Ard na Sidhe: An architectural gem off the ring of Kerry
Ard na Sidhe is an architectural treasure stashed away off the Ring of Kerry, says Property Editor Mark Keenan.
Set the mood
If buildings can generate their own "aura" (some might call it a "vibe"), then the atmosphere at Ard Na Sidhe, set just outside Killorglin in Co Kerry, is one of a warming serenity.
The increasingly elusive qualities of silence and peace are what you'll experience at this off-track country house hotel on the banks of Lake Caragh - the only sounds to interrupt being birdsong and wind as you roam its restored Edwardian gardens.
As one of Ireland's few Arts and Crafts era country homes to be designed in the Elizabethan revivalist style, Ard Na Sidhe probably ranks second in Ireland only to Lutyens' Lambay Castle. With hand-crafted oak panelling, Morris wallpapers and curtains, the hotel is airy, bright, refreshing, honest and also staggeringly beautiful in a simplistic sense.
Meaning 'hill of the fairies', last year the Kerry hideaway made Conde Nast Traveler's list of the world's best hotels for under £150 a night.
There are just nine rooms in the main house - assuring you won't be crowded.
Attentive but unobtrusive staff are at hand round the clock and melt graciously into the background when you want to be left alone. There are no televisions or radios here, just eagle's perch views over the Reeks and lake.
Dining in the hotel's simple, yet intimate restaurant, we sampled a decent chunk of the local beef fillet (€32), preceded by a delicate and mouth-watering crab soufflé (€12). Afterwards, retire to the exquisite Edwardian lounge or to the library and relax in a well-stuffed, wingback fireside chair. A taste of the hotel's collection of fine Irish whiskeys rounds out the evening.
Ard na Sidhe's restored Edwardian gardens are a maze of secret paths in which you'll come face to face (literally) with wild red deer. After you've explored, take a picnic basket onto the hotel's rowboat and punt out onto Caragh (life jackets and fishing rods are provided).
Ard Na Sidhe's story is of two unique women. Lady Edith Gordon, who fought to have it built exactly how she wanted in 1913 (she was right!), and its current owner Isolde Liebherr, who supervised its impeccable and ultra-precise restoration.
Request a special viewing of Lady Gordon's journal, in which she relates her struggle as a separated woman to build Ard Na Sidhe, and her spats with builders and its volatile architect Richard Percy Morley Horder (nicknamed "Holy Murder" by his peers).
Ard Na Sidhe is the perfect base from which to explore the Ring of Kerry, out towards Waterville and Cahirciveen, as well as the Dingle Peninsula and nearby Killarney with its National Park. If you've done the Ring before, be adventurous this time and drive or cycle the Glencar route which runs over the mountainous spine of the peninsula, taking in breathless views of glacial lakes and jagged passes.
Ask how to turn down your heat - we found it could be stifling at night. There's no manned bar as such; you may need to find staff to serve you from the drinks cabinet. You'll need to be let in if you arrive after 11pm, too.
Get me there
The four-star hotel opens from May 2 to October 9. A superior room in the main house costs €310 per night for two people sharing including breakfast. The same deal for a standard room in the house is €270; while garden house rooms range from €200 to €240.
The drive from Dublin is three hours 45 minutes, 90 mins from Cork City and three hours from Galway City. There's a train from Dublin/Heuston to Killarney and a linking bus to Killorglin.