BEST HOLIDAY DESTINATIONS IN IRELAND
“Escape the Living” is the tagline used by Kenmare town to describe itself and I cannot think of words more apt to describe it as there is a holiday atmosphere in Kenmare 24/7, 365 days a year, which is why in my opinion it wins the accolade of best holiday destinations in Ireland. There is a buzz whatever the weather and you will find art, culture, a unique charm and our true Irish heritage around every corner. Furthermore, it was the first town to be awarded Heritage Town of Ireland and its natural beauty is inherent in that the north of Kenmare is home to Killarney’s National Park while the town itself is nestled into the beautiful Kenmare Bay.
Kenmare is one of the Best Holiday Destinations in Ireland for many years now so I was thrilled when The Kenmare Bay Hotel invited me to write a review on their holiday lodges that are very popular with families. We stayed here a few years ago in the hotel so we knew we would not be disappointed.
The Kenmare Bay Hotel is located at the edge of Kenmare town. However there is a path that will take you directly to town and it is very safe for the kids. Therefore I would suggest leaving your car at the hotel as this is only a short walk (approx. 5 mins) and it can be hard to find parking in Kenmare town itself.
Where we stayed
The Kenmare Bay Hotel
The Kenmare Bay Hotel have family rooms in the hotel but on this occasion we stayed in The Lodges and went self-catering. The lodges themselves are gorgeous and had all the comfort and luxury of a hotel room but with the added space and convenience of self-catering. Again I was really impressed with the kitchen as we had everything from coffee machine to American style freezer and even kiddie cutlery and plates etc. Also, the picnic table in the patio area was perfect for dining outdoors and the beck garden was enclosed and very secure.
We were in a two bedroom lodge, so the three kids were in one bedroom. The two older ones were in a large double split into twins, and Lonán was on a pull out couch. Similarly, they were thrilled to find they had a TV in their room as we don’t have this at home and it was a real novelty as well as the ensuite bathroom. Finally our own bedrooms was also very spacious and the décor was fabulous. Also, the living and kitchen area is huge and the sitting area was lovely and cosy to relax in, in the evenings with a glass of wine.
Hotel Family Activities
Our favourite feature of The Kenmare Bay Hotel was the swimming pool as this is where you will really notice the family welcome. We must of went here four or five times during our visit and each time the pool staff were supervising and would bring out toys (watering cans, ducks, balls) noodles, dive sticks and even inflatables. Also, there was a small slide and goal posts so it is a great pool to play in. Furthermore, the baby pool was very big and the main pool was extra-large with plenty of room for everyone. When the pool did get very busy I noticed the life guards would take their seat on their perch so it was clear to see safety was paramount. The box of arm bands for those who forgot their own was a thoughtful facility as it can very easily happen and be quite frustrating to have to buy a new pair when you have a perfectly good pair at home. If there was an award for the best family friendly hotel swimming pool The Kenmare Bay Hotel would win it hands down for me.
Other family friendly facilities onsite include an excellent outdoor playground that is enclosed and very secure. The playground equipment was very modern and there was something to suit all ages with plenty of seating. Guests can also make use of the playroom on the second floor but this would be more for younger children and toddlers.
Finally the kids club is located in a purpose built room with cooking facilities, perfect for their regular baking classes. My two signed up for this and Saoirse was delighted as they offer gluten free flour for coeliac as standard so she got to make brownies too. However, what impressed me here the most was how knowledgeable they were about gluten free which put Saoirse and I at great ease. Also they had a craft to make in this session. The crafts were fun and interesting with the team members guiding the children through every stage. So much so it was almost like an art class. Finally in the evening they tend to do a messy craft alongside the activity assigned. Consequently it is easy to see that this kids club is well planned out with full time staff offering a real quality kids club experience rather than just a standard babysitting service.
Family Activities Nearby
With plenty to do onsite and the town to explore you won’t have time for much else but if you do get an opportunity to head out I would recommend taking a drive to enjoy some of the amazing scenery in and around Kenmare. Another reason why Kenmare is famous as one of the best holiday destinations in Ireland.
Indeed the drive to Killarney is gorgeous and along this road you will find Kissane Sheep Farm, a Large Mountain Sheep Farm. The Farm is situated in The Killarney National Park. The famous panorama of Moll’s Gap is in the middle of the land, overlooking the farm and its animals.
You can visit the Farm, see Sheep Dog Demonstrations & during the summer to also see the Sheep Shearing Demonstration. Furthermore in the spring time there is an opportunity to see the many baby lambs that will be born on the Farm. Since they are a busy working farm they only open to the public for demonstration purposes so just check times and dates before you strike off.
Kenmare is home to a true hidden gem, Gleninchaquin Park. Gleninchaquin Park is a park like no other in that it provides breath-taking landscapes and scenery. There are streams with log bridges, mountain paths with carved steps, through rock passages, along glens and lakes to higher altitude. Not to mention the spectacular rock face waterfall.
While it is a magnificent day out for a walking enthusiast it is also a magical place for families as there is plenty for the kids to see and if you are lucky like we were the last time we visited we bottle fed some baby lambs. Finally it is a perfect picnic spot and there is even a BBQ area. The kids will love the freedom as well as the interaction with livestock every now and again. I discovered this place many years ago and I am raving about it ever since. The views are so amazing they will even silence the children.
On this visit I discovered another hidden gem on the road from Kenmare to Kilgarvan, The Kilgarvan Motor Museum. We saw a sign post and followed it not expecting to discover a large shed that housed the most impressive private collection of vintage cars.
Craig and Thomas are passionate about cars and were blown away at the sheer quality as well as quantity of vintage cars. Truly there must have been 60 or more cars on show from Model TT’s to Porsche and everything in between including American Cars.
While the collection was impressive enough, the owner, John really made the visit for us. In particular he was extremely knowledgeable and engaged in an in depth discussion for over an hour about the cars and their history. Thomas was enthralled, Craig was in his element and even I learned a thing or two.
Furthermore the photographs and memorabilia of including that of the last Cork Grand Prix in 1938 is what caught my eye and again John offered great insights into this. Many of the cars had a story to tell including a Rolls Royce that was used in world war two and the body work had to be replaced due to bullet holes as a result of a skirmish.
Craig promised Thomas that he will take them back on a day trip over the winter and I don’t know if it is more for himself than Thomas. Follow the signpost from Kilgarvan, it is about 2 miles outside the town.
Where to Eat for Families in Kenmare?
On our first evening we dined in the hotel itself in their restaurant not only because it is easy after the journey down and unpacking but also it is very family friendly. Therefore I was delighted to see the kids play corner was still in place, a facility I have yet to see repeated. Namely it is a neat little corner tucked away in the restaurant with plenty of toys, games and books to suit every child. More importantly I loved that families are placed around the immediate area of the play area and couples and other guests without children and further away so you do not feel you are disrupting anyone.
Likewise the children menu was very well thought out with Buzz Light-year and Frozen themed food options to name just a few. Lonán’s Olaf the Snowman dessert went down a treat so much so that she looks for it in every restaurant since.
The Lime Tree Restaurant
Kenmare really is a foodie town with plenty of eateries of every style to choose from. Hence another reason why they can lay claim to the best holiday destinations in Ireland title. On our second evening we decided to walk into town with the kids to wander around the shops, go for dinner and walk back to the hotel after a little glass of wine or two. We came across the The Lime Tree Restaurant on a previous visit as the building is gorgeous and it sits in such a picturesque setting in the town itself so we were excited to try it out.
The decor was full of character with something to look at in every nook and cranny and the restoration of this building was something to behold. Therefore we knew at this stage that the food would not disappoint. As well as the fact that the restaurant filled up very fast. The ingredients are locally sourced and very well presented. The choices for the children were excellent and as coeliac, Saoirse and I were spoiled for choice. The food was superb and probably one of the best dinners out for some time. For any budding coeliacs put this down on your bucket list.
Even though we were too full for dessert we had to try it as Gluten Free Apple Crumble which is a rarity and as expected it exceeded our expectations. Consequently we were slow to leave as we were enjoying the relaxed surroundings and atmosphere and could have easily sat here for the night. The Lime Tree Restaurant certainly makes it to my top ten family friendly restaurants in Ireland. When you are self-catering it is nice to splash out on one really nice dinner and this restaurant is a special treat.
The only downside I would have is that the playroom was a bit small and could do with a little seating area for parents to enjoy a coffee and paper while the kids potter and may be toys for older children. However, we som much else to do in one of the best holiday destinations in Ireland we could not complain.
The lodges of The Kenmare Bay Hotel offer all the luxury and comfort you would desire in a hotel break with the convenience of space, privacy and self-catering. Kenmare town, a world class destination coupled with the family orientated swimming pool, kids club and playground of The Kenmare Bay Hotel makes the perfect partnership for a fantastic family break and worthy of the accolade of Best Holiday Destinations in Ireland.