Located on the scenic northwest side of Ireland’s peninsula in County Kerry, the 113-room Dingle Skellig Hotel & Peninsula Spa has the Atlantic Ocean in its backyard and the lively, quaint town of Dingle, a mere ten-minute walk away. We arrived on a wet midweek autumnal night and partook of a rich, filling seafood chowder in the hotel’s spacious bar to warm up before heading to bed. By the next morning, the sky was bright and blue (such is the mercurial nature of Irish weather), perfect for a day-long coastal drive along Slea Head past attractive beaches, sheer cliffs, a nest of islands and some wonderful art galleries and cafés.
Built in 1969, the three-floor hotel stands on a large tract of land, with a manicured grassy area out front and lawn fixtures reflecting local archaeological finds, including replicas of ancient standing stones, Celtic beehive huts and a medieval turret. Immediately inside the hotel, a brass capstan stands in the middle of an open lobby, echoing the strong nautical connections of the area. Comfortable armchairs dispersed throughout offer easy relaxation, with glass display cabinets filled with porcelain figurines, cutlery, Dingle crystal and Celtic jewelry.
Nearby, the Blasket Bar, named after the Blasket Islands offshore, has two separate rooms, both featuring multi-colored carpeting, leather chairs and cherry-wood tables. The smaller one has a decorative fireplace, a grandfather clock and a small wine cellar with watercolors on its walls. Across a narrow corridor is a large sitting room in tones of dark red, orange, and plum and a high, peaked, church-like ceiling. A series of colorful oil paintings by Julie Beckett adorn the walls, while ornate standing lamps, a piano and open fireplace help create a warm, cozy atmosphere. Throughout the hotel, wooden doors are decorated with stained-glass illustrations, many depicting rustic Irish scenes including one of three fishermen carrying a traditional Irish wooden boat known as a curragh on their shoulders.
We were initially allocated a room with a less than aesthetic view over the parking lot. Fearing possible early-morning noise, we asked to be changed and were delighted with the friendly response and a move to a spacious third-floor room overlooking the bay, with a central sofa and armchair that permitted us the opportunity to gaze dreamily over the water to the green-clad hills beyond.
The substantial breakfast served in the Coastguard Restaurant is comprised of a comprehensive buffet and hot-meals on order. The dinner menu is also varied with sake- and wasabi-cured local salmon, served with pickled ginger as well as grilled scallops with roasted pork belly accompanied by award-winning black pudding from the nearby town of Annascaul. Matching the starters in quality, the main dishes — Chinese five-spice duck breast with a crispy skin but tender inside and a confit with roast rack of lamb and a mustard and corn flour crust — were full of flavor.
Dingle Skellig also offers a fitness area featuring a 52-foot, three-lane pool (the only swimming pool in Dingle so make sure you get there early), a steam room, and Jacuzzi. On the walls along the corridor outside the leisure area is an interesting photo-print-drawing exhibition with works by artist Maria Simonds-Gooding and local children focusing on Dingle’s most famous marine visitor, Fungi the dolphin. This friendly mammal has been entertaining visitors with his antics on the bay for the last 25 years, creating business from tourists for the excursion boats.
Primarily a family hotel, the property caters to this particular clientele with a crèche, a so-called ‘teen zone’ and a cinema room. Having a large ballroom with terrific photo-op views of the sea channel, allows it to do well among business travelers or large events such as weddings and corporate gatherings.
While an old hotel, its rooms and corridors have recently undergone renovations and General Manager Graham Fitzgerald, said these improvements will extend discreetly to the lobby area as well over the next few months. The hotel also operates a spa, the highlight of which is a wonderfully located, open-air Jacuzzi facing out onto the bay. Various treatments are on offer but I’d advise choosing a regular massage over the hot stone variety. Chilled drinks, hot water with teabags and various fresh fruits, mainly grapes, are provided for guests in the anteroom.
With its prime location beside the Atlantic and its closeness to Dingle town and the scenic Slea Head, The Dingle Skellig Hotel provides convenience for a leisurely vacation in Ireland’s southwest coast.