Words by Tanya Grimson
December 13th, 2018
Located in the town centre of Killarney, sits the 5* Killarney Park Hotel. Having recently won ‘Best Hotel in Ireland’ in the TripAdvisor 2018 Travellers’ Choice Awards, I was genuinely curious to see if the hotel could and would live up to this notable accolade. The bench was already set high, but after a too short two-day stay, I realised very quickly that this hotel was about to raise that bar.
From the moment you enter, all of the 5* elements take effect immediately with the level of care and attentiveness you would expect from an establishment with this rating. The concierge greeted us at our car and bags were promptly taken, check-in was seamlessly efficient, and we were guided through the welcome and the hotel’s amenities with genuine warmth and sincerity. The front desk team and concierge simply cannot do enough for you; there is nothing out of the question, no task too big. They are celebrated for their service and their years of experience in the industry- most of the staff have been working for the family-owned hotel since its opening in 1992 and it shows.
We were lucky enough to visit recently on December 1st when Christmas officially commenced (in my eyes) and we were met with a winter’s wonderland of opulence and festive style. People were sitting by an open fire, Christmas carols were playing in the background and the hotel’s décor was elegant and traditional, resembling something you would have seen in the classic movie White Christmas. Each corner was adorned with festive lights, trees, and red garlands lined the bannister leading up from the lobby. Toy soldiers, jesters and wood-burning fires complemented the decadently decorated exterior of The Garden Bar, where green foliage and fairy lights framed the doorway and the entrance. They say first impressions count and The Killarney Park Hotel excelled in this. The décor, the service, the music all created an ambience of comfort and luxury, culminating in an overwhelming feeling to just let go and succumb to it all.
But Christmas aside, this hotel doesn’t require all the baubles and trimmings to shine. The Killarney Park manages to achieve the extremely difficult holy trinity of elevated offerings, from the warm and efficient service to the fine dining cuisine and superior accommodation. For our two night stay, we were allocated the Garden Suite on the third floor. The suite was spacious with a small hallway and a balcony that overlooked the gardens. The living room had its own gas fire with a large wall-mounted TV screen while the bedroom was slightly offset from the living area by a wooden step that allowed enough separation between the living and sleep space. However, one of my (many) favourite features had to be the plasma TV that rises out of the foot of the bed with the touch of a button and the built-in TV overlooking the giant tub in the bathroom.
The Killarney Park seems to be on a mission and that mission is to provide you with enough gratifying details that you really don’t have to or want to leave the hotel; the TV fitted into the mosaic tiles in the bathroom is a magic touch and the giant bathtub that allows you to fully immerse yourself and relax is exactly what you want from a 5* hotel. It was one of those micro but special moments when watching a Chrismas movie from the hot tub with a glass of wine in hand, that I felt all the stress knots starting to unravel and I felt genuinely excited about what else I was going to experience during my stay.
On your doorstep lies Killarney town centre with lots of recognisable shops and plenty of watering holes to comfort you on a cold winter day. Killarney National Park itself provides beautiful walks with Killarney’s mountains and lakes in eyesight but the hotel has a way of drawing you back (especially on a winter’s day), enticing you to stay put, soak up the convivial atmosphere and sample their culinary delights of which there are many.
For anyone who likes to partake in Afternoon Tea, The Killarney Park put on quite a spread, with a mouthwatering array of delicacies such as crabmeat salad on toasted brioche with salmon caviar, prawn cocktail with Avruga caviar, pumpkin and chai tea macarons and Baileys and Maldron salt caramel tartes. Afternoon Tea costs €35 per person or €50 per person if paired with a glass of Charles Heidsieck Champagne and is served in a choice of one of the drawing rooms or beside the open fire in the lobby area.
For those who wish to have a casual dining experience, The Garden Bar is exactly the type of bar that hotels need but often miss the mark on. It’s a real bar with a real bar atmosphere and it benefits from its mahogany wood interior, check haberdashery, open fireplaces and distinctly welcoming bar feel. This is the type of bar you want to find for lunch which somehow turns into dinner and drinks after. The back area was designed with an American bistro in mind with green leather sofas, large round booth tables and backlight wooden cabinets highlighting the extensive selection of rare whiskeys on offer and now available to sample in the newly opened Whiskey Room. The all-day bistro-style menu, however, is more reflective of its 5* status with elevated casual options on offer such as venison bourguignon, lobster, monkfish medallion and a selection of steak cuts.
The food was excellent but once again it was the service that excelled. As an after-dinner treat, we opted for hot toddies and mince pies which were then created in front of us on a pushed-in wooden trolley using brass pans and old techniques to flambe the alcohol. This small but pleasant detail highlighted once again that The Killarney Park Hotel takes service very seriously and they want you to be a part of every single element of it.
For a fine dining experience, book a table in the recently awarded two AA Rosette restaurant, The Park. The room itself is opulent with a majestic high white ceiling and chandeliers. White tablecloths lined the tables while an open fire and a pianist playing during dinner all added to the atmosphere, but the real triumph, as it should be, was the food. The restaurant is renowned for using seasonal produce from local suppliers cooked on a charcoal grill. On this occasion, we were offered a six-course tasting menu that showcased a diverse menu of the best ingredients this season can offer, from smoked sea trout, salmon tartare and cordal goats cheese to partridge breasts with artichoke gnocchi and Munster venison loin with salt baked celeriac. Each course was a culinary exercise in perfection. My husband, who has an on/off love affair with fish, found it hard to resist the smoked sea trout with salmon tartare dish. Each element complemented the other so well, while fresh elements such as grapefruit were added to offset the richness of certain ingredients. The cookery skills on display in this tasting menu were of the highest standard and it was difficult to find fault, perhaps only that we simply did not have enough room to fit in the final cheese board course. It was a menu that highlighted the best of the hotel, its commitment to its 5* status, its affection for its local surroundings and mostly their affection for you as their guest. They aimed to please, and pleased they did.
The spa and leisure centre offer the same luxurious indulgence that you have now become acquainted with, featuring a state of the art gym, a 20-metre swimming pool that is always quiet but the pièce de résistance was the outdoor hot tub. This is an experience not to be missed, sitting in hot water overlooking the gardens in the open cool air- if brave enough, move straight from the hot tub and dip yourself in the freezing plunge pool to really allow for your muscles and body to truly invigorate.
The Killarney Park Hotel’s slogan is ‘warmth beyond a smile’ which really captures the essence of this hotel. Every element of The Killarney Park is luxurious, opulent and cosy, but the true magic lies in the experience, a formula they have perfected over time. Because it is a family owned business and not a chain of successful hotels, the attention to detail and the level of impeccable personal service is evident at all times. It is not a code of service with uniformity passed through a chain of hotels which is often seen and felt in other 5* hotels as the staff here seem to genuinely care; they live locally, support local and more importantly have an unimpeachable love for their jobs and respect for their craft which really separates this experience from others with the same rating. My husband said, “if they could bottle and sell what they do, they should”, and, of course, they do, but it’s this secret sauce, this magic, that explains the awards, accolades and drones of happy return visitors. The Killarney Park wants to make you happy, and happy is what you feel. From the moment you enter this hotel to the moment you leave, you don’t walk – you float.
For more information and to book your stay, visit www.killarneyparkhotel.ie.
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