Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Train from Dublin (Heuston) to Killarney, change at Mallow. Grateful don‘t have to cross over tracks – a nightmare operation going up those steps with heavy bags, and a moody lift that's reluctant to rise.

The Malton Hotel (previously the Great Southern) ( is as fabulously old worldly as ever – richly corniched ceilings, luxurious carpets, lavish brocade curtains, antiques and sink-into chairs and sofas, not forgetting delightful staff. We’ve room 301 again – more than a room it’s a suite complete with lobby and dressing room – all rich fabrics and comfortable sofas. And the flower arrangements we’ve always admired are the work of Mary O’Shea. We come on her dropping cubes of ice onto the compost of a large exotic leaved plant in the lobby. ‘Why the ice?’ we ask. She explains that unlike water it will not drain through but melt slowly, moisturising the plant. A handy tip for our 30+ houseplants.

In Dublin we were enthusiastic about “swimming at least twice a day,” but end up not even visiting the leisure centre, despite great offers of various beauty treatments. Breakfast being one of my favourite meals, I’m in my element with all the fresh fruit, homemade breads and as well as the usual Irish fry-up which I ignore, going for The Malton Poached Eggs – on toasted baps, smeared with tomato relish and topped with hollandaise sauce. Fish chowder is a must for lunch – creamy beyond belief with chunks of fish. We usually settle for dinner in the hotel – table d’hote c. €28, with great fresh local seasonal fish and visually sculpted desserts, and, I hear, a mean Merlot.

There is so much going on in Killarney but on this occasion we settled for:
St. Mary’s Cathedral, designed by Pugin, opened in 1855, served as a famine hospital and shelter during the 1840s. The best of Gothic, with reverential soaring sandstone peaks. A redwood tree near the western doorway marks a mass children’s grave from the Famine.
Franciscan Friary, also designed by Pugin, 3 altars in ornate Flemish style.
Town, A church foundation from the 6th century, house settlement dating from 1500s. Warrens of Lanes – many cobbled, looking as through they’re centuries old - are one of the town’s best features: Bridewell/Green/Pond/Back Lanes.
Mrs Courtney’s Tea Rooms ( dates back to 1909. It’s a must to visit for lovers of nostalgia – homemade treats include lemon drizzle cake, apple tart, scones, chocolate cakes, as well as a variety of savoury foods. Food is served on gloriously mis-matched chine on embroidered cloths; tea is of the leaved variety, comes complete with strainer and sugar is in lumps in bowls, complete with tongs.
Quills Shop with branches throughout Kerry, for cashmere sweaters less than half original price.
Mr McGuire’s Olde Sweetshop in
College Street
for old fashioned sweets in old fashioned jars. Great selection of Peggy’s Leg, Bull’s Eyes, Satin Cushions et al.
Killarney National Park – ‘what better way to explore the Park than on a bike,’ we were full of enthusiasm. Rent-a-Bike, the O’Sullivan family owned chain of shops have been going since the 1970s. ‘How much for 2 bikes for an hour?’ I ask, thinking of a body unfamiliar with a cycle for some 17 years. ‘€10 and I’m open until six.’ I decline to test cycle and take the helmet insisted on, duly adjusted to my size and strapped under my chin. Husband sets off like Roche; bike and I will walk until we reach the Park. Inside one of the main entrance gates I try and try, but no matter how hard I can’t get my balance. ‘Cycling is not something you forget,’ mutters husband holding onto the seat while I try again. Two women approach, stop and ask how are we? and what’s up? I explain. ‘Give it back,’ says the smallest, ‘you’ll end up breaking a bone.’ I persevere for a little longer but without success and finally take her advice. Nice Mr O’Sullivan is not surprised to see me return.
And I return to walk the Park, peacefully, on my own, meeting and chatting to all sorts of other walkers, while husband cycles to his heart’s content.
Congrats to Killarney Bookshop  ( – shortlisted for Bord Gais Energy Bookshop of the Year.

All in all, a great few days that feel like much longer…

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