Liss Ard Estate

West Cork, Munster, Ireland Book from

Reviewed by Nadine Mellor
Welcoming unpretentious country house hotel with acres of grounds and great food
My childhood holidays were never as good as this. West Cork's magical Liss Ard Estate, once the setting for a bizarre 1970s spy ring, has been given a new incarnation by the team behind Villas Martinhal. This is your own comfy country home, with great friendly service, fabulous local food, and wonderful excursions for children. Sleeping quarters are in the elegant main 1850s Country House (which also houses the common areas and grand piano), as well as in the adjacent Garden Mews. Larger family parties, groups of friends or couples seeking privacy or wanting to self-cater can stay in the Lake Lodge, a 10-minute walk away.

But the very best thing about Liss Ard are its amazing 200-acre grounds, which stretch forever - down to the lake, across lawns, through romantic woods, beside ponds and over ancient and modern earthworks (Lios Aird is Gaelic for 'high fort'). American skyscape artist James Turrell created his remarkable Irish Sky Garden Crater in the early 1990s; go through a tunnel into a huge grassed bowl and lie on the central plinth to see the sky framed by the rim; uniquely magical. Play tennis, borrow fishing tackle or kayaks for maximum outdoor fun, or venture forth to beaches and wild headlands. Adventures galore! Afterwards, cosy up on the sofa in front of crackling fires, or laze out on the lawns if it's sunny; there's great craic in the evenings year round.

Highs

  • Delicious fare of the Irish Slow Food variety in the large dining room. Lake Lodge offers guests the opportunity to self-cater, too
  • Flexible accommodation options to suit all, whether families, friends or couples, and a great venue for a wedding or celebration; surprisingly good value
  • Fun for families with large grounds to explore and fishing equipment to borrow. Kids under 12 stay for free
  • Easily located: just 2 minutes outside market town Skibbereen and 5 minutes from the main road to Cork (1.5 hours away); heaps to do in the area

Lows

  • If you're looking for a smart and slick boutique hotel experience, this isn't the right spot for you; the vibe is relaxed country
  • No pool or proper spa
  • WiFi can be patchy, and non-existent at the Lake Lodge
  • Note that if you're staying at the Lake Lodge and not self-catering, you'll have to walk 10 minutes to the Country House for meals
  • Restaurant is not open daily

Best time to go

Ireland isn't renowned for reliable hot sunny weather, instead, prepare to embrace the elements - often you'll get all four seasons in one day, as the saying goes! Summers do see the warmest temperatures, lush greenery and gorgeous long evenings; autumn brings nature's bounty; winters are perfect or the ultimate country house experience of indulging in good food and 'craic' in front of the fire. Whenever you make it here, you'll get the warmest of welcomes and there's heaps to do (or not), whatever the weather.

Note that Liss Ard Estate is closed at certain times in low season.

Our top tips

Skibbereen is the most southerly town in the country, so you're close to some wonderfully wild and rugged headlands: take scenic drives around Beara Peninsula, Sheep's Head, Mizen Head (which has a lighthouse and historical displays accessed across a bridge) and Brow Head, look for choughs on the cliffs.

Great for...

Family
Foodie
Great Outdoors
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 25
  • Restaurant; self catering in Lake Lodge
  • All ages welcome
  • Closed: 7 Dec 2016 - 31 May 2017
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
  • Concierge Service
  • Tennis Court
  • Kayaks to borrow
  • Fishing equipment to hire
Room: (Roman\\\'s Room)

Rooms

Accommodation is spread across 3 buildings. The original 1850s Country House also contains the main common areas (dining room, lounges), and highlights of pink and green plus modern art add contemporary energy to the tall Victorian rooms and wide plank hallways.

Upstairs are 6 bedrooms of varying sizes, with views across the countryside and some original features such as fireplaces and black and white bathrooms. Our room had double windows overlooking the lawns, an original fireplace, and a large bath on a plinth in its spacious bathroom. Next door, we got a glimpse of the Country House Suite, which has a lovely spacious sitting room.

Adjacent to the main house, the 19th-century stable block has been transformed into the Garden Mews, which has another 9 rooms. These are more modern in feel and can be configured flexibly into sets of 4 or 3 rooms plus 2 rooms are twins (so ideal for family parties or larger groups of friends). The ground floor-rooms open onto private gardens and are pet-friendly; first-floor rooms look out over the walled and herb gardens.

Nestled between Lough Abisdealy and the forest is the refurbished Victorian dower house Lake Lodge, a 10-minute walk from the Country House. It's ideal if you want more privacy, and popular with families and couples alike - but don't stay here if you prefer to have the facilities of the main house on tap, or aren't keen on a stroll. There are 10 bedrooms and guests get their own conservatory and living rooms; you can book the lodge in its entirety for a special occasion.

Decor throughout is comfy country contemporary with lots of white and wood and slate-topped sideboards, enlivened with woven bedspreads, Persian rugs, velvet cushions and taffeta drapes. TVs are flatscreens in the Country House and the Garden Mews rooms. Artwork is restrained: our room had elegant black and white photographs of the estate taken 20 years ago. You get grey and white modern bathrooms in the Country House; those in the Lake Lodge and Garden Mews have Japanese style sliding doors, useful toiletries, bathrobes, ample hanging space, and tea- and coffee-making facilities (Bewleys, naturally).

Features include:

  • Bathrobes in Main House and Lake Lodge only
  • Cd player
  • Central heating
  • Coffee maker
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Phone
  • Radio
  • Satellite tv
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi
  • WiFi in Main House only

Eating

Expect to dine well at Liss Ard. The chef takes delight in sourcing excellent quality produce from local farmers, fishermen and artisans. The claim is that the food served is not measured by miles but in metres. The breakfast buffet, served in the Country House, consists of fruit, cereals, juice, and locally produced porridge oats, yoghurt, fruit compote and jams. Breads and scones are cooked in-house daily. Hot dishes cooked to order include the full Irish, and scrambled eggs and smoked salmon.

Most evenings there's a 3-course seasonally changing a la carte menu for dinner, packed with flavour and interest. It could be flame-touched trout with golden beet salad or fresh crab to begin, or monkfish on the bone or dry aged Hereford steak as mains. There's always a vegetarian dish of the day as well as gluten free options and a range of desserts. Teas and coffee, and well-selected wines round off the meal.


If you're self-catering in the Lake Lodge, there's a large fully-equipped family kitchen and the dining room can seat up to 20 people; if you wish you can arrange for a chef to cater for a special occasion, or have meals delivered.

If dining out, try Mary Ann’s in Castletownsend, or The Church Restaurant in Skibbereen.

Features include:

  • Chef on request
  • Children meals
  • Coffee maker
  • Coffee tea making
  • Meal delivery service
  • Organic produce
  • Picnics on request
  • Restaurant
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Explore the superb gardens, ancient trees, ponds, lake and hedgerows. There are woodland walks, a waterfall garden, an arboretum, a wildflower meadow, and lawns to romp on, plus a tennis court

  • Don't miss the unique thrill of lying on the 'Vault Purchase' stone slab in artist James Turrell's The Irish Sky Garden sculptural installation, gazing up at the sky framed by a huge 'bowl' rampart, all sound diminished. Go at night for a heightened sensory experience, even better if the stars are out

  • Liss Ard also has its own fishery on Lough Abisdealy (50 acres in size) - rods, nets, flies and life jackets supplied; angling on other local lakes, rivers or at sea can be arranged, too. The lake is also perfect for wild swimming, kayaking and taking a boat out

  • With a pleasing diversity of habitats (and variety of plant life, the woods are predominantly oak, ash, fir and beech) the birding is good all over the grounds

  • There's a riding stables next door, and Skibbereen has a golf course

  • Ireland is renowned for ruins spanning millennia (Liss Ard has its own Iron Age fort site dating back to 1000BC); 30 minutes drive away is the beautiful Drombeg Stone Circle with views to the Atlantic Ocean

  • West Cork can be wet any time of year. In the 'can't beat 'em join 'em' spirit, you can go sailing from Baltimore and Schull, try surfing, kitesurfing and windsurfing at Barleycove and Clonakilty, scuba diving also happens in Baltimore, and its where whale-watching trips set forth

  • Relax after an active West Cork day with a massage from the resident therapist, either in the treatment room or in-room; a yogi can be arranged to lead a yoga class, either private or group, on request

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Boat trips
  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Kayaking
  • Kitesurfing
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Private guided tours
  • Sailing
  • Scuba diving
  • Shopping / markets
  • Surfing
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Well being
  • Whalewatching
  • Wildlife
  • Windsurfing
  • Yoga

Kids

Children are warmly welcomed at Liss Ard Estate which has acres of grounds for exploring and adventuring. There's also heaps to do in the area. And best of all, kids under 12 stay for free (up to a maximum of two per family).

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Toddlers (1-4 years), Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

Most room categories can accommodate a baby cot, some can take a rollaway bed for a child, ranging up to the Country House Suite which can take a family of 5. Only a few of the rooms within the Country House (the Suites) and Garden Mews are large enough for couples sharing with children (you can group some of the latter together if a couple of families are holidaying together); the Lake Lodge is ideal for large family parties who want their own private space or for families wanting to self-cater.

Babysitting:

Babysitting is available on request

Baby equipment:

  • Baby cots
  • High chairs
  • Plastic crockery and cutlery

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Children's meals:

Specially prepared children's meals with fun and healthy food options are available on request. You can let Liss Ard know in advance of any requests/preferences.

Kids Activities on site:

  • Stroll through the woods with your buggy - there's a specially designed circular route which hasn't any steps
  • Swim in the lake or...
  • Take a kayak for a paddle
  • Go fishing on the lake - there's equipment to hire
  • A tennis court; equipment to borrow
  • Picnics in the garden

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Riding at stables nearby
  • The nearest beach (Tragumna) is 3km away
  • Families can learn to fly fish; enquire at reception
  • Indoor soft play centre in Skibbereen

Families Should Know:

Take care when strolling with the kids near the lake.

Distances:

  • Airport: 1.5-2 hours
  • Hospital: 10 minutes
  • Nearest shop: 2 minutes
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
10/
Food
10/
Service
10/
Value
10/
Overall

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