Christopher Rosar finds that one of Ireland´s great Grande Dame hotels, the Parknasilla Resort & Spa remains in a class of its own.
A wild storm crashing against the coast of Kerry’s Wild Atlantic Way on the eve of Halloween was the dramatic setting for our arrival at the Parknasilla Resort & Spa. As dusk descended we weaved along a winding road to Sneem that skirted along the rugged shore of Kenmare Bay and the bible black distance and roaring waves of the Atlantic Ocean beyond.
A turn to the left, past imposing gates and into a long, densely tree lined driveway, autumnal leaves whirling around us, brought us to Parknasilla in all her Victorian neo Gothic glory. Carved pumpkins stood sentinel on the porch. A favoured retreat of Charles de Gaulle and Princess Grace among many others, it is perhaps a favourite place for old ghosts to meet. It was to be an eventful Halloween indeed.
One of Ireland’s most revered Grande Dame hotels originally built in 1897, Parknasilla remains immensely popular and much loved by a loyal army of guests who return again and again. Very much an Irish institution this large hotel is a fine blend of boutique and classic and boasts very impressive facilities from a 12-hole golf course to a luxury spa with thermal suites, a large indoor pool and outside Scandi-style hot tubs. The hotel has a spectacular location on the Wild Atlantic Way, the Ring of Kerry and at the foot of the Beara Peninsula.
Parknasilla has been considerably renovated after being bought by new owners New Great Southern Hotel Group who added two bedroom courtyard garden suites for those wanting more privacy as well as and three bedroom villas in the grounds. The Princess Grace Suite has a large private balcony that overlooks the Atlantic. The hotel has 85 rooms and suites and 24 apartments.
We reached our Penthouse Suite up a dramatic, sweeping staircase, past a large stained glass window. The suite itself was accessed by its own private staircase. The room had stunning views of the Atlantic and Kenmare Bay and came complete with luxury touches that you would expect from a five star hotel, from a large flatscreen television to a Nespresso machine.
The Penthouse is on the highest floor of the hotel and is separated into three sections: a luxury living space, a large bathroom and a large spacious sleeping area. Tasteful designed, the suite featured antique touches including Victorian walnut and mahogany dressers and bookcases and oil paintings by local Irish artists. The large king sized bed came with Irish linen sheets and goosedown pillows and was the perfect nest for a cosy and warm night while the storm raged outside.
We were lulled to sleep by a squall pattering the windows in different rhythms echoing the restless storm as it slowly and reluctantly retreated back into the ocean deep. We awoke in the morning, the storm finally passed, leaving the grounds of Parknasilla glistening and illuminated and the turf rusted black waters of the inlet lying beside us and Kenmare Bay beyond mirroring the azure sky above and the leaves turning to flame in the autumn around us.
Breakfast was an Irish buffet affair that catered for all tastes. Locally sourced bacon, Irish black pudding and scrambled eggs with strong Irish tea fortified us for the day. The breakfast menu has plenty of vegan and vegetarian options as well as old favourites such as Atlantic kippers. Service was traditional but friendly and local and international newspapers were on hand for those wanting to enjoy their breakfast at a leisurely pace. Staff were attentive, jovial and kind.
After breakfast we decided to go for a walk on one of the many mapped trails that weave themselves around the hotel’s 500 acres of parkland through forest brush, streams and an idyllic private beach. Parknasilla offers activities from archery and clay pigeon shooting to kayaking and even petanque – a lovely nod to CDG´s stay here. Fishing of course is a big draw here. Kenmare Bay and its environs had some of the best salmon and sea trout fishing in Ireland and Parknasilla can set you up with a wise local ghillie. As fitting for a hotel where children are very much welcome and cared for, there is a fairy themed walk to indulge young imaginations as well as numerous activities.
The Spa at Parknasilla
The large spa has 12 treatment rooms offering Elemis and NEOM treatments and includes a thermal spa incorporating a mix of wet and dry, as well as warm, hot and cold cabins all created especially for the spa by thermal specialists Hydrotherm. The heart of the spa is the 18 metre indoor swimming pool, heated to a temperate 30 degrees, with its panoramic sea views of Kenmare Bay.
There are two large heated outdoor tubs where you can take in the fresh air and beautiful vistas. Inside the spa has a laconium, an aromatherapy steam room, a herb sauna using herb essences at 80 degree heat for natural cleansing and detoxification and a salt inhalation steam cabin ideal for respiratory wellbeing. There are numerous signature spa treatments include Hanakasumi Japanese exfoliating and foot massages. The spa has an extensively equipped gym.
Parknasilla´s Pygmalion Restaurant offers fine cuisine including fresh fish and locally sourced meat dishes, accompanied by an extensive wine list. We chose outstanding starters of pan-fried Kenmare Bay scallops with Jerusalem artichokes, black cabbage, fried capers, chorizo and tomato dressing and another of local crab with pickled kohlrabi, cucumber and apple vinaigre.
Our tasty, hearty mains were rump of Kerry lamb with broccoli puree served with Boulangere potatoes and breast of Skeaghanore duck with celeriac puree, salt baked celeriac, caramelised pear and pickled walnut. Fish lovers can choose from a very impressive seafood menu of freshly caught halibut and black sole.
Afterwards we retired to the buzzing Doolittle Bar and took up a pew in one of the cozy sofas near a roaring fire. The bar serves a wide selection of drinks including local Irish craft beers ales and stouts and the award winning Dingle gin. Bistro food is served here from noon to 8.30 pm everyday. A lovely end to a magnificent stay.
Doubles with mountain view from €190. Breakfast included.
Address: Parknasilla Resort & Spa, Kenmare Road, Sneem, Co.Kerry, Ireland
Phone: +353 (0)64 667 5600