Hotel Highlights

  • Breathtaking grounds
  • Family-friendly activities
  • More like a (rather spectacular) home than a hotel


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.

Smith Extra

Here's what you get for booking Liss Ard Estate with us:

Some home-made jam and a freshly baked treat to go with them

Special offers

Exclusive rates, packages and special offers at Liss Ard Estate

Two nights' free babysitting with seven-night stays


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Liss Ard Estate hotel - County Cork - Ireland

Need To Know


15, including three suites.


12 noon, but flexible, subject to availability (€30). Earliest check-in, 4pm.


Double rooms from $139.58 (€101), excluding tax at 9 per cent.

More details

Rates include full Irish breakfast.


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.

At the hotel

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.

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.


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.

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.


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.


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.

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Food & Drink

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Liss Ard Estate hotel - County Cork - Ireland

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 ( for recipes and news from the kitchen.

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.

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.

Smith Insider

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.

Local Guide

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Liss Ard Estate hotel - County Cork - Ireland
Eat, drink, see, do: local favourites and more…

Local restaurants

Elephant Island (+353 (0)28 23876) at 46 Bridge Street serves delicious Thai food. Have a casual lunch or formal dinner (the white linen appears after dusk) at Over the Moon (+353 (0)28 221000; on Bridge Street. The restaurant sources top-quality ingredients from a list of local suppliers, serving delicious soups, steak, scallops and duck (for example) in a relaxed dining room. Le Voyage (+353 (0)28 23112) is an elegant little bistro that serves reliably good food; Mary Ann’s Bar & Restaurant (+353 (0)28 36146) is a popular choice for flavoursome fish.

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Green, green Skibbereen

Liss Ard Estate

Castletownsend Road, Skibbereen, Skibbereen, County Cork

The hotel is set in 150-acre grounds just two minutes away from Skibbereen town centre by car.


Cork airport is 60 miles away. Alternatively, fly into Kerry airport, 80 miles away.


Catch trains to Dublin and Limerick from Cork Kent station, 70 miles from the hotel (a 90-minute drive).


Skibbereen, the closest town, is only two minutes by car. From Cork airport, follow the N71 to West Cork and Skibbereen. At Skibbereen, follow the one-way system to the Regal Roundabout with LIDL Retail Shop roundabout. Follow signs to Castletownsend, R596. The entrance for Liss Ard Country Estate is less than 1km on the right-hand side.


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Liss Ard Estate hotel - County Cork - Ireland

Anonymous review

By Mr & Mrs Smith.

Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this Irish boutique hotel and unpacked their seaweed bread and smoked salmon, a full account of their Irish luxury country break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a peek inside Liss Ard Est...

Read more

Liss Ard Estate

By Mr & Mrs Smith.

Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this Irish boutique hotel and unpacked their seaweed bread and smoked salmon, a full account of their Irish luxury country break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a peek inside Liss Ard Estate in County Cork…

We have an Irish chieftain by the name of O’ Donovan to thank for Liss Ard, a tooth-white mansion built in the 1850s and set in emerald countryside. In the 1970s, the building was used as a hideout for Swiss spies, until the Austrians (the ones being snooped on) caused a fuss, and the house had to be quietly passed on to a Swiss charity. Liss Ard Estate has new Swiss owners now: ones with a penchant for Scandinavian simplicity. The 15 romantic rooms are dressed in cream, taupe and tan; there’s a relaxed restaurant with one communal dining table, and four plush but cosy lounges, with crackling fires and shelves crammed with books.

The grounds are Celtic to the core, though: a sprawling, mysterious, romantic Irish wilderness, with a glittering lake, silver waterfalls and a James Turrell art installation that aims for a universal experience – lie in the Sky Garden, looking up at the clouds, and you’ll understand. The Celts have always had a thing for sky-gazing (that’s why the Celtic cross has a circle in its design, representing the sun and the moon). Whimsy aside, one thing’s for certain – you won’t be bored here: there are boats to captain, fishes to catch, bugs to hunt (if you’re a budding Gerald Durrell), a lake to swim, bikes to ride and meadows to explore. If you ever wistfully read Swallows & Amazons, you’ll love Liss Ard.

The Guestbook

Reviews of Liss Ard Estate from Smith members

Whenever you book a stay through us, we’ll invite you to comment when you get back. Read the Guestbook entries below to see what real-life Mr & Mrs Smiths have said about this hotel…


Stayed on 24 Jun 2013

We loved

The 200 acres of land offered lots of activities: hiking or walking around the freshwater lake, fishing, photography… There are several gardens and stops along the walking tour, which I spent a good hour exploring. I loved the quiet and peace of the area and with a few good books, I spent good quality of time for days and felt tranquil.

Rating: 10/10 stars


Stayed on 14 May 2013

We loved

Nothing about this place could be better. It was a glorious setting. The house itself was beautifully furnished and you were encouraged to treat it as 'home,' not a 'hotel'. Our room in the stable block was tastefully furnished with everything you would hope to find. The estate itself is still work in progress. We can only think once it is restored to its former glory prices will rise steeply. Do take advantage while you can.

Don’t expect

You need to ring ahead if you want an evening meal. The kitchen does not close on a set night.

Rating: 10/10 stars
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