Ard na Sidhe Country House
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IF YOU COULD JUDGE A PLACE on its setting alone, Ard na Sidhe would win hands down. The grounds of this lakeside Kerry hideaway are just exquisite. The house stands proud above Caragh Lake, sheltered by huge pines between whose branches the lakeshore glitters. This is a Kerry hotel with a wildly romantic setting.
Pretty woodland walks bursting with blooms and huge ferns meander down to the water, where you can sit and soak up the stillness or hop into a rowing boat and make for the far shore, framed by mountains. Young hares were nibbling at the grass when we arrived, and the barely-ruffled waters of the lake were still as a painting.
Ard na Sidhe (meaning Hill of the Fairies in Gaelic) sits in the foothills of Ireland‘s highest mountain range, the McGillicuddy Reeks. Built in 1912 for society lady Edith Gordon (you can dip into her autobiography downstairs), this ivy-clad Edwardian house charms inside, too. Big leaded windows frame garden and lake views, while a fire crackles at night in the hearth of the huge lounge. Elegant period furniture, oil paintings, rich country-cousin chintzes and wrought-iron lanterns lend warmth and welcome.
Without TVs and newspapers (ordered on request) Ard na Sidhe is an escape from metropolitan madness, though guests with a burning desire to keep up with outside world can still access the net from a couple of PCs.
Our pretty corner room (number 11) in the main house felt cared for and private, with mellow furniture, a canopied bed and well-stocked marbled bathroom. The welcoming plate of chocolate florentines vanished within minutes, and leafy views beckoned outside our windows. Classically furnished rooms in the next door lodge have a newer feel, with rooms that don't stint on those views.
Our lakeside meanders meant we were too late for a pre-dinner whiskey on the terrace, though we wallowed in the late-evening stillness of a balmy evening later, coffees in hand. Dinner is served in the intimate dining room, with its candle glow and cushiony window seats. Cooking combines modern Irish with international favourites, and our tuna tartare, grilled seabass and tiramisu won top marks.
Buffet breakfast next morning didn't quite live up to the standards of dinner, but we were ready to head outdoors again. How much can you fit into a day? Walks around the lake, picnics on the far shore, even having a go at landing a trout... No wonder guests love it at Ard na Sidhe, and we don‘t think they‘re off with the fairies.
© Room for Romance
Ard na Sidhe Country House was reviewed for Room for Romance by Mairiona Cotter