Wondering where to stay in Ireland? For anyone thinking of exploring the beautiful west coast, we've found your perfect spot to make your base.
Sheen Falls Lodge sits on the cusp of the famed Ring of Kerry and just short hop from the idyllic town of Kenmare. This five-star hotel and spa resort has something for everyone: families, couples, explorers: there's a wonderful mix of pampering and challenging outdoor pursuits on offer here.
Vintage cars, a tennis court and helipad are all apparent to guests as they arrive, giving the visitor just a taste of the sort of place they'll be staying in. But it's the hotel's grounds, nestled on the mouth of Kenmare Bay and next to the cascading Sheen waterfalls, that are its real stand-out feature.
What's to love?
Well, the location, obviously. And for food and wine lovers, this comes highly recommended. Extensive tasting menus and tours of one of Ireland's largest public wine cellars mean those seeking a full-on gourmand experience won't be disappointed. Oscar's bistro, overlooking the waterfalls on the hotel's grounds, provides a more informal setting for family dining, while regular piano and traditional Irish folk music is on offer for those wishing to wile away summer evenings in the bar or on the terrace at Sheen Falls.
Things to do
Head north through Kenmare to hit the Ring of Kerry, or south to the less frequented Ring of Beara to see spectacular mountain scenery of these westerly peninsulas dip into the Atlantic - always beguiling even when the mist is down. Next parish, America.
Golf buffs will be in seventh heaven. There's Kenmare Golf Club itself and plenty more well-regarded courses within striking distance. For country-pursuit types, there's also fishing, falconry and clay pigeon shooting available on site. Horse riding and hill walking can also be easily arranged.
Kids are well catered for. Kenmare Bay itself provides opportunities for supervised sailing and kayaking while for those not seeking outdoor action, there's even the option of chocolate making and pottery lessons. Oh, and there's plenty of health spa pampering options aside from the obligatory pool at the hotel itself.
Places to see
Despite development and the numerous coach tours in recent years, the Ring of Kerry remains captivating even at its busiest with plenty of options to get off the well beaten track (just don't get stuck behind the coach tours!). Muckross House, just outside bustling Killarney to the north, is well worth a visit.
Kenmare town is gentler and prettier than Killarney, and provides a far more relaxed template for a handsome working town and has preserved the kind of pub facades and high street shop fronts expected in Ireland. And a wonderful local festival in July that features a host of locally produced street food, music and carnival processions shows this town's citizens know how to arrange a good time. Catch it next time if you can.
Sheen Falls is a beautiful, relaxed and welcoming retreat. Whether you fancy some proper pampering or some Irish adventure (or best of all a bit of both), it's an exquisite location.
Details: visit sheenfallslodge.ie for more information. Current offers for 2013 include 'family escape' packages with four nights b&b for the price of three in a Deluxe room, including two dinners from 850 Euros.
See our full review and picture gallery below: