Kerry is one of those counties that you can visit an endless number of times and still find new, beautiful places to explore. Having not been to Tralee since childhood, which then included long summer days spent enjoying homemade picnics on Banna Beach it was time to rediscover this beauty spot and in particular Ballyseede Castle Hotel.
Ballyseede Castle is Kerrys only Castle Hotel and a member of the Romantic Castles of Ireland group. Located on 30 acres of woodland, the gorgeous grounds are soul soothing. Opposite the hotel entrance a group of old pals have congregated, the resident donkeys and ponies are absolutely adorable.
Perched on thirty acres of private garden and woodland, this very special castle hotel has lots of wonderful walks to offer within its peaceful gates.
Self described as elegant accommodation, we have to say, this is an understatement. Ballyseede Castle is elegance and luxury personified. From the moment you ascend the flight of steps to the entrance you will be wowed by the stunning surroundings. Upon entrance a huge marble fireplace with its glowing embers immediately adds a sense of occasion as do the decorative, ornate ceiling mouldings. Doric columns lead to an elegant oak staircase.
Our Superior Castle Room was located on ‘The Poets’ floor. Every step you take through the hotel you are surrounded by opulence and grandeur but we were still absolutely bowled over when we entered our room. Plush, deep pile, grey patterned carpet in regal shades of grey. Rich, textured wall coverings including elegant wood panelling, curtains in magnificent brocaded fabric and of course the all consuming, gracefully dressed, four poster bed.
Cosy seating area complete with armchairs, sofa and flat screen TV. Ideal for when you just want to unwind in your own little sanctuary for the night.
A very glamorous, stone grey slipper bath occupies a cosy corner of this stunning room. These rooms are so elegant in design with a thoughtful muted palate led colour scheme enhancing that much sought after feeling of sheer tranquility.
We found it pretty hard to tear ourselves away from the comfort of our gorgeous room but we were delighted we did. With dinner booked in the award winning O’Connells Restaurant we had just enough time to pop into the bar for a pre dinner cocktail.
Stained glass windows keep the middle age theme running in this modern bar setting. Ample very well spaced seating and warm friendly, staff on hand. All safety measures in relation to Covid_19 are fully adhered to with sanitiser available throughout the hotel. All members of staff wore masks at all times.
Feverishly making our way to dinner in 2 star AA Rosette O’Connell Restaurant, the divine scents wafting in the air had stirred our appetite. A quick stop to scan the menu on offer before we entered, we had our minds pretty much made up before we even took our seats.
The O’Connell Restaurant is incredibly beautiful. Ornate detailing is in abundance. Seductively low lighting aided by candles burning brightly on every table creating the ultimate romantic ambiance.
Commencing our dining for the evening with an Amuse Bouche of smoked mushroom soup with truffle oil. This dainty drop was a super tasty start to dinner.
Our first starter of the evening was Slow Braised Pork Belly. Three cubes of tender, juicy pork belly with a spiced apple puree. The spiced apple added a really warm, autumnal feel to the dish. Cherry tomato, shallot and basil chutney aided in cutting through the richness of the pork.
The second starter to the table was Tiger Prawn, Poached Fresh Salmon and Dingle Crab Cocktail served cold, as you would expect, with marie rose sauce and lemon. Transporting the tastebuds back to the 90’s for us when prawn cocktail was the starter du jour, this modern twist delivers the food memory but in a very welcomed, updated fashion. Baby gem cups proved to be the perfect mode of transport from plate to mouth for delectable chunks of fresh poached salmon, plump prawns and flakes of sweet crab meat all enrobed in a piquant Marie Rose sauce.
The wine list is concise and well matched to the dishes on offer. We opted for a bottle of Charly Nicolle Chablis €39.00. Dry with notes of green apple and citrus fruits this was a really great match with our fish options and the pork belly starter being crisp enough to cut right through.
Once we had narrowed down our choices, we opted first for the Pan Fried Fillet of Local Hake. Cooked to perfection, retaining maximum sweet succulence of the flesh beneath seasoned, crispy skin. Confit of Provencal Vegetables lifted by the addition of aged balsamic, fresh basil pesto & baby capers. For us, this was the standout dish of the night.
Our next choice of main, Pan Fried Fillet of Local Beef. A plump chunk of beef sat atop a bed of puy lentils and root vegetables. The beef, requested medium, arrived to the table just so. The knife glided through with ease A warmly spiced Fresh Tarragon & Black Peppercorn Cream Sauce completed this carnivorous plate of deliciousness.
A hearty selection of wholesome country vegetables including creamy mashed potato, new baby potatoes, broccoli, green beans, cauliflower & carrots completed this wholesome medley.
One of us does not possess the physical capability of refusing cheesecake so when we spotted Baileys & Vanilla Cheesecake we both knew it was always going to end up on our table. A generous slice of light, creamy cheesecake with a crumbly, buttery biscuit base. The addition of orange creme anglaise was absolutely glorious and of course a helping of vanilla ice cream didn’t hurt either.
Our second dessert was one of childhood, retro dreams. Fresh Strawberry & Meringue Eton Mess. Shards of crisp meringue mingled throughout a martini glass filled with juicy, fresh strawberries, daubs of tart lemon curd, dollops of freshly whipped cream all laced with creme de cassis. Every moreish mouthful was joyfully savoured.
We both thoroughly enjoyed the dining experience in The O’Connell Restaurant. The food was really delicious, with unpretentious good solid cooking to the fore. The staff are so polite, engaging and attentive despite all of the new regulations and mask wearing, we cannot complement the team here highly enough.
We made our way outside for a little post dinner wander around the gardens. Again, ornate detailing is as much a part of the outside of Ballyseede Castle Hotel as it is on the inside.
Our final treat of this visit was ordering breakfast to the room the next morning. Relishing in the comfort of our stylish surroundings we indulged in two delicious full Irish breakfasts which were beautifully cooked and throughly enjoyed.
If you are looking for a relaxing and rejuvenating break, we highly recommend you visit the tranquil beauty of Ballyseede Castle Hotel. From the moment we arrived we found ourselves immersed in the all consuming grandeur and elegance of this beautiful hotel.
Tralee Co. Kerry
WRITTEN BY KEITH MAHON & OLIVIA BYRNE