Baby on board

BABYMOONS, I once told myself, were so Celtic Tiger.

A pre-baby mini-break, your last hurrah before the birth of your child, before life as you know it disappears forever. Really, who needs all that in these recessionary times?

Me, as it turns out.

I sneered at the concept — until I found myself nine months pregnant with my second child, tired and aching. So off I set with my five-year-old for two nights in Killarney, and a chance to put my feet up, eat well, sleep soundly.

THE HOTEL

We stayed at The Europe, the perfect base to see all that Killarney has to offer. Think five star trappings complete with lakeside views — and all just a short drive from the town centre. The hotel, reopening on Apr 6, has just been refurbished too. All 187 bedrooms have a brand new, sleek and modern look, as has the Panorama restaurant, overlooking Lough Lein.

The Europe is an ideal babymoon haven, given that it offers tailored spa experiences for mums to be. More on that later.

The hotel ticked all the right boxes. Spacious rooms, sumptuous dining, undisturbed views — but it was the stunning foyer that became our cosy hideaway, all open fires and couches to sink into.

THE AMENITIES

I savoured every second of the prenatal massage. The holistic ESPA treatments combine traditional European and Eastern Philosophies. Theraptists take into account of all contraindications, avoiding the use of essential oils, opting instead for calendula-infused oil, pink clay mud and nourishing creams, all applied to safe areas. It left the skin toned — and me totally relaxed. It’s a little luxury every mum-to-be should enjoy.

I stayed clear of the vitality suite, the safer option for pregnant women on account of the heat from saunas and steam rooms, but took full advantage of the relaxation room afterwards. Bliss.

THE FOOD

We ate in the Europe’s child-friendly Brasserie on the first night. There’s also the option of the terrace for al fresco dining. It’s open daily from 11am to 11pm, serving everything from light snacks to steaks, cooked right before you on an open grill. The all-new Panorama restaurant has, as the name suggests, views to die for. Our buffet breakfast there was all you’d expect of a five star hotel and more. Breakfast is served from 7am to 10.30am and dinner from 7pm to 9.30pm, excluding Sundays.

Venturing into town on the second evening we tried the cosy Stonechat Café (High Street, Killarney, 064 66 34295). Hidden down a laneway, this stone-fronted eatery was quite a find. I tried the Morroccan-style Monkfish for €23.95 served with cardamom rice and tomato salsa. So good I’m already planning my return visit. The service was nothing short of perfection — friendly without intrusion and more than happy to help distract a giddy five year old.

WHAT TO DO

It’s Killarney. Where to start?

Night owls will be spoilt for choice in the town’s pubs and restaurants. But this was a babymoon.

The bars weren’t an option, so we busied ourselves by day with a relaxing stroll around Killarney National Park — all woodlands, waterfalls and lakes. Torc Waterfall is a must-see and not too taxing a walk for a pregnant woman. For a more strenuous tour of the area touch base with Outdoors Ireland for organised walks — see www.outdoorsireland.com.

But really, there’s no need to leave the hotel grounds. Located on the shores of Killarney’s Lough Lein, the views are nothing short of spectacular. We passed hours after breakfast strolling around the beautiful gardens, right down to the water.

Later, my child rode a horse for the first time at the hotel. It’s famed for its Austrian Haflinger Ponies, which can be seen grazing in the hotel grounds. Guests can enjoy complimentary horseriding along sheltered bridleways. The staff were patient and encouraging and my daughter has been asking for horse riding lessons ever since.

Fishing on the lake at The Europe can be arranged from the hotel’s own private pier and the approximate cost is €85 per boat for two hours of fishing, with all equipment/tackle and tuition provided. Boat trips can also be arranged for groups of up to 12 people per boat.

For the golfers, Killarney Golf & Fishing Club is adjacent to the hotel, with Ross, Dunloe and Beaufort clubs close by.

Something for everyone then.

See www.discoverireland.ie/kerry for more local activities.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Bed and breakfast at the Europe starts at €175ppsh for the golfside rooms and €195ppsh for the Lakeside rooms from April to September. See www.theeurope.com or call 064 6671300.

The Europe is also offering complimentary upgrades to its Lakeview rooms to anyone staying at the hotel on any of the following dates: April 15, 16, 17 or 18.

ANYTHING TO ADD

Mums to be — don’t question the concept of a babymoon. Just take one. You know you’ve earned it.

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