The Lakes of Killarney will always be a draw for domestic holidaymakers, come rain, shine and everything in between
Aghadoe-doe-doe, push pineapple, shake the tree…
Are we the only ones who sing the Black Lace anthem, every time we drive up to this large, contemporary five-star hotel? It’s a naff refrain for a sophisticated Co Kerry bolthole, where even Leo Varadkar was dining with friends on our first night’s stay (luckily I didn’t bump into him in the sauna where I might have grouched about the midlands lockdown scuppering the first two nights of our county-hopping staycation).
Our drive west from Dingle included the surfer’s haven of Inch Beach and the dinky towns of Castlemaine and Milltown, before entering Killarney Lakes territory. Lough Leane is the largest of the three watering holes – the largest body of fresh water in the region, no less – and bolstered by the MacGillycuddy Reeks mountain range, which are at once cinematic and solemn. It’s also where Ireland’s highest mountain resides: Carrauntoohil, at 3,407ft.
This enchanting scene is the setting for Aghadoe Heights, a contemporary five-star hotel with surely some of the best views in the Republic. The term “breathtaking” is as hackneyed in travel writing as “hidden gems” and “oasis of calm”, however I defy anyone checking into one of Aghadoe’s lake view rooms not to gasp the word “WOW!” when looking out the window.
Our suite’s bed was almost as wide as the panorama, while plexiglass and snakeskin accents add understated pizzazz. The grass is always greener, of course – even for spoiled brats like me – and on a sunny day, it’d be hard not to get FOMO looking up at the lake-facing bedrooms with balconies. But do they have an open-plan double bedroom with lounge area, a large dressing room with wraparound mirrors, a second fridge and coffee station that’s fit for a bride? Possibly not. A Bose sound system and fancy bathroom come as standard, while the muted colour scheme lets nature’s vivid palette outside really sing.
Speaking of green grass, there’s a beautiful viewing area across the road in front of the hotel, where road-trippers go to stretch their legs and breathe in that exquisite vista. There’s also the View Bar and Terrace that overlooks the same, as do The Heights Lounge and Piano Bar and Lake View restaurant (given that menus change frequently at the latter, I won’t do the kitchen staff, or its suppliers, a disservice by detailing dishes that may no longer be available, other than to say what we had was excellent).
During my August visit at the time of corona, the spa was only half-open: no heated loungers to loll on, wet rooms to parch in or even changing rooms in which to dress, shower and blow-dry, with latest health and safety protocols urging clients to return to their rooms after allotted treatments or swim (wet togs ahoy).
I was, though, suitably indulged with a 45-minute Voya Recovery Time Treatment that involved a glorious hot oil back, neck, shoulder and foot massage. Expertly administered by Áine, the treatment’s finale was a deceptively simple but chakra-pacifying choreography of magic fingers over my furrowed glabella.
Post massage, I had a relaxation area all to myself, supine on a lounger and sipping on a Voya peppermint tea – a pleasant end to a cracking massage that will be even better when the country’s grottos, saunas and tepidaria are able to reopen. (To guarantee a slot in the spa or even in the lovely, light-flooded swimming pool, I advise pre-booking in advance than dithering at check-in).
If you stay at Aghadoe Heights, there’s much to explore that’s on the doorstep, not least gorgeous Killarney town, Muckross House and national park, and Ross Castle. But that’s a whole other story – and a whole different soundtrack.
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