The ideal destination for a (golden) girls weekend away in Kerry

The Pink Lounge Gin & Champagne Bar

Esther N McCarthy discovers a chic and charming Killarney hotel, with cool cocktails thrown in for good measure.

A girls’ weekend away, when the participants are, in terms of TV shows, more The Golden Girls than Lena Dunham’s cool Girls, becomes all about comfort, convenience... and cocktails. Lots of cocktails. It’s gotta be The Ross Hotel, Killarney.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

The Ross Hotel knows how to make an impression, whether it’s your very first visit or you’ve a frequent fan. I must say, I think this is the first time I’ve entered the lobby in daylight hours.

All other visits involved tripping in with a gaggle of gals in a flurry of high heels and way too much perfume to hit the cocktail bar.

In the light of day, it’s even more impressive. Once we get past the plethora of awards outside the hotel, including Best Hotel in Ireland 2017 from the McKenna’s Guide, we’re embraced in the cool chic buzz of the place.

There’s a fascinating mix of materials here, cool polished surfaces, with high-end soft furnishings, traditional wood partnered with natural stonework, and the effect is mesmerising.

Rich velvets, luxe leather, shimmering wallpaper, smart lighting, cool chandeliers, brimming bookshelves, fresh flowers, interesting artwork — there are bursts of colour everywhere.

There’s a roaring fire in a sleek uber-modern fireplace, and, most importantly of all, a wonderful, genuine welcoming smiles from Ciara and Elaine behind the front desk.

THE ROOM

We have a stylish triple room decked out in all the luxuries one would imagine in a four star boutique hotel.

There are 29 rooms and suites in The Ross, and our one is pure perfection. We have a Nespresso machine, which we put to very good use, and the roomy bathroom is kitted out with high-end Elemis goodies. The decor is funky, but well thought out, the striped cushions picking up the turquoise in the flock wallpaper.

Mirrored side tables, perfect pop art on the walls and crucially, for the three of us overpackers, plenty of wardrobe space.

THE FOOD

We head down to Cellar One, the hotel’s restaurant, where, fittingly we pass a framed print of an Andy Warhol quote: “But I always say, one’s company, two’s a crowd, and three’s a party.”

There’s also a residents’ Sweetie Corner outside the lift with glass jars filled with LoveHearts and traditional boiled sweets. It’s like they saw inside our souls.

The food in Cellar One is exceptional. Perfectly presented local produce prepared by head chef Ian McMonagle, served by super friendly staff who know the menu backwards.

We start with the Ryan Reynolds gin special, an Aviation Gin served with 1783 Crisp Tonic, fresh orange, and lime. The Ross are serious about their gin, they stock over 70 and they even have their very own brand, The Ross Gin, designed by the talented Patrick McGrath and his team.

Top tip: Do not visit Killarney, nay Kerry, without trying out the Pink Lounge Gin and Champagne bar.

Back to the food, highlights include the sublime sautéed scallops, grilled flatcap mushrooms and goat’s cheese bruschetta — the onion marmalade that accompanies it is to die for — as are the blue agave tequila prawns. The star of the show is the knickerbocker glory for dessert. Totally worth the billion calories.

The two-course set menu is €32, three courses €40, the portions are generous and the atmosphere in this family-run establishment (it’s been run by the Treacy family since 1938) is fun, friendly and relaxed.

The breakfast boasts a buffet the likes of which I’ve rarely seen. Homemade scones, muffins, and pastries, Kate’s incredible homemade granola, fresh fruit salad, local Killarney honey for your porridge, mixed berry compote, even a full Irish cheese plate, if that’s your thing of a morning. It has to be experienced to be believed. The cooked offers include extra special touches like a cholesterol-free omelette, with pancetta and slow-roasted plum tomatoes, grilled kippers, a pancake stack with maple syrup, as well as the more traditional dishes like the full Irish and smoked Irish salmon.

THE AMENITIES

The Pink Lounge runs cocktail classes which are genuinely fascinating — you’ll appreciate that G&T so much more afterwards.

If you fancy a spa treatment, head over to The Killarney Park hotel across the road. The live piano playing sets the scene. It’s a beautiful space and I would highly recommend the deep tissue massage with Justina. (www.killarneyparkhotel.ie)

The Ross is so central, it’s definitely worth taking a stroll up the town. You’ll find indigenous gems like The Irish Pub shop and art gallery, where you’ll find puffin cushion covers by Julian Friers. Visit theirishpubshop.com.

WHAT TO DO

There’s so much to do in Killarney, and having the luxury of two days means we get to cross one special thing off our bucket list — a jarvey ride through the national park, which is right opposite the hotel.

Cal picks us up, settles us in to his carriage, makes sure we have enough blankets and introduces us to Queenie — she’s five years old, three-quarters Irish Draught horse and one quarter Clydesdale, and she is a beauty.

Cal is a character, he guides us over the brown trout-filled Deenagh river, past the yew trees and the ancient native oaks, pointing out the native red deer and the Japanese Sika deer which were introduced in 1865. He draws our attention to a little green leprechaun house too, until we remind him we’re from Cork boy, not America.

Queenie trots us past Muckross House and on past Innisfallen Island, and stops for a rest at Lough Leane, leaving us to stretch our legs around the glorious 15th century Ross Castle. I was delighted to discover it was, for a short time in 1580, owned by the MacCarthy Mór clan. Up the Macs.

THE BOTTOM LINE

The Ross have a St. Patrick’s Day package, two nights bed and breakfast on March 16 and 17 for €230 per person. For this and other offers, see www.theross.ie.

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