An Arts and Crafts Country House by the Hill of the Fairies
Ard na Sidhe Country House Hotel was built by Lady Edith Gordon, a lady who knew exactly what she wanted and got – ‘The House of My Dreams’. Situated on 32 acres of gardens in a lush landscape this is a Country House Hotel that takes a hold of your heart from the minute you enter the gates. It is described as being of English Elizabethan style. It was built in 1913 with local brown sandstone and greenish grey Westmorland roof slates. The House is gabled with casement windows set in stone mullions and is a rare example of an Arts and Crafts style Country House.
Ard na Sidhe, (the translation means the Hill of the Fairies) is situated on the shores of Caragh Lake off the N72 between Killorglin and Glenbeigh, in Co. Kerry. In 1960 the house, having been sold to the Liebherr family, opened as an elegant petite Country House Hotel with 10 rooms in the main house and 8 more situated in a discreet new building through an arch across the garden. It quickly became synonymous with quality and style with innovative little touches that put it a cut above many other Country House Hotels. It is part of the Killarney Hotels group and it is a testament to the group that they have kept the integrity of Ard na Sidhe intact.
The Gardens: The gardens have to get a special mention as they are quite stunning but let’s start at the front gate. There is a very steep gorge running alongside the entrance driveway which has the effect of making one feel that they are walking in the treetops, as in the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Most of the 32 acres are given over to the unfolding gardens, which lead one right down to a grass lawn on the lake shore. The gardens are all intertwined with one walk bringing guests along a really striking Azalea path to a spectacular rock garden which is not only an integral feature but the very heart of the gardens. Scattered throughout the gardens are dozens of varieties of Rhododendrons. Yet another path leads you alongside dense Bamboos where a specimen Cryptomeria Japonica ‘Elegans’ suddenly appears in all its glory. It makes one want to be a child again and go climbing. Continuous love and attention has been lavished in maintaining the gardens and this work is supervised by the renowned gardener, Sir Roy Lancaster. It is an absolute ‘must visit’ garden for all those with green fingers.
The interior of the House most certainly does not disappoint – an absolute impossibility. All the furnishings, some of which are original to the House, are in perfect harmony. Many of these antique pieces positively glow from polishing over the decades. The low Elizabethan ceilings of the Library and Drawing Room actually serve to accentuate the gracious size of these rooms. The Drawing Room has a very stylish brass chandelier set with four simple glass shades. There are four matching single light fittings surrounding it, thus bringing symmetry to what is a distinctively asymetrical room. Here there are windows on all three outside walls letting in natural light from the west, south and north. Casually resting on the grand piano is a very striking chess set measuring about 2 feet with Italian hand carved china pieces depicting Napoleon and Josephine and his army, obviously Republican, with what I am assuming are Royalists as the opposing pieces or perhaps Italians?
A motto was carved in ancient script (although I feel that it was done fairly recently) on the simple yet elegant sandstone fireplace in the Drawing Room with the words ‘Rather spoil your joke than hurt your friend’. A thoughtful suggestion which I am sure gives guests something to think about. Yet another little idiosyncratic aspect that makes Ard na Sidhe special.
The natural unvarnished oak original staircase leads to a square landing upstairs where all the bedrooms are located on the first floor. This is a two story house but its gabling makes it appear much larger and grander. The bedrooms are all decorated with soft furnishings that most people would kill to have in their own home.
My bedroom (No. 1) was in perfect proportion with a good size bathroom with separate shower and large free standing bath. A little wooden step had been placed under the bath to assist with climbing in and out; such a thoughtful little touch. The wardrobe as well as containing all the little luxuries such as slippers, robes also had little lavender bags. This was a bedroom that epitomizes the word elegant. Guests should bear in mind that whilst there is WIFI there are no televisions in the bedrooms or elsewhere in the House. This is a house of total relaxation with no distractions. As one looks out the mullioned windows across Caragh Lake with the sun setting this was truly a heavenly view and so reminiscent of The Lady of the Lake.
Cuisine: Dinner was served in the handsome Dining Room, next door to the Library. Like all the other rooms in the House the colour of the walls are very striking and not in the slightest bit bland. Here the walls are decorated in Seal Blue and yet it exuded a warm feeling – quite mysterious.
All the food in Ard na Sidhe is served on Waterford Wedgewood china; the design of which was chosen by the Libherr family. I mean everything, including the condiments, tea pots, sugar bowls, milk jugs and small trays, are Waterford Wedgewood. This really adds a little touch of glamour to your meal. The Menu was very enticing. To start, delicate sautéed chicken livers followed by char grilled Hake. Dessert was a really good chocolate and mint mousse accompanied by pistachio ice cream. Dinner was followed by a wonderful game of Chess, (which I won!!).
Most importantly the food is sourced locally, with much of it coming from their own farm located nearby and they have a very strong environmental policy in place.
Ard na Sidhe is a Country House Hotel where you can quite happily leave your door unlocked just as you would at home. Attention to detail is a defining feature of this truly unique and exquisite Edwardian pocket estate. Not many places imbue such a sense of tranquillity and peace. It doesn’t matter whether the sun shines the House imbues an inner glow to its guests. What a legacy that Lady Edith left behind and what a joy that the Liebherr family have seen fit to invest and maintain such a legacy for those lucky enough to have had the pleasure of staying there.