Five glorious homes from home in Ireland

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The Kenmare grande dame’s glam makeover

© Barry Murphy

The Park Hotel Kenmare name is lauded for a reason: it’s one of Kerry’s most comprehensive resorts, first opened in 1897 and specialising in leisure pursuits from golf to falconry ever since. Post a renovation in 2022 at the hands of Bryan O’Sullivan (the man behind the look of The Berkeley Bar and Claridge’s), “grand” is the word for the atmosphere, the late-Victorian interiors characterised by polished wood, bevelled glass and low lighting. It was bought last year by California-based Irish entrepreneur Bryan Meehan (he of Fresh & Wild and Blue Bottle Coffee), who’s already replaced some of the Queen Anne portraits in the public spaces with contemporary works from his private collection by the likes of Sean Scully and Dorothy Cross.

The terrace at at Park Hotel Kenmare
The terrace at at Park Hotel Kenmare © Barry Murphy
The hotel’s champagne bar
The hotel’s champagne bar © Barry Murphy

Even the smallest of its 46 rooms clocks in at more than 400sq ft, with picture windows and sitting areas; the suites are like small flats, with timber floors and dining rooms. SÁMAS, the hotel’s wellness centre, has infinity pools and offers body and face treatments using Bamford products (there’s an enormous indoor lap pool for the swimmers too). Fishing, riding, hiking, cycling and scenic cruises can all be organised by the hotel; if you’re a serious climber, a guide to take you on the ascent to Carrauntoohil can be arranged, Meanwhile tennis, croquet and golf are all played on the hotel’s beautifully tended grounds, and you’re walking distance from Kenmare, for galleries and shops, pubs and a couple of lovely restaurants., from €615

From a cottage to a Georgian landmark 

Drombeg Cottage near the village of Ardgroom in West Cork
Drombeg Cottage near the village of Ardgroom in West Cork © Lewis Currie

For the independence of a home stay, Unique Irish Homes has holiday lets that run the gamut from two-room cottages on the Wild Atlantic Way to three-storey, magazine-worthy townhouses in Seapoint overlooking Dublin Bay. Drombeg Cottage, outside the village of Ardgroom on the Beara Way in West Cork, has to be the platonic ideal of Irish rustic charm: two bedrooms and one bathroom, stone walls, tiled floors and simple but sweet furnishings; a wood-burning stove in the sitting room and a generous oven in the green-and-white kitchen; and a garden, beyond whose low stone wall are wide views of Kenmare Bay.

The wood-burning stove in the sitting room at Drombeg Cottage
The wood-burning stove in the sitting room at Drombeg Cottage © Lewis Currie

At the other end of the company’s portfolio is Drishane House, a beautiful Georgian villa overlooking Castlehaven Bay in Cork’s far south-west. The estate, with six bedrooms sleeping 11 guests, has been in the Somerville family for almost 250 years, and bears all the most appealing signs of being lived in by a real family: antiques, heirlooms, an extensive library, photos and family portraits everywhere, even toys in the children’s rooms. There’s water access from the property at two points, with kayaks and dinghies for exploring the nearby coastline.; Drombeg Cottage, from €1,150 per week; Drishane House, from €4,000 per week

The dining room at Drishane House
The dining room at Drishane House
The villa’s reception room
The villa’s reception room

Family meets fabulous at Ballyvolane

The georgian façade of Ballyvolane House
The georgian façade of Ballyvolane House © David McClelland

Ballyvolane House, by contrast, has just six uniquely-decorated bedrooms, and operates like both a country house hotel (a very intimate one) and a private let available for buyout. It’s an early Georgian charmer, built by Sir Richard Pyne, a sometime lord chief justice of Ireland. It was a working farm until coming into the hands of Justin and Jenny Green, who bring sophisticated hospitality form via prior careers in the international hotel world that included stints at Mandarin-Oriental and Jumeirah (Justin is also a former general manager of Babington House in Somerset).

A bedroom at Ballyvolane House
A bedroom at Ballyvolane House © Melanie Mullan
Bookshelves in the drawing room
Bookshelves in the drawing room © Melanie Mullan

All of which means there’s a marriage of family-owned and fabulous happening here (the more nature-leaning can, for instance, glamp for a night or two in one of the estate’s bell tents or “arks” – domed rooms inspired by pig arks, with cosy double beds and bathrooms located in the nearby barns). There’s a one-sitting, four-course gourmet dinner, pulling from local fish, game and produce from Ballyvolane’s own walled garden (they also rear their own pigs, who have their own very nice arks); it’s served every night at the house, where the occasional starry guest chef from nearby Ballymaloe might turn up to sample things – including the Greens’ own small-batch Irish milk gin, Bertha’s Revenge., from about £375 for one night with dinner and breakfast

Shaken and stirred at Liss Ard

Liss Ard Estate near Skibbereen in West Cork
Liss Ard Estate near Skibbereen in West Cork © Will Pryce

A lovely old Georgian house on its own estate, Liss Ard sits in 163 acres outside the town of Skibbereen, not far from Baltimore. It’s a local favourite but also attracts guests from around the world for its cuisine, which largely utilises produce grown on the premises (and which recently earned it a place in the Relais & Châteaux stable of hotels and restaurants). There are also the charms of its rooms, spread across three buildings (including the Manor), which recently underwent a refresh that’s left them elegant but uncluttered. (For the art aficionados, there’s Liss Ard’s Sky Garden, created by James Turrell – an extraordinary grass-lined declination in the landscape, one of only two such installations Turrell has created.)

James Turrell’s Sky Garden at Liss Ard
James Turrell’s Sky Garden at Liss Ard © Will Pryce
The bar at Liss Ard Estate
The bar at Liss Ard Estate © Will Pryce

Last month the estate debuted Alchemy, a speakeasy-style destination bar where the mixology of its new majordomo, Quentin Caraux, is the showcase. Caraux has also collaborated with Liss Ard’s executive chef Luca Armellino on a three-course, cocktail-pairing menu. Though, of course, you can also drink them on their own at Alchemy; the space is dim and inviting, panelled in dark wood, lined with banquette tables, and lit by candles., from $330

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