The Brennan brothers are combining town and country luxury in Kenmare, says Mark Keenan.
The last time I did the "tent thing" was at Féile 90-something.
Three of us squashed sleepless into a flapping polyester igloo whilst fending off a night-long downpour of rain and eejits tripping over our support strings.
But this time it's very different. We're taking advantage of a new 'Sun, Moon and Stars' package from the Brennan brothers (Francis and John of TV's At Your Service fame).
The 'Sun and Moon' are for glamping at Dromquinna Manor; the 'Stars' for the five-star Park Hotel. So we get to enjoy a night in a luxury Indian safari tent - with a king-sized double bed and drapes opening to a deck right on the shore of Kenmare Bay - followed by a second night in a country house filled with eclectic furnishings (Francis collects).
It's luxury outdoors and in.
Glamping at Dromquinna
Glampers should take rain gear and an umbrella to the tent along with PJs and dining clothes. You'll require a short wander outdoors to get to the bathrooms, possibly in a downpour. Be sure to book the popular SÁMAS spa in advance to avoid disappointment.
Decide whether you want a wholly formal or casual dining experience at The Park, because its main restaurant is quite formal indeed. You'll need to dress to impress and wrestle with a comprehensive list of the world's finer wines - priced accordingly.
For more relaxed dining, book the easygoing Terrace room. To duck a Texan's update on the world economy, hide out in the hotel's cinema - The Reel Room.
The SAMÁS Spa
The Boathouse Restaurant at Dromquinna has a craft gin menu offering refreshing aperitifs in iced fishbowl goblets laced with berries. The chowder is succulent, rich and tangy and our mains of local salmon and monkfish (with a curry sauce) brim with aromatic flavour.
For the penultimate pampering, take your rat-race-nibbled hide to the Park Hotel's award-winning SÁMAS spa. Decor is contemporary other-world with plush hardwoods and water walls streaming. We enjoyed a back, neck and scalp massage (€100) after a thermal treatment with sauna, steam and a soak in the truly remarkable treetop infinity pool with its variety of massage jets.
If it's raining (and it usually is), go all-out Downton with afternoon tea at the Park Hotel. It arrives on a tiered silver service with homemade scones (€27.50pp), and is also available to non-residents. Alternatively, if the sun is shining, sit outside one of Kenmare's trendy cafés where coffee and pastries are up to continental standards and the ice creams are supreme. Sit back and appraise the clobber of passing Americans who think they've gone native.
The 'Sun, Moon and Stars' Kenmare experience costs €385pp for one night of luxury camping in Dromquinna with a breakfast hamper and one night in the Park Hotel with breakfast and dinner included. Expect to spend €60 to €145 at SÁMAS.
The drive from Dublin is four to five hours, 90 mins from Cork City and three and a half hours from Galway. Trains are also an option.
See parkkenmare.com and dromquinnamanor.com for more.