Tuesday 12 December 2017

The Getaway: Killarney

Garreth Murphy plays king of the castle in Killarney

The Gap of Dunloe
The Gap of Dunloe
Mind the gap: The Dunloe Hotel is set against stunning views, offers free horse rides, and the food is outstanding
The Dunloe Hotel offers free horse riding
Garreth Murphy

Garreth Murphy

"You're going to kill us all," my wife mutters through gritted teeth.

In the back of the car, my 12-year-old son has turned a lighter shade of pale. And me? I'm just trying to avoid steering into the gaping crevice at the side of the road.

Welcome to the Gap of Dunloe, one of the most scenic - but undeniably tricky - roads in the Kingdom. You can also skip the car and take a horse-drawn carriage for the six-mile jaunt, of course (expect to pay around €20 a head). Whichever you choose, make time for coffee at Kate Kearney's Cottage (katekearneyscottage.com) before setting out. An Irish version of coffee, even. That would certainly have settled my wife's nerves.

Hotel Intel

We stayed at The Dunloe Hotel (thedunloe.com) - located, as the name suggests, close to the Gap of Dunloe. Set against breathtaking views, it marries old-world charm with more modern facilities, such as the extremely impressive leisure zone. There's plenty for kids, too. Stables are an amble from the main building and a short ride is free. More experienced riders can even leave the arena for a 15-20 minute trek around the grounds.

The surrounding gardens are beautifully maintained and there's a good playground at the end of the estate (it could do with a baby swing or two, however). A decent playroom for older kids sits beside the leisure facilities - with an old-skool arcade machine, pool and foosball table. The best thing? They're all free - so kids won't be hounding you for change. Prices for a three-night family special, including B&B and dinner for two on one evening, start at €890 in total.

Mind the gap: The Dunloe Hotel is set against stunning views, offers free horse rides, and the food is outstanding

The Dunloe Hotel, Co. Kerry

Guilty Pleasure

Food at The Dunloe is outstanding. The hotel has two eating spots - a more casual area off the main bar and the fine dining facility. Our 11-month-old son, James, has the table manners of a drunken chimpanzee, so we booked a babysitter, which the hotel was happy to arrange (€10 per hour was a small price to pay for a relaxing dinner). A kids menu is available and the ever-helpful staff were happy to adapt what's on offer. One sleeping child and a quiet, fed one? A guilty pleasure, if ever there was one.

Cheap Kick

There are views and then, there are views. Rain is on the way by the time we peer over the majestic peaks of the MacGuillicuddy Reeks at the edge of the Gap of Dunloe, but even that can't spoil the vista. Striking, imposing and a little intimidating, the view is a gorgeous blend of colour; form and structure that makes you feel insignificant. And it's free!

The Dunloe Hotel offers free horse riding

Horses at The Dunloe


Killarney is often described as 'quaint', which could easily translate as 'expensive and filled with tourist shops flogging everything from Guinness mugs to ridiculous Oirish jumpers'.

We took a trek out to Kenmare, dodging the tourist traps for a very decent lunch of soup, pasta and a pulled pork sandwich in McCarthy's bar (pfskenmare.com). With drinks, our family bill came to €30, and there was sound, unfussy service too.

Get me there

Killarney is about 3.5 hours by car from Dublin. Aer Lingus Regional (aerlingus.com) flies to Kerry International Airport twice a day, while Irish Rail (irishrail.ie) operates seven daily services to Killarney from €46.99 each way. For more see discoverireland.ie.

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