Cahernane House Hotel, Killarney, Ireland’s top country house award winner.

By Isabel Conway
Ireland’s best country house hotel and guest experience Cahernane House hotel, tucked away on the outskirts of Killarney is one of those rare gems that rely on word of mouth and fabulous visitor experience to bring in the biz.
Surrounded by over six acres of verdant grounds on the borders of Killarney National Park, with native red deer and miles of walks ,welcome to some of the best views in an area world renowned for the beauty of the lakes and mountains.
As if stepping inside a pastoral landscape painting, Travel Times watches cattle and sheep dotted behind ancient stone ditches with the mountains forming a dramatic backdrop as we enjoy a fabulous full Irish breakfast of locally sourced ingredients in the cosy elegant dining room, a throw- back to the past. We have almost expected Downton Abbey’s Lady Violet Crawley, 8th Dowager Countess of Grantham to make a grand entrance from her carriage, after sweeping up the long avenue shaded by a stately canopy of trees to this imposing stately Victorian manor house.
The house, in 6,4 acres of grounds, itself was built in 1877 by Henry Herbert and his wife Catherine. Each of the five main rooms on the ground floor contain historical artefacts and original antiques, including items such as the Herbert Family Crest which is depicted above the hotel’s front door.
Many of the original features remain in Cahernane House Hotel today, including the wooden staircase, the Killarney Davenport table in the lobby and the pillar caps in the lobby, which feature the first letters of each of Henry’s first four children’s names.
Five generations of the Herbert family, whose origins in Ireland stretch back to the Wars of the Roses, maintained this large estate from the mid 1600’s until the 1930’s. On the fringes of Killarney that has a dizzying array of neon lit bed and breakfasts, guest houses and hotel sprawls of dubious architectural merit, Cahernane House Hotel reclines in another world.
Guests easily feel they are in the middle of nowhere, instead of close to one of Ireland’s busiest tourism hubs,  a 20 minute stroll away. Muckross House and Gardens, one of Ireland’s finest demesnes is approximately the same distance on foot.
Cahernane House has the knack of making the visitor feel like a welcome house guest, rather than a hotel patron, drawing pages of compliments in the guest book that shows the global reach of the hotel.
No doubt the reason why it was recently crowned Ireland’s Best Country House and guest experience in the 2019 Hotel and Catering review awards, with an earlier gold award from CIE is Cahernane’s success in taking that elegant country house atmosphere to a really high standard with friendliness and personal attention.
The hotel has a 4  star classification but you can look forward to a 5 star experience here from high end gastronomy to the last word in luxury in bedrooms and bathrooms, plus outstanding service.
That extra star would appear no doubt were a swimming pool and a fitness area added on. Instead the hotel’ s owners, internationally known PREM Hotels Group, who have key properties abroad as well as leading hotel addresses in Ireland, spent over €7,8 million on a stylish and sumptuous renovation. That included transforming the dilapidated old stone cut Coach House into eight new luxurious bedrooms surrounded by gorgeous gardens.
The hotel is featured in Ireland’s prestigious Blue Book of special accommodation and Conde Nast Johannsen’s Traveller Guide, noting that all who visit Cahernane House Hotel, “ find themselves reliving the aristo lifestyle of yesteryear”.
When she visited Killarney with great fanfare in 1861 Queen Victoria spent two nights at the nearby larger and flashier Muckross House with Henry Herbert’s brother. Months of elaborate preparations preceding the Royal visit saw the arrival of specially commissioned tapestries, mirrors, silverware, musical instruments and all manner of extravagance. A fire escape was also constructed outside Queen Victoria’s bedroom because of her Majesty’s phobia in relation to house fires.
So lavish was the hospitality offered by the Herbert family of Muckross (who had hoped for titles in gratitude) to the Royal party that afterwards they were saddled with enough debt to bankrupt them.
The year after Victoria’s visit to Killarney, which had been an outstanding success and “she would cherish the memory for years to come” the monarch’s beloved husband Albert died. During a long period of mourning the Herbert’s titles were forgotten.
Cahernane House Hotel fireplace in the hallGrand enough to receive any of the Downton Abbey set, the Herberts of Cahernane must have been thanking their lucky stars that their magnificent mansion was less prestigious than Muckross, avoiding the financial ruin which was a hazard of a Royal visit.
Cahernane House Hotel see address: Muckross Road, Killarney, Co Kerry 064-6631895. A two night stay with breakfast and a two course dinner from €159 per person sharing.  The hotel has a Hike & Heritage package from €270 per person sharing, including a history tour, packed lunch for a walking tour of Killarney National Park, complimentary bicycle hire, a two course informal meal in the Cellar Bar and on the second evening a gourmet dinner in the multi-award winning Herbert restaurant.
DIning room cahernane house hotel


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