Refreshed by the sea

Marie Toft says coastal resort Parknasilla has water sports, fine dining and lovely views.

It was a bright sunny April morning, we were making our way through the choppy waves of the Atlantic and we had just spied our first seal. I was kayaking for the first time ever off the shores of the Parknasilla resort and it was wonderful.

I have to confess, I had never seen the attractions of the sport. Spot a middle aged man approaching a mid-life crisis and a kayak or a triathalon are usually never far behind. But after a weekend in Parknasilla, I've become a convert.

It hadn't been an easy conversion. My plans for the weekend in the beautiful Sneem resort without our two young children had not included rising early to don a wetsuit and face into a bracing Atlantic breeze.

We had been offered the kayaking expedition when we arrived on Friday evening. “You only live once,” my husband urged. So we set our alarm clock and joined about seven other brave/foolhardy guests on the pebble beach in front of the hotel the following morning.

After a brief lesson we set off and happily no-one capsized. We enjoyed a great morning kayaking our way through the twists and turns of the small inlet on Kenmare Bay. But it became truly memorable when we faced into the open water of the Atlantic to be joined by up to ten sleek, slippery seals who accompanied us back to the shores of the resort. Frankly, it's hard to think of a better way of staving off a mid-life crisis.

First Impressions

Co Kerry’s Parknasilla is a long drive from anywhere. We came from Cork, but I had forgotten about the winding road from Kenmare to Sneem.

However, it’s well worth the journey. The playwright, George Bernard Shaw, who stayed at Parknasilla in 1909, referred to it as ‘part of our dream world’.

The imposing, 19th century hotel faces directly on to the Atlantic and is set in 500 acres of parkland, creating a world apart.

The Room

Parknasilla has the old world charm of its 19th century past, along with a new extension that fits seamlessly alongside the original hotel.

We stayed in the library suite, which is in the modern extension, and its architect has made the most of the resort’s compelling views. The suite’s six windows look out on to the sea. In the bathroom, a large, Victorian-style roll-top bath stands in the middle of the room, facing directly towards the blue Atlantic, offering the best view from a bath I have ever had.

Amenities

Parknasilla makes the most of its beautiful location with plenty of activities. As well as kayaking around Kenmare Bay, guests can enjoy the resort’s tennis courts, a 12-hole golf course, croquet, clay-pigeon shooting and all sorts of fishing — from river to lake or deep sea. The hotel has a large swimming pool, and outdoor hot tubs that overlook the sea. Can I recommend kayakers head straight to the hot tubs once they’ve peeled off their wet suits? I can honestly say I’ve never had a nicer hot-tub experience. We also enjoyed massages in the hotel’s spa, later that afternoon, which were excellent. And, of course, the 500 acres of parkland offer a great choice of walks, from a 30-minute stroll to a two-hour hike. The resort provides several maps for whatever type of exercise you’re able for.

The Restaurant

We enjoyed fresh fish and chips in the Dolittle Bar on our first night, and then had an excellent three-course meal in the hotel’s Pygmalion Restaurant on the Saturday. We had been told the restaurant’s head chef had a great reputation for fish. Turbot, with a prawn and scallop ravioli, and John Dory with horseradish cream, definitely didn’t disappoint. Breakfast each morning was lovely, with fresh waffles and pancakes on the menu.

What to See

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

The Damage

Parknasilla is offering its winter-warmer package, which includes two nights of bed and breakfast, with one evening meal from the restaurant’s a la carte menu, for €149 per person sharing.

Anything to Add?

Our weekend at Parknasilla offered a lovely combination of luxury and activity, and I shall never scoff at middle-aged kayakers again.


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