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Ireland

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Francis Brennan
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Owner of Park Hotel Kenmare
My Route du Bonheur in Southern Ireland

I was born in Dublin and for as long as I can remember I always wanted to work in hospitality. Was it because my parents dreamt of building a hotel in the west of the country but never managed to do it? Or because of the suit my grandfather wore that I wanted in a child’s size so I could wear it wandering the corridors of my place. After living overseas, I returned to Cork to work as a hotel manager and then I settled for good in Kenmare, in the south of the country. I got to travel a lot around Ireland when I was presenting “At Your Service”, a hit TV show here in this country. The South I would like to show you has immense treasures. Roam the length of its crests, play golf on the finest courses in the world, and enter century-old castles that recount the very particular history of a country quite unlike any other …

Relais & Châteaux proposes its Routes du Bonheur for your inspiration: they are suggestions of itineraries that you can adapt to your preferences and desired experiences. Our advisors are at your disposal to individualise your routes and help you make reservations at our properties.
Example for a 5 nights stay from €1012 *
* Minimum indicative rate per person, subject to availability, on the basis of a double room with double occupancy, including accommodation, breakfast and dinner (menu, without beverages) in the properties suggested for the itinerary.
Activities on site and nearby must be reserved by you.

My Route du Bonheur
Stage 1: 1 day, 1 night

Marlfield House

A haven of peace which perpetuates the long and sound tradition of Irish hospitality
Marlfield House
This has to be one of the finest country houses in Ireland. Marlfield House has been a peaceful haven for its very loyal guests for nearly 40 years now. You only have to take a stroll through the 35 acres of landscaped gardens to understand the owners’ sophistication and attention to detail. There are classical music concerts and recitals held on some weekends. I visit once or twice a year and it is always a true delight.

Close to the property...

Wexford Opera House, Wexford

It was Mary Bowe, of Marlfield House, who introduced me to this festival which is unlike any other in the world. Each year since 1951, the Wexford Opera House has put on a programme to discover the overlooked works of the lyrical repertoire. Running on from Massenet, you’ll be carried away by pieces that are both subtle and authoritative. The Wexford Opera House, is a bit like the home of forgotten operas in the heart of the Irish countryside…

Wexford Opéra House

House of Waterford Crystal, Waterford

They have been working with crystal here for over 200 years. Based in the heart of the city, Waterford Crystal marries traditional know-how and modern techniques. The public can view every stage of the manufacturing, from the creation of the moulds to the almost magical, meticulous work of the blowers. Close to 45 000 pieces are produced here annually. I still have wonderful memories of the day I visited when the new modernised site was inaugurated.

House of Waterford Crystal

We can advise you on booking your route. Contact central reservations :

1 800 735 2478

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Stage 2: 1 day, 1 night

Cliff House Hotel

The first thing every guest says on arrival is: What a stunning view!
Cliff House Hotel
This incredible hotel looks like a cruise ship about to set sail. Located close to the little fishing village of Ardmore, this contemporary establishment faces the sea directly. Its Michelin star restaurant is one of the best in the country. Adriaan Bartels, the general manager was my assistant for several years. He will tell you where to go to see dolphins and whales. He’ll also tell you to look at the changing colours on the horizon when the wind picks up. When you exit the Spa, you can try out your tee shot direct from your balcony. A proper Irish jaunt …

On the route...

Titanic Experience Cobh

The port of Cobh (formerly Queenstown) was where the Titanic made its final port of call on April 11th, 1912. 123 passengers were embarked before the liner set out again to sea. Three days later the Titanic would sink in the Atlantic. Titanic Experience guides us back to this piece of history. The museum is located in the building that was home to the White Star Line in days gone by, and it takes us back a century, shoulder to shoulder with those passengers …

Titanic Experience

Lismore Castle

Built in the late 16th century, this fortress with crenellated towers and façades underwent many alterations until the arrival of the Duke of Devonshire. In the early 19th century, he transformed it into a spectacular gothic castle using hewn stones sourced from Derbyshire. These days there is a lovely contemporary art gallery in the West wing. The outer walls overlook a river teaming with salmon and I was lucky enough to land here for a television programme …

Lismore Castle

Midleton Distillery

Every Jameson fan has heard of this place. Founded in 1825 by the Murphy brothers, the site remains a point of reference. With almost 20 million litres distilled annually, it is furthermore the country’s biggest distillery. The old building is home to a museum where amidst the old stills, we learn about the amazing history of Irish whisky. And, of course, there is a tasting (in moderation) …

Midleton Distillery

We can advise you on booking your route. Contact central reservations :

1 800 735 2478

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Stage 3: 2 days, 2 nights

Park Hotel Kenmare

Victorian ambiance and a little Irish magic in the Kingdom of Kerry
Park Hotel Kenmare
Our hotel is located in the pretty little town of Kenmare and dates back to 1897. The old fashioned residence bears a special witness to our regional skills and architectural heritage. The hotel is next to an 18 hole golf course and has a renowned spa. Magazines Condé Nast Traveler and Travel & Leisure voted Kenmare Ireland’s best hotel in 2012. Recognition for the entire team working there …
Or

Sheen Falls Lodge, Kenmare

As unique as Ireland itself
Sheen Falls Lodge, Kenmare
A little out of town, Sheen Falls Lodge provides a peaceful haven at the river’s edge. You enjoy the calm and beauty of the surroundings, the noise of the water and the outline of McGuillicuddy’s Reeks mountain range. Some rooms have fantastic views of the falls. This is a pastoral setting where you can watch the salmon run and you might even get to fish for some …

Close to the property...

Ring of Kerry

I am taking you for a car daytrip along the coast. The 170km long Ring of Kerry is a circuit that has infinite spectacular panoramas over the ocean. A must-do circuit winding from Killarney to Killorglin via Kenmare and Waterville. On the way, you will discover my favourite beach beside Derrynane. Fans of (long) hikes can also venture along the Kerry Way, a walking and cycling trail that leads to truly beautiful wilderness.

On the route...

Kiss the Blarney Stone, Cork

Some mysteries are hard to explain. Some people believe that the stone was brought back from the Crusades and others claim it was struck by Moses, or blessed by a witch saved from drowning, or it could have been a part of the throne of the Irish kings. All we do know is that men and women have been lining up to kiss this stone for over 200 years. According to the deep-rooted legend, doing so will bring the gift of eloquence. In the past, visitors had to be held by the ankles as they leaned their head forward over the ramparts. These days all you have to do is lie on your back and place your lips on it, while gripping onto an iron railing. It doesn’t really matter, I’ve never kissed it because I already talk too much!

the Blarney Stone

The finest golf courses

The famous golfer and winner of 8 Majors, Tom Watson, thinks the Ballybunion course is one of the finest in the world. Located in the Shannon estuary, it runs along this piece of windswept coastline. A few kilometres away, the Waterville course is also very popular with golfing fans. The view from the tee box at the 17th hole is absolutely amazing. Golf World magazine named it one of the finest golf courses in Britain and Ireland. And lastly, who hasn’t heard of Killarney, where the famous Irish Open was held in 2010 and 2011. A course for golfing greats and a region with lovely greens for the fans…

Ballybunion golfclub Waterville golfclub Killarney golf

We can advise you on booking your route. Contact central reservations :

1 800 735 2478

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Stage 4 : 1 day, 1 night

Ballyfin Demesne

We want guests to have the best travel experience of their life
Ballyfin Demesne
In the midst of 600 acres of landscaped gardens, Ballyfin Demesne is a splendid Regency style building. A unique setting that has just 15 rooms, painstakingly restored for 8 years and only reopened to the public in the spring of 2011. A spirit of romance prevails in this stone house in the midst of walled gardens, woods and vegetable gardens. Decorated in neo-classical style, the grandeur of the rooms is matched only by the privacy to be found there.

On the route...

King John’s Castle, Limerick

Built over the foundations of an ancient Viking fortification, King John’s Castle dates back to the early 13th century. Its impressive round towers and high wall in the Anglo-Norman fortress architectural style still dominate Limerick’s old medieval quarter. The new design launched in summer 2013 uses touchscreens depicting the history and the many battles fought around the site. A real find for adults and kids …

King John’s Castle

Bunratty Castle

The MacNamaras constructed this castle from 1425 onwards, but then it belonged to the most powerful family in Munster – the O’Briens – for a long time. Even to this day, huge medieval banquets are served in an authentic setting. You wander through a rich folk history. A typical 19th century village has been reconstructed in the adjoining park, with farms, a forge and water mills. I am particularly fond of this place and I am on its board of directors.

Bunratty Castle

We can advise you on booking your route. Contact central reservations :

1 800 735 2478

Indicate the code : BRENNAN

Calling from another country ? Click here