There are various crucial reasons why anyone pays good money to spend a leisure weekend (or longer) in a hotel: they want to base themselves in a city destination and simply use the hotel room for sleeping in; they want to base themselves in a relatively remote location, amble through the local area and enjoy all that it has to offer; they want to retreat to a place of such remoteness that it requires a little bit of effort to get there, yet on arrival all that’s left to do is to melt into the atmosphere and the environment.
Parknasilla – one of Ireland’s landmark estate countryside hotels – is one such place. We have been here before, many years ago, and even then there was a touch of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca about (“last night I dreamt of Parknasilla”, and so on). Over a decade later, and the feeling hasn’t changed. Here is a place that seems as if it is firmly attached to another time, another place: the main and original section of the hotel stands imperiously aloft, set in 500 acres of undulating Kerry countryside, and cushioned by balmy sub-tropical vegetation, hilly backdrops and the serene Kenmare river.
It has changed in places, of course. It has latterly undergone a major refurbishment programme (including, inevitably, a spa – and a rather lovely one, at that), which is why, hidden by what seems to be a series of forests, there are luxury courtyard suites and villas, tailor-made for families, get-togethers or wedding parties. The sparkling and shiny new jewel in the crown, however, is a set of fresh rooms, adjoining the original hotel building, that defines the word luxury. The finish and attention to design detail in these standard rooms is simply superb, while the suites here are the epitome of serious high-end quality.
And yet at the base of all this refurbishment is the original hotel that has hosted literary figures, royalty, and more movie stars and politicians than we have room to list. It exudes a sense of esteemed history yet boasts about it so quietly you can hardly hear it. Which is actually what this place is all about: stately yet homely, serious yet not without a twinkle in its eye. It’s a mixture of each that other so-called ‘landmark’ hotels would be advised to look at very closely.
HOTEL DETAILS: Parknasilla, Sneem, County Kerry.