From chocolate workshops to horse riding, Kenmare is one of Ireland’s best holiday destinations for children, writes Vickie Maye.
KENMARE has been our go-to for a family break many times now. Glamping in Dromquinna — the stunning high end waterside camping option (the brainchild of The Park Hotel
and RTE’s At Your Service host, John Brennan) — was one of our favourite holidays.
Breakfast is delivered in a wicker basket each morning, with barbecues and smores in the evenings.
There was another break in the Sheen Falls and a day out at Seafari for kayaking and water activities for the older kids — the younger ones were content with a sea cruise spotting seals.
Those were just two of our Kenmare highlights.
On every holiday we spent leisurely evenings pottering around the beautiful Kenmare town, always sampling the local ice cream parlour.
There were always pancakes at Pancake Cottage near Molls Gap — a must for any family with its toadstool seats and countryside vista.
So when we returned this time, we thought we had covered all bases in Kenmare and the surrounds.
It turned out we had only tipped the iceberg.
This time our base was the Sheen Falls Country Club.
We stayed at the Mountain View holiday homes. Across the road from the Sheen Falls Lodge, these holiday homes and the ones in the nearby courtyard are run independently by the Gleneagle group.
Security gates allow access to the Mountain View properties. Ours was a very large open plan four bedroomed house.
Each room had three large double beds — no box rooms here — and one of the rooms had bunk beds with the double. (Even with all that that bedroom still felt spacious it was so big.)
The large kitchen/dining room/living room — beautifully decorated and with mod cons
like a built-in coffee machine — was open plan but was compartmentalised enough to give the feeling of privacy.
This house, we agreed, would ideally suit two families holidaying together.
The garden was another highlight — a patio table and chairs in a sun trap with a large garden beyond it for the kids to explore.
This was luxury.
The Courtyard properties are smaller — but newly decorated, they too are high spec.
There are already swings and slides in the courtyard inside, with plans for a communal barbecue and sand pit.
On night one, it was a drive to the town and Kenmare Ice Cream. No visit is complete without it.
The next morning we had booked a visit to Lorge, a chocolatier in Bonane, just 10 minutes from the Sheen Falls.
Benoit Lorge, formerly the pastry chef at The Sheen Falls, supplies his high-end chocolate
to specialist shops across the country from Avoca to Fallon & Byrne.
He also runs chocolate workshops — truly, he’s Kenmare’s Willy Wonka.
Benoit managed that incredible feat of entertaining kids from young to old — his minimum age for workshops is around 5 or 6, and my six-year-old was every bit as entranced as the 11-year-old. And the adults in the room for that matter. (Benoit also has workshops for corporate groups and hen parties.)
We saw cocoa pods, cocoa beans, and mixed chocolate to make sure it was 28 degrees. Well-tempered chocolate, Benoit explained, will have a smooth, glossy finish and a firm snap. Poorly tempered chocolate is often mottled or pale, with a soft, sometimes grainy, crumbling texture.
We learned about the three different types of chocolate — and how the sugar-laden white is the unhealthiest.
We filled moulds for chocolate lollipops and left with goody bags full of our very own chocolate.
Staying at the Mountain View properties gave us access to the pool at the Sheen Falls so there was a swim there, followed by a walk on the stunning grounds overlooking the waterfall. There we stumbled across the stables and took the kids horse riding along the country lanes surrounding the hotel.
The next day wasn’t quite the same success story. We attempted to get a boat to Skellig Michael to sate the 11-year-old’s Star Wars fascination. The seas were too rough for my mini crew and we had to turn back — though after seeing that rock luring us on the horizon, it’s on the grown-ups’ to do list now, one for an adults only return trip.
Meanwhile a trip to Garnish Island and its seals a few weeks later helped the smallies regain their sea legs.
Another summer, another holiday in Kenmare over. Who knows, we thought as we left, what we’ll discover on our next trip.
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