Extensive whiskey selection and Cuban cigars at The Cocktail Bar
Not walking distance to Kenmare (it's a short drive)
Comforters rather than duvets on the beds; some may find the decor fusty rather than elegant
Some rooms have shower/tub combos rather than separate showers and tubs
No iPod docks
Restaurants are pricey
No minibars, and tea/coffee upon request only
Sheen Falls Lodge is arguably the top hotel in County Kerry. The 300-acre estate belonged to the Marquess of Landsowne in the 18th century, and the hotel -- opened in 1991 -- feels like a country manor house. It has a stunning setting on both Kenmare Bay and Sheen River, which has, as the name suggests, gentle tumbling waterfalls. The 66 rooms have classic country decor -- crown molding, cheerful prints (plaids and florals among them, in moderation), and soft yellow walls; all but one have water views. Estate activities range from clay pigeon shooting to fishing to tennis, and more traditional luxury hotel features include a lovely indoor pool, spa, and small fitness center. Formal fine dining is offered at La Cascade restaurant, while (slightly) less expensive dishes are served at the classy Restaurant Lounge. The sommelier hosts daily tastings in the wine cellar.
A sprawling manor house on a 300-acre country estate
The sprawling Sheen Falls Lodge, opened in 1991, stands on the site of a former 18th-century farmhouse where gentlemen once came for shooting and fishing getaways. The current hotel, opened in 1991, is a sprawling building that feels like a country manor.
The lobby makes a grand impression, with its dramatic red carpeted staircase flanked by lion statues, a crystal chandelier, and gilded mirrors, while most other areas have an air of casual elegance. Guests will find leather couches, a wood-burning fireplace, oriental rug, and coat of arms off of the reception area, while the Sun Lounge and drawing room are refined spaces with views of Kenmare Bay. The cozy library isn't just for show; its selection of books is well used by guests, and the fireplace and green tufted leather couches make it in inviting place to curl up and read.
Guests can participate in all the traditional activities of a country estate, such as clay pigeon shooting, horseback riding, croquet, and fishing, as well as more modern pastimes such as tennis, bicycling, and hiking. The hotel also offers an impressive indoor pool, small spa, fitness center, and nightly tastings in the wine cellar.
A 300-acre estate that's a short drive from Kenmare in County Kerry
Sheen Falls Lodge is a short drive from Kenmare, a small, quaint town with brightly painted buildings. It's a convenient home base for exploring County Kerry, which is famous for its scenic drives (The Ring of Kerry and Slea Head Drive are the most notable) as well as its cultural attractions, such as Muckross House.
3-minute drive to Kenmare
31-minute drive to Muckross House and Killarney National Park
36-minute drive to Killarney, where tour buses depart on the Ring of Kerry
1-hour-40-minute drive to Dingle, where Slea Head Drive begins
Rooms at Sheen Falls Lodge have traditional style -- crown moldings, pale yellow walls, white lattice radiator screens, and floor-to ceiling curtains. Cheerful country prints -- including use of plaids and florals in moderation -- add country charm, though the overall feel is still elegant. Renovations are being rolled out slowly to the various categories, and Deluxe Rooms and Superior Junior Suites have been refurbished.
Fine dining at La Cascade and a more casual atmosphere at The Restaurant Lounge
La Cascade is the main restaurant, and has a formal dinner setting with white tablecloths, candlelight, live piano music, and views of the waterfalls. Prices are steep, but the dishes are certainly gourmet the menu changes with the season, and sample items include poached organic duck egg with summer truffle and pan-fried sea bream on the bone. Two- and three-course prix fixe menus are available. The quality free breakfast buffet, which includes pastries, fresh fruit, cereals, meat, and cheese, is also served at La Cascade.
The Restaurant Lounge is the more casual dinner option; though the white tablecloths are still present, red leather club chairs and a wood-burning fire help create a homey atmosphere. Prices are cheaper than at La Cascade but certainly not cheap. Dishes, while still upscale, are more simply prepared (expect items such as an Irish beef burger and roast breast of chicken).