If you’re looking for a real life Winter Wonderland, look no further than the Kingdom itself.
When it comes to Christmas escapes and amazing hospitality – Killarney takes the crown.
I spent a weekend there recently, and was blown away by a distinct “pleasantness” in the air. “Laid-back” isn’t the right phrase for the people who live in Killarney – in fact, their appetite for life is voracious – but there’s a happy kindness that permeates every interaction, and I found my stress dissolving as the hours went by.
How can I sum it up?
You can take a glass of mulled wine out the front door of a pub without anyone grabbing your arm, and once you’ve sat down in a seat you can be sure nobody will take it until you’ve left.
With that said, here’s how to spend a perfect 24 hours in the epicentre of Killarney.
9am Wake up at The Ross and have a delicious table-service continental brekkie in the hotel restaurant.
The hospitality in Killarney is unrivalled – and there’s a plethora of amazing places to choose from. The Ross is super-stylish and perfectly located, in easy reach of the most festive local attractions and when it comes to Christmas decorations, they go all out with playful festive fun to the rafters.
The Pink Lounge is a quirky decor dream year round – but at Christmas it’s like something straight from a Disney movie – pink sparkling Christmas trees, giant toy soldiers and garlands draped as far as the eye can see.
Plus, it’s home to one of our fave restaurants in Killarney, but we’ll come to that later.
11am Take a jaunting car from the door of the hotel through Killarney Park.
People come from far and wide to go jaunting in Killarney – so famed is the equestrian tradition in the town.
Killarney Jaunting Cars Ltd is a family run business and has been operating for over 220 years and it’s clear in the pride the drivers take in what they do.
The cars take off right from the door of The Ross and the entrance of the park is just a five minute trot away – so there’s minimum anxious road time (although the locals always give right of way to the horses – the horses are King in Killarney).
Rob welcomed us into his car, led by the beautiful Friesian Oscar, and off we trotted towards Ross Castle with Rob regaling us with stories of the area all the way. There’s really no better way to experience the park than under a blanket with a hot chocolate in the back of a jaunting car.
Ross Castle is truly breathtaking. Take fifteen minutes for a stroll around the castle before jumping back in the car to head back to base.
1pm – Try the best boxty in Ireland at Bricín.
When in the Kingdom – it’s only fitting you dine like royalty. This spot is hailed by locals and visitors alike, and has been touted as home to the best boxty in the land.
There’s always a warm welcome in the place where “dream holidays in Ireland are made of.”
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Muckross House has been the star of the show when it comes to stately country homes in Killarney, but the Killarney Park House has just recently reopened and is well worth a look.
Home to the late John McShain (Irish contractor who built The White House, The Pentagon among others), the tour gives you a comprehensive breakdown of the story of Killarney both past and present.
It’s a fully immersive experience with interactive screens, elaborate decor that really transports you and features that appeal to all the senses. A stroll through the gardens is the perfect way to round out the afternoon.
4:30pm Shopping at the Killarney Outlet Centre.
Do not miss this. It’s a five minute stroll from the hotel and the bargains are to die for. Save up and buy all your gym gear in the Nike Factory store. Or, you could not be selfish and get some Chrimbo shopping done. There’s a Claire’s Outlet, Flying Tiger, Trespass, Kerry GAA Store and fab homewares at Mango Crafts.
6pm Catch the Christmas parade from Reidy’s Pub.
This is probably the best tip of all – if you haven’t experienced the Killarney Christmas Parade, you’re in for a serious treat.
Get yourself down to Reidy’s on the Main St, grab a pint and set yourself up in the cosy outdoor area at the front and don’t move for the evening.
Every business has clearly poured their heart and soul into the Christmas floats, there’s snow pumped out from above, Christmas tunes blaring and Santa will seriously make you believe.
It kicks off with one big celebration in late November, and then mini-parades run on the 1st, 8th, 15th and 22nd of December, starting at 6pm.
7:30pm Gin and Champagne in The Pink Lounge.
There is nothing this man doesn’t know about the nuances of the juniper berry – from the history of the various brands, to the botanicals and very best garnishes – Pat can advise on your own personalised gin combo.
The Ross is famed for its cocktails and boasts over 70 different gins from across the world, from Drumshanbo to Dingle and from Spain to Surrey, and an envious selection of premium tonics and garnishes to choose from.
And for the Piece de Resistance… the hotel’s own brand, Ross Gin.
Notes of basil, bay leaf, grapefruit, honeysuckle, rose and kaffir lime leaves and best paired with grapefruit and basil garnish and Fever Tree elderflower tonic – Ross Gin scored an impressive 20/25 in a blind taste test. It’s a winner.
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Juniper, coriander, angelica, cassia, grains of paradise, grapefruit, bay leafs, rose and honeysuckle. Ladies and gentlemen we are proud to present our very own Ross gin in conjunction with @listokedistillery this really is something special, delicately floral and perfectly paired with fresh grapefruit, basil and fever tree elderflower tonic. #pinklounge #lanebar #therossrocks #lovekillarney #listokedistillery #rossgin #fevertreetonic #cellarone
8:30pm Dinner at Cellar One
After a jam-packed day, shift the mood with a candlelit meal in one of Killarney’s best restaurants, conveniently located on the bottom floor of your hotel.
Vaulted ceilings and warm lighting make for a really romantic dinner setting, as well as dramatic Missoni-esque string drapes and lights.
Executive chef, Ian McMonagle, serves a delicious range of dishes both contemporary and traditional. For starters, think wood-fired flatbread with smoked chicken, prosciutto, figs, walnuts and provolone cheese or Thai inspired wok-fried mussels and prawns.
Surf and turf, curried cauliflower and slow roast pork belly are just some of the options for main course, before diners can delve into an old school classic banana spilt or knickerbocker glory, before it’s time to head back up the winding stairs for some pink and fizz.
9am Rise early for a roadtrip to Torc waterfall
The Kingdom is your Oyster and the Ring of Kerry is on your doorstep – take your pick of attractions to stop in at on the road back to wherever you’re coming from. Torc waterfall is one of Killarney’s best known tourist attractions – but don’t let that turn you off. This is a must-see. It’s especially impressive after rain – which, you know, isn’t difficult in Kerry!