The Kingdom of Kerry in the Southwest of Ireland offers the visitor an unforgettable experience. Here you will find breath-taking scenery, hidden gems off the beaten path, charming villages, traditional music & dancing, and some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet!
This is the second post in a blog series authored by Cathy Cunningham Fennel. She will share her day-to-day experiences of her trip to County Kerry including the amazing places she visited, lodging, Irish food and drinks, and a bit about the folks she now calls friends. Her captivating stories will make you wish you were in Ireland!
Cathy turned to writing when she retired from her day job. Thanks to her Grandpa Phalen, she is one-quarter Irish and proud of it! Cathy lives and writes in South Texas and dreams of returning to Ireland.
Follow Cathy’s upcoming blog posts as she uncovers the myth & magic of the Kingdom of Kerry!
a warm welcome
My arrival in Sneem reassured me that my trip to Ireland would be all I had hoped. Even in early October there were flowers blooming and the charm of the town was irrepressible. We were delivered to the door of our Bed and Breakfast, assisted with our luggage and introduced to the host and hostess. The Bank House would be our home for the next eight days and Noel and Margaret welcomed us with great warmth.
Photo left to right: Noel, Cathy, Margaret and Sharon
THE COMFORTS OF HOME
The Bank House has historical significance but that isn’t what makes it so special. It has all the qualities a traveler could desire. It is cozy, comfortable, and spotless. Our room was small by American standards but outfitted with both a full and twin-sized bed. The furnishings were not exquisite but homey instead. The ensuite bathroom was much smaller than we were used to, but it was also sparkling clean and kept that way throughout our visit. We came to realize it was all we needed. A small window provided a picturesque view of the Sneem River and more than once I found myself daydreaming as I looked out that window and took in the beautiful scenery.
the bed ...
Having been raised on dairy farms, we both grew up with similar homey furnishings in our upstairs bedrooms, although without the en suite and without the excellent housekeeping service. For example, our bed linens were laundered in the middle of the week. We objected, telling Noel we only changed our sheets once a week at home and there was no need to wash them during our stay. It wasn’t necessary. Again, he insisted and again we felt pampered.
We slept well in the warm and comfortable beds and woke each morning to the aroma of Margaret’s breakfast. To say the food was delicious and plentiful would be a disservice to Margaret’s cooking and Noel’s service. It was so much more than that. It was an experience!
The first morning we came downstairs to the dining room and discovered the lovely corner table had a Reserved sign. Noel directed us that way and we felt quite special. This would be our table every morning of our stay and we never stopped feeling indulged as we took our seats each day.
the breakfast ...
The first breakfast was amazing! Despite coming from working farms in the Midwest, I don’t think either of us had ever seen a breakfast spread like this one. We did our best but had to leave food on our plates. A full Irish breakfast indeed! Ever the consummate host, Noel took note of which foods remained on our plates and assumed they were not to our taste. We protested long and loudly that we simply were not used to consuming so much food at breakfast.
In fact, on our first day of touring our stomachs were so full we had no appetite for lunch. Noon came and Ester asked if we were ready for lunch, and we said no. One o’clock came and Ester asked if we were ready for lunch, and we said no. Poor Ester kept broaching the subject of where to eat with us and we kept replying, “We’re not hungry! We had such a big breakfast!” Eventually it dawned on us that Ester had not had the privilege of dining with us, had most likely consumed a moderate-sized morning meal, and was quite hungry! Embarrassed by our selfishness, we apologized and allowed our devoted tour guide to consume a mid-day meal. Every day after that Ester brought snacks with her, just in case. Did I mention that our guide was adaptable to our wants and needs?
During the remainder of our stay our breakfast orders were smaller, per our request, but still more than ample amounts and accompanied by Noel’s special blend of tea. We began each breakfast with cereal of our choosing, then enjoyed bacon and sausage and eggs and a variety of breads with delicious jams. We also enjoyed visiting with other travelers as we ate. We were the only multi-night visitors while most guests stopped overnight at the Bank House as Sneem was part of their journey and not their destination.
feels like family
Noel and Margaret downright pampered us, and they anticipated our every need. From our first cup of tea in the morning to the cup Noel left out for us when we returned in the evening, we were well taken care of.
One day, while talking with Noel and Margaret in their lounge, I noticed the family photographs displayed about the room. There were pictures of two girls in what I immediately recognized as First Communion photos. As I guessed, these were their daughters and they spoke of them with love and pride so that I wished I could meet them as well. Noel even took us to their home on the Sneem River where they gathered with their children and grandchildren each Christmas. It was spacious and beautiful and, as it turns out, available as a vacation rental. I looked at Sharon and she looked at me and we began to fantasize about returning with friends and family to stay here. We had begun planning our return to Sneem from the day we arrived.
Noel and Margaret are dear people. Noel is a jokester with a wonderful sense of humor and Margaret is as sweet as she can be. They have big hearts, and I am awfully glad to have met them. We loved every minute of our stay at the Bank House and felt like family by the time we left. In fact, just like family, we all hugged and cried as we said goodbye on our last day.
so many choices
There are other places to stay in Sneem which I’m sure are quite lovely as well. There are other B and Bs and the genuinely nice Sneem Hotel and the Parknasilla Resort and Spa. Ester and Gerrit can help you decide which location suits you. If you choose the Bank House, however, be sure to ask Noel how he knew Maureen O’Hara and don’t forget to say hello for me!
In future blogs I will share our day-to-day experiences including where and what we ate, places we visited in County Kerry and a bit about the folks we now call friends.
Cathy Cunningham Fennel
Note from Kerry Experience Tours
This wonderful story was written by Cathy Fennell before the Bank House had to close its doors temporarily due to a fire. The renovations to restore everything to its former glory are in progress, and Noel and Margaret are hoping to open the doors to their wonderful Bed & Breakfast again later in 2023. We wish them all the best and hope that they soon can welcome guests again and spoil them with their amazing food and attention!
Curious about the 8 day private tour that made Cathy & Sharon fall head over heels in love with Ireland and the people of County Kerry? Find out more here:
Best of Ireland’s Southwest – 8 day private tour
About Kerry Experience Tours
For a truly local experience in one of the most charming and warm cultures in the world, Kerry Experience Tours will show visitors the most magical parts of Ireland. On offer are private day tours, and multiday tours tailored to suit your wishes. Enjoy the most scenic drives, spectacular land and seascapes, historic wonders, inspirational places, and hidden gems off the beaten path, completed with background information and stories. Enjoy the absolute best Ireland has to offer, creating memories that last a lifetime. Join Kerry Experience Tours and find the Ireland you’ve always imagined.