Looking for a special family break in the West? You may have heard of the Dunloe Hotel but you may not recognise it after its €18 million revamp.
After driving four hours from Dublin to Dunloe, the newly revamped hotel was a sight for sore eyes and the kiddies were thrilled to get out of the car. The reception staff were very welcoming and understanding of the little hyper happy heads and were quick to offer warm handtowels for sweaty-palmed drivers and sticky-handed little ones.
There is something wonderful about a family road trip - it creates unforgettable memories for everyone (!) and there's something about the distance from home that helps everyone switch off immediately upon arrival. Still, there was something about Dunloe that made us all feel that we were in a far-off land. Might have been something to do with this...
The room is the dream family room, as you come into the bedroom, you pass the main bathroom for the parents, complete with bath, and just off that is the three-bedded children's room, complete with en-suite and shower. An important and welcome feature is that the children’s room is not accessible from the corridor.
A balcony runs the length of both rooms – the perfect addition for parents who want to take in some fresh air and the breathtaking views of the Gap of Dunloe and the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks. Adding to the splendour are the hotels sandy coloured horses grazing in the pasture right in front of you. We’re on first-name basis with four of them after they were kind enough to give us a tour of the track through a small forest area adjacent to the hotel. Sophie, Penny, Custard and Dandy are still being spoken about in our house.
Horseriding is one of the free amenities on offer to guests and the kids LOVED it. So did we, no queuing, booking or driving…just a walk up, hats/back braces on and off we went. The pool area was also a big hit and we didn’t leave the area until both adults had a gym/sauna/steam and all four sets of fingerprints were wrinkled!
The gap of Dunloe is only a 20-minute walk away and the infamous Kate Kearney’s Cottage is the ideal spot for a little drop en route. Fishing is also an option - we didn't indulge but did visit the river and it was the perfect setting. A certain 8-year-old was fascinated by the Dunloe castle that he 'found' on the grounds just as he was getting his balance back after a whirl in the playgrounds dizzy-spinny-roundabout-thingy.
Once I got my balance back we headed to reception - you can get the key to the castle and go explore on your own...seriously. I know. For garden lovers…Head Gardener Dave Barry and his team look after the 2nd biggest private arboretum, aka botanical tree garden, in the country and while I may not be green-fingered, we all appreciated the beauty.
One six-year-old little girl was fascinated by the idea of making friends in the kids club and while we availed of the free tennis court, she skipped off with Rose and April to make some new pals and do a spot of colouring. An hour later and she was only happy to give it up for a trip to the pool!
The big people loved the decor, the floor to ceiling library in the reception area, the stain glassed windows with Irish crests, the new double-ceiling glass windows in the Grill Restaurant looking out at the mountains and the variety of different lounge/bar/reading areas.
The food was delicious from breakfast (which kept children going until the mid-afternoon) to the dinner menu - the eponymous grill did not disappoint. The vegetarian options were delicious too. The kids were thrilled with their menu, which offered more options than the usual fare.
General Manager Jason Clifford is a great ambassador for the hotel. At 35, his passion for the place that he has managed for ten years is as evident as I imagine it was when he first met the owner Mrs. Isolde Liebherr. Perhaps his positive outlook and down-to-earth nature have rubbed off on the atmosphere and the staff who are helpful, warm and friendly.
Despite the high standard that every area of the hotel adheres to, there isn’t an ounce of pretension which seems to curse some five-star family-welcoming hotels. Perhaps this came from the Liebherr's themselves? Theirs is a great story - for their family and for Kerry.
In 1958 Hans Liebherr opened a production site in Killarney and realising there was a shortage of accommodation in the area for visitors, he opened a guest house. Then he opened The Europe, followed by the Dunloe and then the 'Ard na Sidhe Country House, which are all located near each other.
The hotel has been revamped over the past 18 months with new terraced areas, and there is more work to come and there is a little undercurrent of excitement as new staff are being trained discreetly and are keen to deliver the best service possible to their guests.
The children's answer to their favourite things about the hotel is the same now as it was on the way home:- Horseriding (as you might have guessed), the pool and for one little girl, the kids club which turned into a cinema-club from 6-9pm. Handy for mums and dads at dinner time.
We stayed as guests of The Dunloe Hotel & Gardens, Beaufort, Killarney, Co. Kerry. T: + 353 64 664 4111.
Rooms cost €240 per night including breakfast.
For more information visit the website here www.thedunloe.com
Other five star hotels in the area include...
Muckross House Hotel, Muckross Rd, Muckross, Killarney, Co. Kerry.
Killarney Park Hotel, Town Centre, East Ave, Dromhale, Killarney, Co. Kerry.