Every county has its own little moniker, Wicklow is the Garden of Ireland, Cork is the Rebel County but only Kerry can claim the title of The Kingdom. It is a rare occurrence that any visitor comes away from Kerry feeling like it was anything less than another world, with gems like Dingle and Kenmare drawing in throngs of tourists all year round. But only Killarney has been called ‘Heaven’s Reflex’and even a brief trip will prove how apt a description this is.
Killarney is the perfect place to set up base for exploring the breath-taking Ring of Kerry but equally it is a fantastic stay-cation destination in its own right. Home to the highest mountain in Ireland, a postcard perfect National Park and the magnificent Lakes of Killarney, parts of the beautiful and bustling town have to be seen to be believed.
Add to this the fact that you are spoiled for choice with more hotel beds than other county outside the Capital, many of which are housed in five star luxury establishments fit for royalty. Killarney is a great shout for a weekend away at any time of the year and the following spots will make you want to hop in the car and check your troubles at the county bounds, expect to be warmly welcomed and reluctant to leave.
A short drive outside town on the way to the stunning Gap of Dunloe, Heather is the perfect brunch spot. With their own poly tunnels and organic produce from patch to plate, you can’t get fresher than the food in Heather. Well thought out, clean dishes make up a seriously tempting provenance-focused menu. And their hot chocolate is made with Skellig. Need I say more?
These guys originally opened their venture as a pay-as-you-please pop up style restaurant which proved so popular that it is now a mainstay in town, with its quirky, mismatched decor intact. Plan B specialises in Brunch and burgers and their breakfast bruschetta and Turkish eggs are a must the morning after sampling Killarney’s night-life.
No-one does brunch quite like the colourful and quirky Lane Cafe Bar at the Ross Hotel. I defy you not to order a little tipple to go alongside your pancakes or loaded nachos – really embrace the Killarney vibe by ordering a Fassbender, named after hometown hero Michael and laced with poitín. Or be very bold make a meal out of dessert, their Smores Skillet is a sight to behold…after all, you’re on your holidays!
If you happen to be visiting the Aghadoe viewing park (and you simply must) then you’d be silly not to pop into the five star Aghadoe Heights Hotel for a spot of lunch – personally I’m a fan of the gourmet platter and a glass of vino but equally their Pulled Brisket Burger is a tempting choice overlooking the best view in Killarney.
We of course have Murphy’s Ice Cream from Dingle and their sea salt flavour is to die for, but there is more to the Killarney ice-cream story than this. Across the road we have Mac’s, an absolute institution in the town, and their cookie ice cream is a real taste of Killarney which you can enjoy while watching the world go by in the middle of town.
Killarney has a distinct holiday feel to it and nothing says Summer like traditional fish and chips. Quinlan’s always has a queue out the door and has developed quite a seafood empire with branches of their seafood bars and supplier shops across the county. Their lightly battered Wild Dingle Bay squid with homemade chilli jam is a guilty pleasure, but oh so worth it.
One of the more luxurious dining experiences on offer in Killarney, The Park Restaurant at the five star Killarney Park Hotel is the place to sample local ingredients at their best. Chef Heiko Reibandt has designed a seven course ‘Taste of Kerry’ menu which can be paired with matching wines and savoured in a stunningly opulent dining room. Dinner at The Park Restaurant is an indulgent fine dining experience showcasing Kerry’s best right in the town centre.
If you can manage to pick your jaw up off the ground after laying eyes on Panorama’s incredible view of the Lakes of Killarney, chef Alex Nahke will treat you to an array of imaginative dishes designed to excite the palate. A post-dinner digestif on the outdoor terrace gazing out over the lakes is a must.
Known for serving modern and funky food, Cellar One has something for all tastes, incorporating local ingredients wherever possible. With cocktails supplied by the Lane Bar above and tempting dishes like pork belly with bacon jam, Cellar One is the perfect place for a stylish dinner before heading out for the night.
If you can get a table, Bricín is a local hotspot which has been serving up consistently delicious Irish food for 20 years, with brothers Johnny and Paddy McGuire at the helm. If you have never tried a traditional Irish boxty (filled potato pancake) now’s your chance, make sure you come hungry and try to save some room for Bailey’s cheesecake too.
Chef Paul O’Gorman has been consistently producing some of the best food in Kerry for many years, keeping Rozzer’s Restaurant buzzing summer after summer with golfers and locals alike. From home-baked chorizo scones to rack of Kerry lamb, you will never leave Rozzer’s hungry or unhappy as proprietors Geraldine and Michael Rosney look after their guests like family.
There is no craving that can’t be cured at the Porterhouse Gastropub, the perfect town centre eatery with something for everyone on its varied menu, from steakhouse classics to vegan sticky date pudding with a side of salted caramel Nobó. Run by the Sheahan family, service always comes with a smile here, whether you call in for a meal or a local craft beer.
The Pink Lounge
If you like gin (assuming it likes you too) then The Pink Lounge at the Ross Hotel is a one-stop shop. A fantastic selection of gins can be paired with garnishes to enhance each unique one – I’m partial to a Bulldog with black cherries myself after Barman Dermot introduced me to it. Nowhere compares to the Ross for original cocktails – their Bombay Palace No.42 is named after a local Indian restaurant (and a nice one at that) and made with homemade Indian spicy syrup, Bombay Sapphire and lemon, all served in a takeaway bag!
For a real taste of the town, a trip to Killarney should always include at least one pint in the institution that is Charlie Foley’s. Perch yourself in the snug with friends or at the bar for tales of wisdom or advice on what’s happening around the town from Colm Foley, the eyes and ears of Killarney!
Killarney is a town like no other, not least because it is the only one with its very own Lord of the Rings themed bar The Shire – complete with Gollum lurking around scaring unsuspecting patrons. Jam-jars of their signature Hobbit Juice and green-tinged back lighting make this a seriously unique place for a drink or six.
In this stylish new spot you can sample a fantastic range of fine Irish whiskeys or even try a whiskey pairing with cheese or chocolate, the supplier of the latter being the fabulous Cocoa Atelier. You can also blend your own whiskey or take a whiskey cocktail making class, meaning this stop could be the makings of a very fun afternoon indeed.
The place to be for live music every night of the week, the front bar in The Grand is always a safe bet for a night of dancing and revelry in Killarney, be prepared to stay into the wee hours.
I will admit that I may be a little biased….but show me a better town than Killarney and I’ll eat my (green and gold) hat.
Growing up with the name Darina, I was constantly asked if I could cook like my namesake. With that (and greed) as the ultimate motivators, I quickly realised that home-baked goods make excellent bribes and an obsession was born! With bachelor’s and master’s degrees in law I undertook a PhD, but a preference for cookbooks to textbooks persisted. As a (self-confessed!) demon in the kitchen, I am the only person to have contested both Masterchef and the Great Irish Bake off, which fuelled my desire to set my focus on food in a serious way. Working with The Taste allows me to satiate this craving and marries my food fascination with my love of writing and ranting. Follow me as I share my food adventures and hopefully inspire others to indulge their passion for cooking and food in the process!