By Charlene & Richard Mixa
From a Jaunting Car to a Fascinating Town
Clip Clop, Clip Clop – Whoa, Padraig! Ahead is a clear blue lake with elegant green mountains that dip into the water’s edge on the opposite shore. A 15th century castle glistens in the sunlight on a rocky outcrop along a lakeshore. Bouncing along in a Jaunting Car is thrilling and definitely a fun way to “experience” the renowned Killarney National Park and its breathtaking landscape. With Padraig, the horse, slowly trotting through the park, Danny, our guide, entertains and educates us on the magnificent sights, history, and stories of this amazing Park. Danny has an endless repertoire of songs, jokes, and tales as he points out islands with an intriguing history, rides through deep forests, and stops for photos along magnificent lakeshores. On a walk around Ross Castle, an imposing structure on the shore of Lough Leane, it is easy to see how it has been a very effective stronghold throughout the centuries.
With 26,000 “free to roam” acres Killarney National Park is surrounded by wonderful landscapes and wilderness, miles of nearby beaches and a variety of accommodation, dining and entertainment options. Few places elsewhere on this earth can offer the outdoor enthusiast such wonderful choices within such an intimate and hospitable location. Nestled amidst deep lake filled valleys with astounding sights, from its magnificent Park to its intriguing town, Killarney is a warm and friendly Irish village. Starting our jaunting car ride in town gives a longer ride and more education from Danny on the Park, the town, and other “must see” sights.
After our Park tour and with Danny’s recommendation, we head to Cronin’s, a local favorite for a tasty lunch with generous portions. Glad our car is parked, as navigating Killarney’s many narrow lanes is easier done on foot. The town is a lively hub of activity, with many hotels, restaurants, pubs, discos, along with outlets for renting bikes and the famous jaunting cars. With historic buildings dating back to the days of the landlord, this vibrant little town charms us with it architecture and style reminiscent of the late nineteenth century. Shops add ambience to the town centre with attractive old style signs, window boxes and stained glass doors. Strolling the busy streets we venture down lanes, stumbling on hidden and unique craft shops. A town well worth exploring for a special treasure, gift, great food and Irish hospitality.
A trip to Killarney is not complete without a visit to the world renowned Muckross House &Gardens. One of Ireland’s most popular visitor attractions, this magnificent Victorian mansion was built in 1843 and forms the centerpiece of the equally renowned Killarney National Park. Located just outside town, we delight in the beauty of Muckross House & Gardens taking plenty of photos of the vine covered manor and the various gardens, as well as the glistening Muckross Lake. While tours of the elegant house are available, we just stroll the Gardens and grounds. Walking through the outstanding rock garden hewn out of natural limestone and the extensive water garden, we relish the sights of blooming flowers, trees and shrubs. The superb Muckross Gardens and the surrounding National Park create a place of immense beauty and historical interest.
Torc Waterfall, a natural wonder formed by a river known as The Devil’s Punch Bowl, is a short drive or even a reasonable hike from Muckross House and Gardens. In a wooded area off the road, we take the wide footpath ascending to spectacular views of the waterfall. There is also a footpath that leads up the side of the waterfall with views of Torc Mountain and Killarney’s lakes. Beware it is a 60 foot drop but with spectacular views.
After trekking through Killarney and we are ready to “chill out” in our luxurious suite at The Europe Hotel & Spa. On the beautiful grounds of this 5 Star spa resort, our private balcony has the most fabulous views of the shimmering waters of Killarney’s largest lake, Lough Lein and the magnificent McGillycuddy Reeks Mountain range. Hear, Hear! The pipes are calling! Yes, it’s the enchanting sound of bagpipes! Outside are four bagpipers bringing a close to the day at sunset with heartwarming Irish and Scottish music. Fabulous views continue with a delicious and wonderful dining experience in the Resort’s Panorama Restaurant. A fantastic finish to a day jaunting through Killarney! A breathtaking view, a savory dinner, tantalizing wine, and excellent service!
The morning begins with an elaborate breakfast buffet in the Panorama Restaurant. A huge spread of hot items, pastries, cereals and made to order omelets, etc. are just some of the breakfast choices. We are ready for a day of golf at the Killarney Golf and Fishing Club which hosted the Irish Open in 2010 and 2011. Terrific, the club is literally adjacent to the Resort. Shopping in the Pro Shop we find a wide selection of quality merchandise. Before our tee time, we chat with David Keating, the Club Pro, whom we met playing TPC Sawgrass last year. With terrific Taylormade rental clubs, we are paired with two English gentlemen to take on the Killen Course, the premier of the three courses at Killarney Golf and Fishing Club.
Killen has plenty of challenge for golfers of all levels and spectacular views. The parkland course winds along the shores of Lough Leane, the largest of the Lakes of Killarney and through a forest. Numerous dogleg holes, keep us alert for playing our shots and attempting to practice good course management. Wide open fairways, have nasty rough and hazards that easily snatch balls. Fabulous lake views greet us on the first few holes. The 10th is a spectacular par-3 virtually playing into the lake. Awesome! Then the 13th is a tough par-4 and lives up to its nickname of the “Tiger Hole.” An Irish Blessing of perfect weather watches over us the entire day with blue skies, sunshine and a comfortable temperature. Although our golf game still needs some Irish blessings.
A real live “Irish Pub!” Our final evening in Killarney, we meet David Keating at Murphy’s Bar seeking “traditional pub-life.” Located in the town centre, Murphy’s is well known for “good food” and a traditional Irish cuisine. Digging into a savory home-cooked shepherd’s pie and delicious fish and chips, we enjoy the happy times and spirit of this Pub. Sharing travel adventures with David and getting his recommendations make for a fun evening. Now for my first Irish coffee. Not being a coffee drinker, I am initially apprehensive. Gently sipping this decadent drink, I am a convert. Delicious! The finale to our jaunt through Killarney is an Irish toast –“I drink to your health!” Sláinte!
During our three nights in Killarney we had accommodations for two nights in The Europe Hotel & Spa and one night at Aghadoe Heights Hotel & Spa. These are two phenomenal and the finest properties in Killarney.
The Europe Hotel & Spa –a Five Star Modern, Elegant and Scenic Resort!
The Europe Hotel boasts a modern upscale resort on the very outskirts of Killarney. Located on the lakeshore it has amazing views of the Killarney Lake and the mountains. Our suite was well appointed with a large sitting area (couch/chairs), desk area, and king size bed with the plushest linens. The bathroom had a large shower as well as a tub with a spacious counter. We like the pants press and the heated towel racks. Our third floor room had terrific views of the lake, mountains, and modern gardens. The location is very convenient. It is adjacent to the Killarney Golf & Fishing Club and just a few miles from downtown Killarney. The hotel does not have AC which normally isn’t a concern with their cooler weather. The huge sliding glass door provides good ventilation for keeping the room comfortable. Guests will enjoy a range of leisure activities in Killarney, Co. Kerry on the grounds of one of the finest 5 Star resorts Ireland has to offer.
Aghadoe Heights Hotel & Spa -Luxury, Elegance and Sophistication!
A fabulous upscale Five Star hotel on the edge of Killarney with wonderful scenic views! From the minute we enter the hotel we feel the sense of serenity and warmth of the hotel, the setting, and the staff. The hotel exudes a peaceful calm feeling with spacious rooms, ultra modern décor and all the special touches for a relaxing and serene stay. Our large room had an expansive well appointed living area, small dining area and a separate area with elegant plush bedding. Absolutely one of the best hotels we visited in Ireland. The hotel is on a hillside across from the remains of Aghadoe Church and cemetery. It has a glorious pool area and various eating options. We dined at the restaurant –Fredericks –The Lake Room–which was delicious. Additionally the staff are wonderful. It is truly an elegant hotel with wonderful accoutrements.
If you go:
Aghadoe Heights Hotel & Spa, Lakes of Killarney, Killarney, Co. Kerry, Ireland; +353 64 6631766; http://www.aghadoeheights.com/
Killarney Golf & Fishing Club, Killarney, Co. Kerry, Ireland; +353 (0)64 66 31034; www.killarney-golf.com
Muckross House, Gardens & Traditional Farms, The National Park, Killarney, Co Kerry. Ireland (Free Admission); +353 (0) 64 6670144; www.muckross-house.ie
The Europe Hotel & Spa,Fossa, Killarney, Co. Kerry Ireland; T: +353 64 667 1300; www.theeurope.com