If you want to get away from it all, I can’t imagine anywhere better than Windrush House on the coast of County Kerry in Ireland. I just returned from a week there with my family, and it gave us a true home-from-home.
Just yards from the miles-long Banna Beach, it’s sheltered by dunes from the wild weather that rolls in from the Atlantic. We walked there early every morning, and it was always like the first day of creation. We saw rainbows daily, the wet sand and clouds glowed in the sun, with patches of blue sky alongside dark banks of rain moving in. There was often howling wind and rain beating against the windows, but we were snug and warm inside.
The place is so comfortable because for many years it was the owner’s home, built on a corner of the family farm. Cows in the surrounding fields kept a careful eye on all the visitors, and we had a morning serenade from the local donkey. Another great bonus for us was a kitten that lived in the garden. It might be grown by the time you make it, but the mother was pregnant again, so it may be a recurring feature!
The house is enormous, with 6 bedrooms, a big, well-stocked kitchen, a games room complete with pool table, a couple of living rooms, and a conservatory to watch the rain from. We only had 8 people, but 12 would have still had plenty of elbow room. It was remodeled last year, with a crisp modern design, and great craftsmanship on all the work.
The owners, Pat and Liz Lawlor, went overboard in welcoming us with bottles of wine, milk, bread and dessert waiting for us when we arrived. They book up fast for the summer, but to my mind going off-season is a grand idea. There were no crowds, still had some great warm days of sun between the showers, and everything was glowing green.
Aside from the coast, you’re near the ancient village of Ardfert, with an enormous medieval monastery being restored, and some atmospheric local pubs. The area’s full of history, practically next to the house is the memorial to Roger Casement. He was a leader of the 1916 uprising, landed there by German submarine and quickly caught and killed by the British troops nearby in the first phase of the fight. Despite the grim history of violence between our islands, with local graffiti demanding justice for the H blocks, I never felt anything but a warm welcome from the people around us. Liz Lawlor was even diplomatic enough to describe Casement’s execution as ‘a little misunderstanding’!
A couple of miles down the road is Tralee golf course, designed by Arnold Palmer. I don’t know much about the game, but it was a gorgeous location, and the fact that some people landed in a private helicopter to play while we were there gave me the idea it’s a highly regarded club. The nearest big town is Tralee itself, packed with pubs and shops. It took around two hours to drive from Shannon airport, but the much smaller Kerry one looks to be less than an hour from the house.