Deirdre Mullins heads to the Kingdom.
I definitely had a 'wow' moment when I arrived at the Europe Hotel in Killarney, Co Kerry. The building is not the most attractive from the outside, but its vast size is what first caused my jaw to drop. Once inside the lobby, I was struck by its spaciousness and the view through the floor-to-ceiling window was stunning.
The lobby is bright, elegant and inviting. There are lots of comfortable chairs, which are perfect for admiring the spectacular view of Lough Leane and MacGillycuddy's Reeks. The reception staff were friendly, with the hot towels on arrival a nice touch.
The hotel has just re-opened after a refurbishment and upgrading of its older sections. Overall, the décor is elegant and chic, with grand drapes and elegant furnishings throughout the different rooms
The Europe is owned by the Liebherr Group, which is a family-run German company that has a crane factory in Killarney. The Liebherr Group has two hotels in Kerry, the other being Dunloe Castle overlooking the Gap of Dunloe. I was told by a staff member that the inspiration for the décor came from the colours of Lough Leane, Ireland's Celtic heritage and our crystal-making tradition.
About three-quarters of the rooms have a lake view; the rest overlook the fairway of the Killarney Golf Club. I stayed in one of the lake-view rooms, all of which have a generous-sized balcony overlooking the manicured gardens which lead down to the lake shore. Both the room and bathroom were comfortable and generously proportioned. The glass balcony allows you to see the fantastic views while lying in bed. The only fault I had with the room was the lack of tea and coffee-making facilities.
I had dinner in the Brassiere Restaurant and found the food disappointing. My scallop starter was good but the hake main course was overcooked. My companion had sweet chilli prawns with rice which was bland and seemed expensive at €23. The service was good and it's worth stopping by the hip Crystal Bar for a drink before or after eating. Breakfast in the Panorama Restaurant had a good buffet and breakfast was cooked to order in an open-style kitchen. Dinner is also available here most nights and food is also served in the bar and the Spa Café.
The hotel spa is part of the ESPA portfolio, an international luxury brand of hotel spas. The spa is generously spread over two levels and is designed to maximise the magnificent views.
The active level has an indoor and outdoor infinity pool. Bathing here is a blissful experience. It is perfectly designed so your eye-line merges with the lake to give you the impression that you are swimming in the lake itself - obviously it is not as cold! The thermal suite includes a saltwater pool, ice fountain, sauna, steam room and relaxation areas. There is also a well-equipped gym and a fitness studio which runs spinning, Tai-Chi and kettle bell classes. Everything on this 'active level' is free of charge for guests.
The treatment level has 16 treatment rooms and private spa suites for couples. ESPA products are used in all the treatments, which are known for their high quality and natural ingredients. There are male-only and female-only outdoor pools that you can soak in while waiting to be called for your treatment.
The treatments are a little on the expensive side, with a one-hour facial costing €115. I spoiled myself with a signature treatment which included a back exfoliation and hot stone massage with aromatherapy oils. This was followed by a facial and an oriental head massage. It was a heavenly two hours but came with a not-so-heavenly cost of €225.
Out and About
Kerry is indeed a Kingdom and the hotel is situated in one of the most beautiful parts of the country. For lovers of the outdoors there are plenty of activities to keep you busy.
Directly beside the hotel is the Killarney Golf and Fishing Club and both activities can be organised by the hotel. There are also a number of other golf courses around the area. Fishing for wild salmon can be done from the hotel pier and Killarney National Park is close by with great hiking and biking. MacGillycuddy's Reeks have plenty of walking trails and for the more adventurous climbers there's Ireland's highest mountain, Carrauntoohil.
The hotel has two indoor tennis courts, indoor and outdoor children's play areas, snooker tables, chess boards, and ponies for gentle trekking around the grounds, all of which are free of charge for guests.
Who Goes There?
Well-heeled Irish couples for a romantic weekend away, conference goers, American tourists and a smaller number of German and English tourists.
The spa is without doubt one of the best I've ever visited. There is one particular spot which is my favourite in the whole hotel: the corner of the outdoor vitality pool. I had many perfect moments while soaking in the warm water, breathing in the fresh Kerry air and looking at the stunning view of the lake and the mountains.
The décor is stylish and comfortable but it does lack the character that more established hotels have. If you like your hotels more homely, then you may find the Europe a bit clinical.
You can get a dinner, bed and breakfast package for one-night from €175 per person sharing. For more information and to book, visit: www.theeurope.com or call reservations on: (+353) 64 667-1300 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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