Liss Ard Estate
- Style Stately modern manor
- Setting Green, green Skibbereen
With gorgeous flowering grounds and romantic rooms in County Cork, hotel Liss Ard Estate has an unlikely backstory full of skulduggery. Constructed by a disgraced Celtic chieftain, and once used as a headquarters for Swiss spies (before the Austrians found out), this serene sanctuary now deals in the finer things in life, like contemplative walks in the lush meadows and farm-to-table dining at its refined restaurant.
Need to know
- Rooms 15, including three suites.
- Rates Double rooms from $113.83 (€83), excluding tax at 9 per cent.
- More details Rates include full Irish breakfast.
- Facilities Extensive grounds with woodland walks, a lake and a landscape art installation; boats for hire, two treatment rooms, library, stash of CDs and DVDs, Nintendo Wii, free WiFi. In rooms: flatscreen TV, radio, Voya bath products.
- Poolside No pool, but there’s a big lake in the grounds with a little sandy ‘beach’ area fringed with reeds, and a jetty where guests can launch Liss Ard’s fleet of canoes and kayaks.
- Check–out 12 noon, but flexible, subject to availability (€30). Earliest check-in, 4pm.
Children Liss Ard loves children: there’s a crèche, a kids club and an array of onsite activities to prove it. Go on boat trips, nature Discovery Days, bike rides, GPS treasure hunts and so on. Babysitting (with qualified child-minders) must be booked in advance.
- Also Pets can come too for free, as long as you keep them out of the Country House (the main building). There’s space for them to bed down in the kennels, or they can sleep in a Garden Mews Room.
In the know
- Our favourite rooms Sleeping quarters are split between the Country House and the Garden Mews (the former stables, which date back to the 1800s), and are styled with the Scandinavian minimalism favoured by the Swiss owners. Rooms in the main house are larger and feel more romantic (apart from the Nursery Room, which has a cot and a toybox full of books and games for toddlers); we particularly like the pretty pastels and glossy wooden floors of the O’Donovan Suite, which spans a cosy living room and serene bedroom. Of the Garden Mews rooms, we prefer room six for its sweeping views of the grounds.
- Packing tips Some ripe yarns to spin for fellow guests at dinner; swimwear for the lake; a book of Irish folk tales to read by the fire; fishing rods and tackle; sheet music for the piano salon; iPad to download the hotel’s GPS treasure hunt.
- Also Not many hotels have a landscape art installation in their grounds, but Liss Ard does: the Irish Sky Garden, designed by the American artist James Turrell. It’s basically a massive green crater with a narrow metal plinth at its centre, where guests lie prone and look up at the sky – the idea being that everyone has the same view (Turrell is a Quaker, and previously designed a beautiful meeting house with a sky-hole). Exiting the tunnel is meant to mimic birth: you crawl through a dark tunnel, past a bright light and out through the, erm, woodland.
Food and drink at Liss Ard Estate
- Hotel restaurant Liss Ard has a simple, elegant dining room where it serves seasonal dishes: lemony asparagus with poached eggs, John Dory with tomato fondue and ginger-and-herb butter, and strawberry and mascarpone tart – you get the idea. Scones, bread and pastries are baked onsite every morning, resulting in a rather nice smell to wake up to. Instead of having a formal menu, chef Cliodhna talks guests through what’s in the local market that day, gauging culinary preferences. To get a sneak preview, have a peek at the hotel’s blog (http://lissardestate.blogspot.co.uk) for recipes and news from the kitchen.
- Dress code Something that helps you segue sartorially from stomping around the grounds to dining in the candlelit restaurant: try cashmere and corduroy in rich rustic hues. Floral prints are a nice nod to the hotel’s woodland surrounds.
- Top table Sit at the communal table and enjoy the craic with other guests. If romance is what you’re after, ask for a private table by the window.
- Last orders Breakfast is served between 8.30am and 10.30am; dinner from 6.30pm and 9pm.
- Room service None, but you can get drinks at any time from the honesty bar.
- Hotel bar No formal bar, but the honesty bar is stocked with a comprehensive selection of wine and popular spirits. Take your drinks to one of the four grand but comfy living rooms and perch by a crackling fire, or close to the piano with a borrowed tome or two.