Going the distance

George Bernard Shaw loved Parknasilla. And Marie Toft isn’t one bit surprised.

GEORGE Bernard Shaw wrote “This place does not belong to any world that you and I have ever worked or lived in... it is a part of our dream world.”

Shaw was utterly captivated by the Parknasilla resort when he arrived to stay in 1909 and having spent a weekend break there, it’s easy to understand why. The Nobel prize winning playwright was one of several luminaries who have stayed at the Kerry retreat, including Princess Grace and Prince Rainier and film stars Charlie Chaplin and Oliver Reed. Situated on a small inlet on Kenmare Bay, it feels like a world apart.


But of course, if you’re in the wilds of Kerry, it generally means you have to drive a long distance to get there. We drove from Cork with our two smallies in the back (aged four and two) and for some reason, I thought it was just a few minutes from Kenmare. I had forgotten about the size of the Ring of Kerry and the winding road from Kenmare to Sneem. However, once we arrived, all memory of the drive was forgotten. This is a very special place — an imposing 19th century hotel on the shores of the Atlantic, set in 500 acres of parkland. We didn’t face into that road again until we reluctantly left a few days later.


The four of us stayed in Parknasilla’s self-catering accommodation run by Natural Retreats. We had a beautifully decorated three-bedroom villa in the grounds of the hotel. The open-plan downstairs featured oak floors, large couches, a flat screen TV and a dining table for six. Tea, coffee, milk, cereal, bread, butter and all the ingredients for an Irish fry had been thoughtfully left in the kitchen which included a full size oven and dishwasher.


Although we were in self- catering accommodation, all of the hotel’s amenities were open to us, including a large swimming pool with spectacular views of the sea, the outdoor hot tubs, the spa, tennis courts and the 12-hole golf course. Also listed are activities such as croquet, clay pigeon shooting and all sorts of fishing — from river, to lake or deep sea. From 5pm there was a kids’ club which our four-year-old thoroughly enjoyed.

But it was the grounds that had us captivated. 500 acres of parkland means you have your choice of walks, from a 30-minute stroll to a two-hour hike and Parknasilla provides several maps and markers for whatever type of exercise you’re able for.

We stayed during a balmy October bank holiday weekend and I’ll never forget the autumn leaves, making our way through the colourful forest and spying the blue Atlantic straight ahead of us.


We had arranged a babysitter for our first night and treated ourselves to a night out in the hotel’s Pygmalion Restaurant whose menu features lots of fish and locally-sourced ingredients including Kerry lamb. The second evening the four of us enjoyed the bar food in the Doolittle Bar. After that we were happy to look after ourselves for breakfast and lunch in our villa.


We never left the grounds of the hotel but you are on the Ring of Kerry so Kenmare, Killarney and Dingle are all not too far away.


Natural Retreats offers two nights in self-catering accommodation in High Season from €660 while a week’s stay costs €1,690. During mid season, two nights cost €500 and a week costs €1,290.


The hotel’s service and hospitality were great and the villa was beautifully decorated. Be prepared for the long drive and a world apart awaits you.


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