Ard na Sidhe Country House Hotel (pronounced Ard Na Shee) or Hill of the Fairies, takes its name from the mystical fairy fort, found on a rocky slope facing west, across the waters of the Caragh Lake in the Ring of Kerry in south-western Ireland. It's built in a revivalist Elizabethan style and is considered one of the best examples of Arts and Crafts architecture, second only to Lambay Castle in Dublin.
Set in thirty two acres of grounds, there are plenty of secret nooks and crannies, areas to watch the native birds, and paths which eventually lead out to the lake and far, far away.
In 1913 Lady Edith Gordon, an advocate of Arts and Crafts, employed the flamboyant English architect Richard Percy Morley Horder to build a luxury retreat for her. He is also responsible for a number of London business properties and quite a few Boots The Chemist shops, always helps when one of your best friends is the owner, Sir Jesse Boot. Ard na Sidhe is made almost entirely from local materials, the only exception being the Westmoreland roof slates.
Horticulturalist Sir Roy Lancaster has kept his eye on the trees and shrubs at Ard na Sidhe since the 1970s when additional plants and shrubs were added to the gardens and provided by Hillier Nurseries where Sir Roy worked back in the sixties. Lady Edith planted her garden in the Edwardian style and the garden has stayed true to her vision. Visitors can walk through the gardens with a useful catalogue of the trees, shrubs and perennials growing in the grounds, and there are thousands, all collated by Sir Roy. Bamboos, Rhododendrons and mixed bedding plants provide a wealth of colour and interest all year round.
In the thirties the property became too expensive to keep and in 1958 the house and grounds were bought by the industrialist Hans Leibherr. For the last fifty years the property has formed part of the company's Hotel portfolio.
In 2010 work started to completely refurbish the house which included the restoration of joinery, decorative plasterwork, a reconfigured entrance hall and oak staircase, flooring, remodelling the bedrooms and furnishings.
We stayed in Room 4, one of 9 rooms in the main house, and loved every minute of it. Views to every aspect of the grounds, the gardens and the lake and the perfect room to see everything in all its splendour. The furnishings are in the classic William Morris & Co patterns. The bed was handmade in Oak in a contemporary Arts and Crafts style and fitted with crisp linen, a decent duvet and was a struggle to leave each morning.
There are 8 very different, very modern Garden Rooms in a separate building to the main house.
There are no televisions or radios at the Hotel, the only piece of technology available to guests is an iPad displaying the weather in the lobby. I found it quite tough not having any idea what was going on in the world of news but as a journalist, maybe you'll forgive me (to be fair, the Scottish Referendum results were taking place)? I hopped into the hire car to get snatches of Radio 4 bulletins to feed my habit. But with a view like this, who needs media?
The Breakfast is a great way to start your day with a wide choice of cold buffet items and hot food and the dinner, exquisite. Both meals are served in a small but perfectly formed dining room which has an overspill annexe, the crockery made especially for the Hotel by Royal Worcester is in the same Arts and Crafts style. Intimate and cosy but with enough atmosphere so you didn't feel you needed to whisper, this is my kind of hotel restaurant. We had a fabulous meal which included Dingle Roe Deer and Kerry Lamb, all rather generous portions and definitely worth a return when the hotel opens up for Spring.
The fireplace is the focus in the Drawing Room and the fragrant smell of peat radiates throughout the Hotel. What is it that is so comforting about the colour and crackle of an open fire?
Was it the nightcap of Dingle Gin from the 'bar' that sent me straight to sleep or could it have been sinking into the deep mattress and full feather pillows or this amazing sunset each night?
The House is now having a well-earned rest of its own and will reopen on 1 May 2015.
All photographs by Rebecca Williams