they required and they took to it like ducks to water.

It was just like the family home, so everybody fell into it with ease — especially with widescreen TVs, wi-fi etc and big, comfy chairs.

There were king-sized beds, en suites, spacious sitting and dining rooms and a massive private garden at the rear which on a fine day would be ideal for a barbecue, especially if you had some friends dropping by.

The lodges can sleep, they say, up to seven people. Well, I could have put an entire clan in it and I can assure you none of them would have complained, even if they had to doze off on the pristine floors.

Lodge residents also get a 10% discount on food and drink in the hotel, which is a great offer if you don’t feel like slaving over a hot stove.

AMENITIES

The hotel itself has 84 standard guest rooms, 42 superior rooms and two bridal suites. I got to see some of them and they were spacious and luxurious. It also has 18 holiday homes, by the way.

I can see why it was voted one of the top 10 family hotels in Ireland for the past two years by 4kids.ie and also tops the wedding venue list.

I met a blushing bride and she was singing its praises to anyone who’d listen. The hotel offers great packages for weddings, she assured me — and can cater for up to 350 guests.

It’s a great kids’ club for the smallies and outdoor camps for the 6-15 year-olds, as some younger parents testified.

We all loved the 20-metre indoor pool as my children are capable swimmers. There’s also a kids’ pool if you’ve smallies. Grown-ups can immerse themselves in the sauna, jacuzzi and steam room.

For the ladies there’s the Renew Beauty Rejuvenation Suites and there’s also a fully-equipped gym.

Unfortunately I have a 14-year-old boy who isn’t into kids’ clubs — unless they’re full of young fellas who want to play ‘hard hurling all day’. I also have a daughter who is on the verge of becoming an adult and they used the pool as often as they could and were very happy with it.

However, they didn’t mind the slight gap when it came to their age group entertainment. They just did it for themselves. Also, in fairness to the hotel staff were at pains to recommend some local outdoor treats, which the kids were delighted with.

THE FOOD

We had dinner in the hotel’s Bay Restaurant that night which was right up there with the best we’ve had anywhere.

We all had steaks, cooked for different palates: well done, medium and medium-rare. Each was spot on and the staff were extremely attentive.

Later we had a drink in Ryan’s bar where my sports-loving family were able to watch a live rugby match. Even in the round-ball Kingdom they warm to the oval one.

I was told by some local young, friendly rugger-hugger types they were preparing to head to the hotel’s Vibe Nightclub and it was “great craic”.

I declined due to old age and old injuries, but could see my children would have jumped at the chance if they could produce appropriate Garda ID.

WHAT TO DO

The hotel staff were very keen to see that my teenagers enjoyed themselves in Kenmare, so they recommended Dromquinna Horse Riding Stables. I declined — again citing old rugby injuries — instead heading out into the beautiful countryside for a drive.

When I came back my wife and children were full of praise for the owners for the way they handled them — and the horses.

It’s little wonder then that royalty from a number of different European countries have left their offsprings saddle up at Dromquinna, which is only a couple of miles from the hotel.

By the way they cater for children 5-plus and do specific camp hours for youngsters which are very popular.

Be advised, such is the popularity of this place that riding lessons should be pre-booked.

Dad was back, just in time to get them to shower in the hotel and down to the pier for the Seafari.

This is a must for anyone of any age. But, as a tip, make sure you bring binoculars, a camera or camcorder, because if you don’t you’ll lose out on important memories.

You can see eagles, sea otters, dolphins, seals and a myriad of wildlife on one of these cruises, even if the weather is typically a ‘soft day’. (That’s raining cats and dogs to Americans.)

But even if it’s as dark as the far side of the moon and you see only some of the above mentioned species, the 65-ft Department of the Marine-approved boat’s skipper, Raymond Ross, will keep you so entertained with jokes and songs you’ll enjoy every minute of it.

It’s value for money in the high season, even on the most misty and windswept day.

He will take you out to of the largest seal colonies in the country, with over 300 dads, mums and pups to observe in their natural habitat.

There are also 30 different species of birds, apart from the eagles you can see, plus the ruins of old castles and he’ll tell how the Ice Age influenced and shaped Kenmare Bay.

The ship is also wheelchair-accessible.

The cruise depends on the weather and tides and normally varies between six and 10 miles and it lasts approximately two to three hours in the low season and two hours in the high season. In July/Aug it’s advisable that you book in advance.

If you want a family holiday with teenage children in The Kingdom then, from my experience, I’d recommend Kenmare.

We’ve been all over Kerry as a family, especially when the children were younger: but our older family have voted Kenmare No 1.

THE BOTTOM LINE

An October mid-term family mid-week break costs €238 for two adults plus two kids under 12 sharing for two nights’ B&B and one dinner.

The Kenmare Bay Hotel is part of Select Hotels. For further details on any of Select Hotels 25 hotels, see www.selecthotels.ie

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