Killarney: There's a world of fun on our doorstep
A week in Killarney proved to John Chambers that you don't always have to trek that far to meet the holiday expectations of a family spanning three generations
There is a peculiar double-take some people perform when you tell them you are holidaying in Killarney. They ask where you are heading; you say Kerry; they smile in approval but then when you add Killarney -- you can see a look of puzzlement momentarily cross their faces. It's as if they can't quite believe you'd stay in a town which is, so, well, touristy.
And yes, there are a lot of tourists, drawn from all over the world by the famous combination of lakes and mountains, as well as a huge variety of accommodation and things to do. Ask yourself this: can they all be wrong? Not really.
Maybe the doubters can't really accept that a town so obviously in the business of satisfying all those foreign visitors' expectation of "craic" can be genuinely Irish. But there's nothing wrong with pints of plain and diddly-aye music if that's your thing -- and the town and surrounding area has so much more to offer.
From our home in Inisfallen Holiday Village we could see the shadows play on the mountains as we gazed out through our bay windows, or we could look beyond the large back garden to see the farmer driving the cows through the next field or the swifts swooping as they took their evening meal -- timeless bucolic scenes. And we could do all this while waiting for our Chinese takeaway to be delivered by the impeccably dressed and invariably polite man from the Good Friends restaurant in the town. Now that's what I call rural bliss.
Perhaps, in the end, that is what draws so many -- the chance to do your own thing. That flexibility is a godsend in the fickle Irish weather. So if it rains on the day you want to head out to Kenmare for a wildlife-spotting trip round the bay, postpone that activity and instead head for afternoon tea in the Malton Hotel (€16.50 per head) or try a trip to the Cineplex. Or there is always the leisure centre, situated on the ring road, which has plenty of parking and offers both gym and pool as cures for teenage boredom.
But the skies weren't always grey -- far from it. On only one day of our seven did we fail to see the sun and we had three consecutive days of glorious weather -- which offered the chance for that boat outing round Kenmare Bay, spotting seals and cormorants and having landmarks pointed out to us on the 75-minute trip, or the opportunity to go pony trekking through the national park, starting out at the Killarney Riding Stables near our holiday complex (around €35 per person).
And if horses aren't your thing then try bike hire, or there's no need to saddle up at all: I managed a daily walk through the park, captivated by the views of Lough Lein.
For the less energetic there's always shopping, ranging from outlet stores near the train station to department stores in the main street to M&S on the edge of town. And when all that proved too much there was always the opportunity to relax in the back garden drinking in the Kerry sun (and no, that's not an oxymoron) and maybe something else besides.
But no matter what the attractions of the surrounding area, the accommodation is a vital part of the success of any holiday. And we were a demanding group -- three generations, with a sizeable proportion of teenagers. Even before we had left home there had been some disputes about who'd be sleeping where. Happily our four-bedroom home passed all tests with flying colours. The two double bedrooms and the twin were en suite, while the single room -- to which the youngest member of the party was dispatched -- was next door to the spare bathroom. He was delighted when he discovered "his" bathroom was the one with the Jacuzzi bath.
The dishwasher in the kitchen meant that the odd night cooking at home was no hardship, while the washing machine and tumble drier ensured that we didn't have to face into piles of laundry on our return home. The satellite TV provided enough Criminal Minds and Nothing to Declare to keep the younger members of the party happy while the older fogies could always stare out the windows at those magical mountains. And Killarney can work its charms on even the most savage of breasts. Managing to tear himself away from the screen our 16-year-old boy grudgingly admitted: "That is some view."
Maybe there's a family memory there in the making -- to go with all the other ones from previous trips to Killarney. Such as the day our daughter, then a toddler, wandered across the hotel corridor to visit her grandparents, staying in the room opposite ours. The only problem was she had forgotten to put on any clothes save for her Wellington boots. Or the morning when the kids had delayed our sightseeing through an insistence on climbing trees. We have the pictures to jog those memories and they seem more interesting to us now than any landscape shot, no matter how spectacular.
The problem was, however, that those memories were a decade old. As our children grew and were capable of facing the rigours of foreign travel with the chance of those airport delays we'd jetted off to Europe and had overlooked what was, more or less, on our own doorstep.
Maybe, like those people who do the double-take, we'd forgotten about all that Killarney has to tempt you. (And to show the aplomb with which it can manage the seduction of tourists, it can carry out the whole multi-million euro business while being named among Ireland's cleanest towns.)
That oversight was our mistake and our loss. It's not one we'll make again.
Trident Holiday Homes, which has been in business for 25 years, offers more than 700 properties in 70-plus locations. Special offers include €100 off peak weeks if booked before March 31, so a week in Inisfallen Holiday Village would be €710 (normally €810) from the end of June to July 13, or €845 (normally €945) up to August 24. For details and bookings, phone (01) 2018440 or visit www.tridentholidayhomes.ie
Sunday Indo Living