I finally understand why so many people describe Kerry as the Kingdom
I've often heard Kerry described as 'The Kingdom' but if I'm honest, it went over my head until a recent visit.
Staying in Killarney for one night and Kenmare for another, I received a real taste of what the county has to offer and why it's such a popular destination for visitors from far and wide.
The scenery, the welcoming people, the variety of things to do and the very Kerryness of it all really made an impression and although I'd be very tribal about Galway as I'm from there, I definitely have a grá for the Kingdom now.
My visit started with a trip to the Great Southern Killarney and from start to finish, the staff couldn't do enough to make the overnight stay a pleasant one.
Personally, a welcoming, down-to-earth approach is something that really resonates and in my opinion, it tends to make even the fanciest of hotels seem homely.
Located across from the train station in Killarney, this hotel couldn't be more convenient and that's definitely a major plus point.
However, while it is very handy, that's not the main attraction because the hotel itself deserves to be talked about in detail.
It was recently renovated and the foyer is beautifully grand with a checkerboard floor, beautiful flowers and lots of plush seating just begging for you to rest your feet.
Whether you want to chill out or take in the local amenities, there's a lot to choose from and the hotel can organise a number of activities including afternoon tea, wine tasting, whisky tasting, bike rentals to explore the town or even a jaunting car trip to take in the delights that Killarney National Park has to offer.
The wine tasting was a very fun way to spend an hour and I would highly recommend if you're a wine lover or even a wannabe connoisseur. Dinner in Brownes Bar was the very definition of cosy and exactly what we needed after a four-hour journey from Dublin. There's also the opportunity to don the glad rags and feast on a three-course menu in the Garden Room so you're spoilt for choice.
If you do fancy wandering around Killarney at your leisure, pretty much everything is in within walking distance. A nightcap featured in my plans and I highly recommend the espresso martini (with salted caramel, swoon) at JM Reidy's.
A mention too for the turn-down service, complete with Elemis Pillow Spray and an eye mask, I find it hard to switch off at the best of times so I adored the thoughtfulness of this gesture and it's yet further evidence of how the Great Southern goes over and above to look after its guests.
The morning after the night before, I took the time to walk around the picturesque gardens which look simply beautiful this time of year, the perfect autumnal colour palette with leaves crunching under your feet.
Check out time came all too early and there was no end of beautiful scenery on route to Kenmare but unfortunately, the weather wasn't in our favour on the day. However, the dull sky added to the moodiness of the mountains and of course, the dramatic landscape manages to wow irrespective of the clouds.
Sheen Falls was our destination and it is the definition of a luxury escape. Stables, gardens, award-winning menus, this is truly a hotel to live your very best life in. There's even the opportunity to light real log fires in some of the rooms which will delight anyone attempting to channel some hygge cosiness this winter.
Dinner at the Falls Restuarant was a dream from start to finish. A talented pianist set the tone for a truly relaxing evening and the maître d' although originally from Wexford has been won over by Kerry which goes to show its charms. He described the scenery surrounding the establishment as almost "closing in" on you which really captures the fortress-like feeling of the Caha mountains.
Smoked salmon with fennel and orange followed by beef fillet with asparagus, girolle, and perfectly fluffy mashed potato (the best comfort carb of all) and last but not least, a chocolate and peanut butter mousse. My companion said his blackberry soufflé with white chocolate ice cream was his favourite dessert to date and he's not prone to over exaggeration. All this before they brought out the after-dinner chocolates so believe me when I say, there was no avoiding the food baby.
The hotel is the perfect place to stay if you're in the mood for exploring the stunning scenes Kerry is renowned for but if you'd rather stay at the hotel, you can choose from a number of activities at the hotel including salmon fishing, horse-riding, golf, kayaking, falconry, hill walking and clay pigeon shooting. There's also a spa and leisure centre so your only problem will be figuring out what you want to prioritise first.
To sum up, the Great Southern is ideal if you want a break with a buzz, the option of a night on the town and the chance to meet some of the loveliest staff in the Irish hospitality business. However, Sheen Falls is lavish and splendour at its best so if you want to indulge your inner princess, it won't disappoint.