The Europe in Killarney, owned by the Liebherr family who also own The Dunloe and Ard na Sidhe, has been named Ireland’s Best Hotel in the Irish Independent’s 2023 Reader Travel Awards. This five-star hotel was established in 1961 and overlooks the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks, with its peaceful grounds sloping toward the blue-silver sheen of Lough Leane. Despite being only a five-minute drive from Killarney, the resort feels wonderfully remote. The lobby lounge, with its triple-height, floor-to-ceiling windows facing the water, makes a great place to read by day or to have a drink by the flickering fireplaces at night.
The hotel’s 50,000 sq ft spa is one of its main attractions, with its stunning snow-capped Reeks views, toasty outdoor vitality pool and exceptionally well-equipped facilities. Guests can also enjoy complimentary jaunts on Austrian Haflinger ponies, and just walking around the lakefront grounds is lovely. A string of lounges, bars and a handsome library provide plenty of space to sip a quiet pint as you sink into the weekend papers. However, the hotel would benefit from a stronger sense of curation and identity, as art and design considerations felt overlooked, from indistinct plant prints lining the corridors to the menu designs, which felt dated and perfunctory.
The hotel’s 187 rooms are typically dressed in shades of chocolate and cream, featuring spacious bathrooms stocked with Espa toiletries and large, private balconies. If you’re investing in a stay here, consider booking a lakefront room essential — it’s the property’s raison d’être. Accommodation is comfortable but would benefit from a more defined personality, with more considered literature choices, a greater emphasis on Kerry craftsmanship and prettier balcony decor.
The hotel offers a variety of dining options, including the busy, buzzy and nicely casual, walk-in all-day restaurant, The Brasserie, which serves a straightforward grill-style menu featuring burgers, pan-fried salmon and superb steaks using beef from its own farm. Panorama is the fine-dining option, offering beautiful views during daylight hours. The dishes were nice, but it felt like many could just as easily be on The Brasserie’s menu. A luxury resort where guests eat at different venues over different days should better align its dining concepts. There’s a bit more variety at spa restaurant Riva, where a keenly priced Mediterranean-influenced menu includes generous pastas, pizzas and salads. A cocktail bar and pub-style bar round out the offering.
The Europe is not pitched against more expensive five-star resorts like Adare Manor or Ashford Castle, but rather, its peers or competitor set are more like Carton House, Ballynahinch Castle or potentially Cashel Palace. It’s a pleasant setting for a relaxing spa break or as an especially scenic resting place set in the splendour of Kerry, but it has the potential to be better. Addressing and diversifying the muddled food and beverage concepts would markedly enhance the property, as would a stronger sense of curation and identity.
Rates for B&B in Golfside Rooms start from €350, and Lakeview Rooms start from €420. Couples can reserve a private spa suite with a generous lakeview bath and sauna. Parties of up to six can charter a small boat with a captain to sail the lake for €120, an affordable way to explore the incredible surroundings. The spa can get busy, so consider booking a treatment to avail of access to a separate relaxation zone.