Planning a staycation? From accommodation to food, sight-seeing to spas, Ciara McDonnell has the lowdown on a short break in Kerry.
Why should I go there?
From sprawling mountain ranges to rugged coastlines and worldclass beaches, a visit to Co Kerry means harnessing the wild beauty of the whole country and distilling it into one majestic county.
Do I need a car or can I get by with public transport?
There are great links to the main towns of Kerry via rail and bus, and Kerry airport offers international and national arrivals and departures, but in order to really get under the skin of Kerry, you need transport of your own. Rent a car, or if you are travelling in a group, try a mini bus.
What should I take in on my trip?
Kerry is a playground for the outdoorsy types and boasts Ireland’s highest mountain Carrauntoohil, the lakes of Killarney and hundreds of kilometres of stunning beaches, cliffs and headland walks. It would be a crime to visit Kerry and ignore the 179km drive around the Ring of Kerry. Stretching southwest from Killarney, this drive takes in lakes, beaches, walks, and forests — quite simply some of the most stunning scenery across the country.
The ring takes in the beautiful town of Kenmare, home to some of the best eating and sleeping the county has to offer, so if you have a few days to spare, make this one of your stops.
From the Ring of Kerry visit the Gap of Dunloe and Moll’s Gap before heading west to the Dingle Peninsula and surely some of the most welcoming pints of your trip.
So, where do I sleep?
Kerry is chockfull of luxury hotels, if this is what appeals to you. Aghadoe Heights overlooks the Lakes of Killarney offers personalised luxury at the highest of levels. Expect the barman to remember that you like a twist of lime instead of lemon in your G&T. If you are on a budget, the Lake Hotel in Killarney offers great value across the board.
It caters to families well, and while it’s not kitted out with all mod cons, most rooms have a balcony that look directly over a lake.
In Tralee, check out Ballygarry House Hotel and Spa. Kenmare is full of great places to stay, and the Park Hotel Kenmare remains the last word in ultra fabulous. If you crave old school manners and linen tablecloths, then this is your only choice. At the other end of the scale, glamping at Dromquinn Manor will mean the same attention to detail (like the Park Kenmare, it is owned by Francis and John Brennan) at a fraction of the price.
While in Dingle, the Dingle Skellig is still considered the tip top choice for travellers, but it’s worth investigating the huge amount of B&Bs for a more cost-effective option, and if staying more than a night then check out the plethora of self-catering options in the area. They are varied and mostly fantastic.
I like to eat nice things. Is there anywhere I shouldn’t miss?
Eating in Kerry is rarely bad; like Cork it capitalises on making local ingredients shine, so expect great produce, prepared simply. However, there are a few restaurants across the county, which are offering really exciting plates at very reasonable prices.
In Killarney, Bricín offers extremely traditional food, delivered to the highest standard. This venture from brothers Johnny and Paddy McGuire is over 20 years old, and is an integral part of the Killarney food scene.
If you are staying in town and want to eat well on a budget then check out Cucina Italiana. While walking Moll’s Gap be sure to stop at Pancake Cottage where, for over 20 years husband and wife team Peter and Margaret Kerssens have been serving up delicious pancakes to hungry walkers.
Nick’s Seafood in Killorglin is one of the most famous restaurants in Kerry, and is still thriving. Choose from the luxe a la carte menu in the restaurant or the more relaxed menu in the bar.
Stop by the Breadcrumb Café in Kenmare for some sourdough that has to be tasted to be believed and round up your trip with a visit to Out Of The Blue in Dingle, where the menu changes daily depending on the fisherman’s catch, and where fish is the only thing on the menu.
I heard that Kerry is a haven for spa hotels
Oh yes. While in Kerry it is difficult to drive more than 15km without coming across a five-star spa resort. Positively brimming with Zen, if you want to go to embark on a weekend of scrubbing and slathering and wrapping, then there is quite simply no better place.
Most of the spas in Kerry are extremely high end, but I would recommend The Europe, Muckross Park, Aghadoe Heights and The Brehon. It would be extremely hard to put a foot wrong when it comes to choosing a spa resort in this neck of the woods.
What will the guidebooks not tell me about travelling in Kerry?
Ensure that you travel to the beaches with food and warm clothes, so that you can sit and watch the sun set on the most south-western tip of the country. If you get to Inch, head the few minutes up towards Annascaul where the Antarctic Explorer Tom Crean hails from.
Allow yourself to be swayed by the reviews of your fellow travellers, or to follow the recommendation of a person who works in a local shop – these are the experiences that will make your trip memorable.
* All pictures Fáilte Ireland
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