KERRY’S county town is world-renowned for the Rose of Tralee International Festival, but unless you’re from Mars, you already knew that, didn’t you!
Did you also know that some of Ireland’s best traditional pubs can be found in the Kingdom’s largest town; or that the 160km Dingle Way ends and starts in Tralee; or that it’s home to arguably Ireland’s best indoor water park – meaning the kids will be happier than a Kerryman in Croker when the Dubs lose.
A gang of us headed down to the Kingdom last weekend for a weekend of R&R, and if it’s a lovely, chilled out staycation you’re after, the four-star Rose in Tralee is the place to be.
Owned by Dick and Eibhlin Henggeler, the Rose Hotel is the kind of place that helps to give Ireland its reputation as the Land of a Thousand Welcomes.
The Henggelers themselves epitomise warmth and friendliness.
The couple bought the then Fels Point Hotel back in 2015 to honour their late daughter Dorothy, who sadly died in 2014 aged just 27 – less than three years after she was the Washington DC Rose at the festival.
And Dorothy, who was known as Dott, would be proud of all her parents have achieved in Tralee, a place that meant so much to their daughter and a place that will forever be special to them.
The Henggelers play a leading role in the annual festival and are behind the town’s push to build a permanent dome on the land adjacent to the hotel – on the same site where a temporary dome goes up every autumn as the world’s eyes turn to Tralee.
We turned up in Tralee late, as usual. After checking in and quickly dumping our bags in our wonderfully luxurious suite, we nipped down for a bite to eat in Dott’s Bar, a cozy hotel lounge where you’re made to feel instantly at home.
The food – a massive bowl of mussels for me – was locally sourced and seriously scrumptious, but even if it hadn’t been, the friendliness of the staff is such that everything about this place just seems perfect.
After a hearty breakfast the following morning, we headed down the road to check out Siamsa Tire, home to the National Folk Theatre of Ireland. And it was here where the whole R&R thing went out the window, as we were given an impromtu hour-long lesson in Irish dancing from the wonderfully talented Jonathan Kelliher, the company’s artistic director.
When he had put us through our paces and patiently watched us fail miserably as we attempted to ‘Shoe the Donkey’, Jonathan took us on a tour of the theatre, an impressive warren of gallery spaces and rehearsal studios that can accommodate everything from art exhibitions, dance sessions, music and theatre performances, workshops and big-stage productions.
Next up on the itinerary – a nice hot whiskey back in Dott’s, before we got to enjoy every girl’s dream: Champagne Afternoon Tea.
Need I say more. Didn’t think so.
But it gets better. Because Afternoon Tea was followed by every girl’s other dream: A sublime couple of hours being spoiled and pampered at the hotel’s Serenity Spa.
While us girls were being given an idea of what heaven is really like, the gents in our group took the five-minute stroll into town, where we were told later that both Sean Og’s and the Bailey Corner were amongst the best bars “in the world, never mind Ireland”. They needed food.
We all did.
But whether you were hungry or not, there’s simply no way you could ever turn down dinner in the hotel’s elegant Rose Room. No way ever.
With so much excellent local produce to choose from on head chef Odran Lucey’s a la carte menu, you’re guaranteed to experience the real flavour of the region.
I went for the Kerry lamb, which arrived with a mini shepherd’s pie, caponata, black olives and some envious glances. It was, like everything else this hotel has to offer, divine.
To reserve your star at the Rose Hotel, visit www.therosehotel.com.
And you can check out what’s on at Siamsa Tire while you’re in Tralee by going to