If a hotel has a swank spa that administers treatments using ultra-expensive (and effective) Sisley products, it’s probably something special. And if those treatments come in a Victorian manse overlooking the placid waters of Kenmare Bay in Southwestern Ireland’s Ring of Kerry, it’s yet more likely to engage even the jaded traveler’s predilections for plush resorts. Kenmare Manor, a turn-of-the-19th-century stone building backed by patchwork hills and forests, looks like something out of a storybook. But it’s more than attractive: At SÁMAS spa, the treatments, which are indeed high-caliber, come with views of the misty woods (from the pool) and the bay and mountains (from the relaxation room). Staff are attentive to even tiny details, like buttery Irish shortbread at turndown. Breakfasts of smoked salmon and eggs and flaky scones are served by smartly dressed waiters rather than set out at a buffet. The hotel’s restaurant is known as one of the best in the country for wild-mushroom risotto and Kerry lamb loin with eucalyptus-flavored peas.
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The 17th-century village of Kenmare is charming in itself, but it’s also close to Ireland’s Southwestern Ring of Kerry—known as one of the prettiest drives on this very pretty island. Then there's Kerry Way, a 133-mile walking trail, the 128-mile Beara Way walking trail, and Ireland’s only cable car, which goes to Dursey Island. The hotel is a 2.5-hour drive from Shannon Airport and four hours from Dublin.
Need to Know
Rooms: 46 rooms, 9 suites. From $185. Check-in: 2 p.m.; check-out: noon. Dining options: With all-day dining, the Terrace serves bites like Irish stew, crab cocktail, and cheese boards, while the main Restaurant is a destination for local chicken, fish, beef, and game prepared to a standard that chefs will appreciate. Oenophiles and whiskey fans will be impressed by the bar’s selections. Spa and gym details: In addition to excellent treatments, SÁMAS spa hosts retreats and events plus daily yoga, aerobics, meditation classes, and tai chi. The gym, sauna, and pool are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Who’s it for: Sybarites, spa lovers, and golfers. Green fees for the resort course are waived for hotel guests. Our favorite rooms: Bay-view rooms are worth the premium price. Local expertise: The hotel’s owner, Francis Brennan, may be good for some business advice. He and his brother John starred in a TV show wherein they overhauled B&Bs and small hotels.