When you have left it until the last minute, finding good accommodation in Kerry, Ireland in late August is no small feat. Choosing the week before schools in Ireland go back, needing Friday to Friday availability and holidaying on a budget makes it nigh on impossible. Luckily we are no strangers to the pressure of last minute getaways!
Having no luck in our hunt for a child-friendly 3 bed property in a scenic spot in Kerry, we checked Owners Direct as a last resort. We once found a corker of a villa in France at the last minute through them so it seemed worth a try. As the bookings are managed by individuals,not agencies, they sometimes require a bit more work than simply checking an online calendar and you need to make sure of an owner’s credentials before booking. This does mean though that the chances of coming across last minute availability in peak season is a bit higher than normal agencies. The prices can be better too in my experience. This time, we were in luck again and found a fantastic holiday cottage for exploring Kerry and the South West corner of Ireland.
Location and what to do nearby
Nestled up on the south slopes of the Slieve Mish mountain range on Kerry ‘s Dingle peninsula, the cottage we stumbled upon was based just outside of Castlemaine, positioned perfectly to enjoy the most glorious views across the sea to the mountains of the Iveragh peninsula opposite.
Flying in from Dublin, it took us the best part of four hours to drive to Kerry and our holiday cottage, although we could have done it in closer to 3 1/2 hours if we hadn’t detoured a bit. Arriving at the cottage we were blown away by the beauty of Kerry and the cottage’s immediate surroundings. I’m not sure holiday cottages get much more scenic.
The cottage is situated on a quiet farm lane just off the main road from Castlemaine to Dingle. It does not have any immediate neighbours and raised up as it is on the lower slopes of the Slieve Mish mountains which roll down to meet it from the north, it has the most beautiful panoramic views across Castlemaine Harbour to the misty mountains of the Iveragh peninsula beyond. The views don’t end there either – behind the house the mountains loom close, their dark peaks forming a dramatic backdrop to the property and gardens. If you are a keen walker then you can set out straight onto some serious hill walks from the holiday cottage, although you will need to be a competent map reader as there are no way-marked trails here.
The property is sadly not within walking distance of shops or a pub. There is a garage and small grocery store five minutes drive down the road though, with further facilities at Castlemaine and Tralee. There are a number of pubs within a few minutes’ drive and popular vegetarian restaurant The Phoenix is just down the road. Also within ten minutes motor time is stunning sandy Inch beach with its moody mountain backdrop, family friendly swimming, riding and surfing. The traditional gateway to the Ring of Kerry and famous Killarney National Park, Killarney town is about 30 minutes away. The town of Dingle, with its famous maritime local resident – Funghi the dolphin, is a similar drive in the opposite direction.
In terms of wider location, the holiday cottage is well placed for first time visitors to Kerry. We wanted to see as much of the area as possible and for this reason were reluctant to base ourselves down the end of one of Kerry ‘s spectacular peninsulas where the drive times to get to other parts of the county would be lengthy. At the same time though we didn’t want to compromise on beauty or a rural feel. Based on the landward end of the Dingle peninsula, we were easily able to explore both Dingle and Iveragh peninsulas as well as reduce our end of trip return journey to Dublin by about an hour.
Inside the holiday cottage
Our Kerry holiday cottage was as lovely inside as out. The house has been thoughtfully laid out with a focus on making the most of its breathtakingly beautiful location. There are windows framing the mountain views in all directions, a mezzanine landing upstairs that gives the house an open, connected feel and my favourite, a fantastic sun room to either bathe in the warmth of both summer and winter sunshine or on damper days, just to enjoy the views from within. There is lots of wood throughout the house, giving it a warm, rural and cottagey feel.
Downstairs, a very generously sized bedroom with king-sized bed and a very large en-suite bathroom gave us more than ample room for ourselves and the baby. Upstairs there were three further good-sized but cosy feeling bedrooms including two twins and a double with en-suite, as well as another family bathroom. The beds were comfy and the rooms attractively decorated with plenty of towels available. Everything was spotlessly clean and nicely decorated.
Our Kerry holiday cottage was also good for children. Two decent travel cots were available as well as a high chair, swing-rocker for Baby, baby bath and even a small pushchair! The kitchen has a few baby spoons but you would need to bring any special plates/toddler cutlery with you. The owner, who now lives abroad, has left all sorts of bits and bobs used for his own children as they grew up in the downstairs cupboard, all of which we were told we were free to use.
A separate living room with heavy curtains for winter cosiness, a fireplace, plenty of sofa space, tv and DVD player, lay across the hallway. Connected to it, a large kitchen/diner with a big family dining table had all the necessary equipment, including a dishwasher, although some of the ‘non-stick’ pans could do with replacing.
A useful addition for family visitors, next to the kitchen is a utility room with washing machine and tumble drier, as well as line space in the courtyard outdoors. The house also has internet, although this was hit and miss during our visit.
Basics such as tea, coffee, dishcloths and a few washing tabs for dishwasher and washing machine were all provided. There were books around to borrow and some information on Kerry and the local area. The one thing the holiday cottage was really missing though was a visitors’ book (always handy to find previous visitors’ local recommendations) and a file with all the important contact and emergency information for the local area.
Outside, the garden has two good-sized lawn areas and a paved area for playing and the lane outside is quiet enough that children could bike up and down it with some supervision (the occasional vehicle uses the lane for access). There is a BBQ and outdoor bench for summer dining and if you visit Kerry, like we did, in late summer and early autumn, you can pig out on the masses of blackberries growing just outside the front gate!
Owner, booking and price
Booking through Owners Direct means that every booking is different and your experience relies entirely on the owner in question. In this case, the owner of our Kerry holiday cottage was based in Hong Kong and we corresponded via email. He was very prompt to respond to us on most occasions and answered all our queries fully both pre and post booking.
Given the short notice, we paid for our week in Kerry in full at time of booking. Payment was via Paypal, giving us the option of adding some security with a credit card transaction. Our week at the end of August cost us 800 euros or approx. £630 on the exchange rate at the time. For this quality of house, with capacity to sleep 8 adults comfortably and two babies in cots, during peak season in Kerry – that’s not bad value.
Once the booking part was complete, we were put in touch with the owner’s father in Kerry, who is based just round the corner from the holiday cottage and manages the property on behalf of his son. Super-friendly and very helpful, he met us on arrival, helped fix the internet (although it still wasn’t great) and even came round to put a temporary screw in the window of the upstairs room our toddler was in so she couldn’t unwittingly open it and climb out. He even left us a bottle of wine and some chocolate biscuits to enjoy – a welcome sight after a long drive! Having learnt we were keen walkers, he introduced us to his neighbour who is a local walking guide and who subsequently loaned us a whole selection of walking guides and routes for Kerry and surroundings. There was no fuss at the end of our visit and our whole stay was made more enjoyable knowing that we had such a friendly contact close by who could help us out if we needed recommendations or assistance of any kind.
We absolutely loved our holiday cottage in Kerry and would definitely consider staying there again. It is a really beautiful spot and perfectly located for exploring both the Dingle and Iveragh peninulas of Kerry. Given more time, I might have looked for a property within walking distance of Inch Beach so we could have enjoyed taking the girls for some fresh air on the beach without bundling them into the car for ten minutes but in every other respect it was the perfect house. Given its fireplace, underfloor heating and cosy curtains, the holiday cottage would make a great place for a winter break in Kerry too. I would whole-heartedly recommend it.
For more information, availability and reservations for our holiday cottage in Kerry, please visit the website.