Back when I had two-under-two, I found that going anywhere further than the local shop was a challenge. Actually, even going to the local shop was a challenge. So when the smallest was nine weeks old, and the biggest was a whopping 23 months old, we were understandably nervous setting off on our very first holiday as parents of two.
We had booked a self-catering house on the grounds of the Kenmare Bay Hotel – because the house looked gorgeous, because we’d have use of the hotel facilities, and because we knew it was only a three-minute walk from Kenmare town.
It ticked all the boxes – we had the luxury and comfort of a hotel, but didn’t need to worry that that our crying babies would wake guests in the room next door. It also meant we didn’t have to go down to breakfast every morning or eat out every night. And what won us over above all else was that three-minute walk to the town centre – because we wanted a glass of wine.
And despite the fact that the two babies cried a bit while we were there, and woke a bit at night, and left us feeling apprehensive when we accidentally sat down in restaurants that were a bit on the quiet side (you know the ones – where you belatedly realise all the other guests are adults enjoying a quiet, child-free meal) we had a truly wonderful week in Kenmare seven years ago. The house was beautifully decorated, really spacious and very, very comfortable. The town of Kenmare is gorgeous, surrounded by stunning mountain and lake views. The weather back then was hit and miss, but it didn’t matter – we had the week we’d hoped for, and much more.
Recently, we were chatting to the kids about trips to West Cork and Kerry when they were small. We discussed which one was best, and Kenmare Bay Hotel came out on top – it was the one place I said I’d love to go back to. When a few weeks after that I was asked by Kenmare Bay Hotel if we’d like to go down there for a couple of nights, there was no hesitation on my part – it seemed like fate.
So armed with car snacks and memories, we made our way back along the road to Kenmare – seven years after our first trip.
We had one more child than we did back then, but he and his sisters were in unusually good form for all of the four-hour journey, and it didn’t feel like the epic trek that it did first time round.
The first of many highlights came on arrival – watching the kids exploring the house, oohing and aahing over each room in turn. We were in a two bedroom lodge, so the three kids were in one (giant) bedroom. The girls were sharing, and the small boy was on a pull out couch. They were thrilled to find they had an ensuite bathroom, a TV in their room, and what they considered to be a walk-in wardrobe – they each insisted on getting changed inside the wardrobe for the entire stay. The bedrooms are gorgeous – really spacious, beautifully decorated, and so comfortable. I’m writing this now at home and wishing I could go back…
The living and kitchen area is huge – the small boy was unexpectedly excited to find a washing machine and a dishwasher, and on day two, spent a considerable amount of time trying to talk me into putting on a wash. The kitchen has everything you need – particularly for a longer stay – and at the other end of room, there’s an L-shaped couch that’s perfect for tired grown-ups after a long day sightseeing with kids. It was exactly like the one we had seven years ago, and I couldn’t help feeling nostalgic for those days (though not so much for the sleepless nights).
Once we’d unpacked (us: clothes, kids: My Little Ponies, books, hairbands, a plastic door from a doll’s house, a fairy door, more books, teddies, and a Pillow Pet) we set off for the short walk down to Kenmare town. Again the nostalgia hit – back then we had a double buggy, now we had three kids running through the autumn leaves ahead of us.
Three minutes later (it really is three minutes) we were in the town centre, making our way slowly along the street, peering into shop windows and checking menus outside restaurants.
Kenmare is definitely a foodie town, with 46 eateries to choose from, and much like last time, we eschewed the more “proper” restaurants for somewhere we’d be less likely to worry about the kids making noise.
We chose O’Donnabháin’s, which is a traditional Irish pub that has a great food menu too. I don’t know why or how, but the kids were in wonderful form, and it was the most relaxed meal out we’ve ever had with them. The proof is in the grins and the Guinness:
The food was delicious, and the Guinness was too – if we go back to Kenmare a third time, I’ll definitely go back to O’Donnabháins.
I had promised the kids a juice in the hotel bar so on the way home, we stopped off there – they felt very grown up sipping their cordials, and there was a film on a big screen that kept the small boy happy for the duration. This was starting to feel like something we might do again we thought, long may the magic last.
The following morning, we went up to the hotel for breakfast – partly because having only discovered the joy of a breakfast buffet for the first time this year, it’s a huge highlight for the kids, and partly because we were only there for two nights.
The kids waited on us hand and foot, insisting on bringing us juice and pastries, mostly to distract us from the Coco Pops they were demolishing and the extra helpings of sausages they’d taken. How we went swimming after all that I don’t know, but we did. Just like everywhere else in the hotel, the staff at the pool were warm and welcoming, and even loaned us a couple of two euro coins for the lockers because we hadn’t thought to bring any money with us. The kids loved the pool – of course – and I put on my game face for a good 45 minutes before calling time on it (I’m just not a swimming pool person – they’re so wet and splashy). On the way out, I eyed up the Bay Beauty salon and wondered if I could fit in a manicure – the prices were literally half what I pay here in Dublin – but there wasn’t time. I’ll have to find a way to go back.
Next on the plan was Muckross House and Gardens, which is about 30 minutes by car from Kenmare. On our last trip, we had seen a lot – Sneem, Moll’s Gap, Killarney, Glengarriff, and Derreen Gardens, but for some reason we hadn’t been to Muckross. It was a beautiful sunny day, so it seemed the obvious choice for lunch and sightseeing.
I had expected an Avoca-like tea-rooms in Muckross – for no reason other than thinking that’s the kind of restaurant they *should* have. In fact it’s a self-service, functional spot, and in hindsight, we should have eaten in Kenmare, but on the plus side, a lunch over which you don’t linger means more time for walking and running and sightseeing, which is exactly what Muckross provides in spades.
Outside, we spotted horses and jaunting cars and I told the kids that when I was small, my family had seen the Ring of Kerry from a cart just like those. They begged to try it and on a beautiful, nostalgia-filled autumn day in Kerry, it seemed like absolutely the right thing to do.
Our jarvey and his horse Pepsi took us down along by the lake, telling us the history of the house as we went. The views were incredible, heightened by the golden afternoon sunshine. I took photos then put away my phone, determined to enjoy the views in real life, not just through a lens – they’re worth it.
Our jarvey let us out then to walk along the forest park up to Torc Waterfall – again it was hard to stop taking photos, especially when leaves started to fall like golden snow, stopping all five of us on the path to watch.
The waterfall is easy to access – the kids were able to climb along the rocks and get very close to it without any (very) scary moments.
Then we made our way back down to our jarvey and Pepsi again for the rest of the journey. It was €40 for a trip that lasted about 45 minutes including the waterfall and well worth it – we wouldn’t have seen anywhere near as much on foot.
That night, we ate in another pub – PF McCarthy’s (thank you Karen Kenmare Foodie for the recommendation!) where again we were treated wonderfully by staff and fed delicious food. And a glass of wine of course – because there’s that lovely three-minute walk home. Bliss.
it was cold that night, but the house was warm and toasty when we got in, and the kids were soon snuggled up together watching TV while we settled down on our L-shaped couch to a glass of Prosecco.
And that’s the beauty of the lodge – it’s a gorgeous home away from home, exactly the place you want to return to after a busy day sightseeing. Spacious, beautifully decorated, but child-friendly too, with all the luxury of a hotel, but all the freedom of a self-catering house. And if instead of non-stop golden sunshine we’d had rain, I think we’d have been perfectly happy to chill out in our lodge, swim, and use the kids’ club in the hotel – I might even have tried that manicure. But as it happened, the sun shone, and the kids were in fantastic form for the whole trip – I don’t know what kind of spell the staff of the Kenmare Bay Hotel cast, but it worked.
The following morning, over coffee and cake in a gorgeous cafe called Jam, I asked the kids what I should call this blog post, and my seven-year-old proposed “A place you have to go twice”. She doesn’t remember the first time round, but I do, and I think her suggestion is perfect. A place you have to go twice – and then some. I still want that manicure.
We were guests of Kenmare Bay Hotel for the purposes of this review but all opinions are my own. And in reality, this review post wrote itself, as I knew it would – our stay was absolutely perfect from start to finish, and I would highly, highly recommend the hotel to anyone looking for a family getaway in Ireland.
Some further details:
Kenmare Bay Hotel & Resort was recently voted Best Family Hotel/ Holiday Destination in the Boots Maternity & Infant awards and deservedly so – there’s a playground, a kids’ club, a kids’ pool, and a handy children’s play area in the restaurant, as well as the very family-friendly self-catering houses.
Our wonderful luxury lodge included the following facilities:
- Accommodation for 5 people (includes sofa bed in one bedroom)
- 2 master en-suite king-size bedrooms (available as twin/double rooms)
- LCD TV’s in each bedroom; separate bath & shower in each bathroom
- Sofa bed in one of the bedrooms
- State-of-the-art fully fitted kitchen with granite worktops and walnut flooring
- Open plan dining room and elegant lounge area with LCD TV, DVD, Chorus channels, MP3 docking station and open fire
- Complimentary parking
- French doors opening onto a private garden equipped with patio and picnic table (gas BBQ available on request)
- Travel cot and high chair. (cot linen not provided)
- One wheelchair accessible lodge; 3 single storey lodges (on request only).
- Stair gates available on request
- Within easy walking distance of Kenmare
If I’ve missed anything or you have any questions about our trip and the hotel, feel free to ask in the comments or email me!