Amid the Ring of Kerry tourist hotspot, The Malton Killarney offers guests comfort and convenience without compromise, writes Elaine Burke.
Location and accessibility are such crucial deciding factors for hotels that they are often over-sold. But, in the case of The Malton Killarney, you can literally exit the train station and cross the road to the luxury hotel’s doorstep.
This historic hotel dates back to 1854 and was originally called the Railway Hotel, adopting its modern moniker as recently as 2007.
The date of establishment coincides with the grand opening of the first railway line from Dublin to Killarney. The Great Southern and Western Railway Company acquired 40 acres for a railway station and hotel from Lord Kenmare’s great estate, enlisting architect Frederick Darley for the design. Darley was the official architect to Trinity College Dublin and had also designed Merchant’s Hall and the King’s Inns Library.
Today, The Malton deftly mixes the magic of the past and the luxuries of modernity. Even in our junior suite, two rooms had been transformed into one, matching a classically decorated bedroom and raised bed centrepiece with a newly fitted contemporary bathroom.
When Jackie Kennedy came to stay in the sixties, The Malton offered her a suite to match. Now dubbed the Kennedy Suite, it features rich mahogany furniture, a standing claw bathtub and a scenic mountain view.
As well as its plentiful 171 bedrooms and suites, The Malton offers self-catering houses and apartments, all of them with a patio or balcony. Situated on the very edge of Killarney’s town centre, some views are compromised by the location. Nonetheless, the clip-clop sound of horses from your window will at least soothe your ears.
AT YOUR LEISURE
The full aspect of The Malton’s six acres is worth exploring. On a fine day, you can find a nice spot on a swing seat overlooking the garden by the trickling sounds of a fountain. If the weather is against you, there are plenty of nooks and crannies with plush seating and lots of light in which to read or meditate.
A glass-covered walkway to the leisure centre makes the most of natural light, while the centre itself is small but perfectly formed with a pool, sauna and steam room.
The Malton stakes its reputation on outstanding and genuine hospitality – values that are epitomised by guest services manager, Mary MacMonagle, affectionately known as ‘Mary Mac’.
Mary has been with The Malton since the seventies – though you could hardly tell from her youthful exuberance – and no one knows better how to guide the guests than she.
A consummate professional, Mary will get to know you in an instant and accordingly accommodate your needs. Indeed, a stress-free stay is top of the agenda with staff all too willing to cater to your every requirement, complementing the relaxing atmosphere.
Following our arrival, we settled in the library area for afternoon tea, watching the parade of arrivals – businesspeople, holidaymakers and wedding guests alike. Guests can add sparkle to the occasion with Champagne or, for some wicked but sweet indulgence, the velvety Bailey’s cheesecake is to-die-for.
Killarney has been welcoming visitors from near and far for over 250 years and it is truly a town thriving on tourism. Each person we met could rattle off the sites, the history, and the charming stories. According to The Malton staff, “everyone” cycles 11km of the ring of Kerry at an annual event and Carrauntoohil trekking is part and parcel of being a resident.
Neighbouring The Malton, you have the picturesque Killarney National Park, Lough Leane, Muckross Park and the famous Gap of Dunloe between MacGillycuddy’s Reeks and Purple Mountain. Take your pick for where you want to take your pics.
Our journey to Killarney National Park was a throwback to The Malton’s Victorian heritage: a jaunting car driven by Billy and led by Sandy, a horse new to the job at three years old.
The landscape in the park bore the ravages of recent stormy weather, with fallen trees left to rot back into the soil. With wild garlic, bay trees, cherry trees and hazelnut bushes, you could literally make a meal of your visit.
I began to realise there is as much American history as Irish in some parts of Kerry
Armed with a picnic packed by Mary, we arrived at Ross Castle in time for a boat trip on Lough Leane. The largest of Killarney’s lakes, Lough Leane sits on the Ring of Kerry. Every one of the lake’s numerous islands has a name, from the tiny Mouse Island to the great Innisfallen.
On our whistle-stop tour, our boat captain told us of the old abbey on Innisfallen, the history of Muckross House, Bricin Bridge and Queen’s Cottage (named after a visit by Queen Victoria and accessible only by water).
A favourite lake sighting for me was Darby’s Garden, a tiny island of stunted tress that somehow survive being subsumed by the lake in winter. They say the first Irish potatoes were grown here, so tough they took six months to grow and three months to boil.
It was on this trip that I began to realise that there is as much American history as Irish in some parts of Kerry. The park was established when a wealthy Californian donated Muckross Estate to the Irish State. Philadelphia’s John McShain, the man who built the Pentagon, owned Killarney House – newly opened to the public. And, of course, Ryan’s Daughter was filmed in the park.
Returning to dry land, we cracked open our basket of treats which included extra bread for the ducks, who were hardly interested as they had so many visitors ready to feed them a feast.
We returned on foot the following day, this time visiting the former gate lodge for the park, a delightful Dutch cottage and tearoom by St Mary’s Cathedral.
The Malton’s menus focus on fresh ingredients sourced locally and cooked to perfection. A range of herbs and vegetables are grown in the hotel gardens while fresh breads and pastries come from the Malton bakery. Local specialities such as Killorglin gouda and Killarney honey are showcased with pride.
In the morning, the Garden Room Restaurant provides a served breakfast – the grandest experience you could expect. Dinner is later served within this magnificent setting of high ceilings and impossibly tall windows overlooking the garden. If you don’t secure a window seat, simply look up and enjoy the view of the ornate gilt domed ceiling.
At the other end of the spectrum, The Punchbowl Bar offers hearty fare for casual dining. Relaxing here on velvety sofas by the fire, it’s easy to feel at home. Bar manager Mike Hussey started us off with two of The Punchbowl’s signature cocktails before a starter of stunning celeriac and apple soup accompanied by dark brown walnut bread. For the mains, the salmon came with hot buttery potatoes and bright green veg no doubt picked from the garden that very day.
As we dined, we eyed up the Whiskey Corner’s collection of more than 190 whiskeys. Though a recent addition to the hotel bar, the elaborate cabinet of glass and mirrors looks as though it has been there forever. The words uisce beatha – of which even the non-native guests know the meaning – are like a siren’s call to the world of whiskey. We couldn’t possibly resist.
WHISKEY AND WINE
Our tasting was hosted by Declan Glavin, a font of knowledge on whiskey whether Irish, Scottish, American, Japanese or other origin. He also has tips on tap on where to find quality watering holes around the world.
Trays of tasters known as whiskey flights come at a variety of price-points, and you can go for a ‘full Irish’ in five different forms. Old favourites, distinguished brands and rare varieties populate the extensive menu, which itself has some stories to tell – including one about a rare discovery that’s still awaiting a buyer. Just ask!
Our flights filled with samplings, we were educated throughout the tasting by our gracious and well-informed host.
I like delicate flavours, and the Yellow Spot and Bushmills 16-year-old were my favourites. My partner likes a stronger taste, picking out the more mature 24-year-old Bushmills and Redbreast as his top tipples. Though neither of us could quite handle the powerful taste of Scotland’s Laphroaig, the fun was in the tasting.
As the night wound up, Declan treated us to a Galliano hotshot: a Scandinavian warm-up before bedtime, mixing Galliano liqueur with coffee and cream. An absolute treat for the senses.
The next night, we tackled The Killarney Wine Rooms, a unique wine-tasting experience available in only two locations in Ireland. As our whiskey guide Declan so smoothly put it: they aren’t the only wine rooms in the country, but they are the only wine rooms with Massimo.
The marvellous Massimo Mirabile was our sommelier as we dined in the Garden Room Restaurant and our guide in the Wine Rooms. Originally from Milan, he is a gentleman and a scholar of all things wine.
The award-winning Wine Rooms selection spans varieties from some of the world’s top vineyards which you can sample by the bottle or through the Enomatic wine-tasting system. This state-of-the-art dispensing system houses a selection of white and red wine for your choosing, pouring sample sizes from tasters to full glasses at varying price points.
Using a pre-paid card, you can top up and continue tasting as you please, and even continue to use your card on recurring visits.
And, believe me: you will want to return.
- Pop into a pub for GAA, football, racing – whatever sport is available will be on show
- Treat yourself to ice-cream spiked with Guinness, Dingle Gin, whiskey or something more homely like brown bread or sea salt in Murphy’s
- For more whiskey – this time with cheese and chocolate – check out the Irish Whiskey Experience
- Enjoy a game of golf with half-a-dozen championship golf courses a putt away
DOWN TO BUSINESS
The Malton is the site of Ireland’s first conference centre outside of Dublin. The purpose-built events centre is reached by a covered walkway through the hotel gardens.
There are nine meeting spaces in all, the largest spanning 905m2, with a purpose-built stage, in-room bar and mood lighting plus two breakout lounges (one with lounge seating, full bar and open fireplace). There’s also a sloping theatre-style auditorium with projector, screen and sound system.
DID YOU KNOW?
A cinema was created in The Malton in 1970, for use by film director David Leen during the two years spent filming Ryan’s Daughter.