Irish Hospitality

Carrig House offers charm, lush garden setting

By: David O. Bailey

CARAGH LAKE, Ireland Caragh Lake, prominent in many photos of Carrig House, is largely window dressing. The shore is uninvitingly muddy. Though there is a dock, this is no beach resort.

But what window dressing: a sinuous lake reaching back through the foothills toward MacGillycuddy’s Reeks, Ireland’s highest mountain range. The vista shifts from dramatic cloudscapes to rainbows and back, with, of course, frequent showers in between.

Carrig House, on the Iveragh Peninsula, is a fine base for exploring Ireland’s southwest. It offers 17 pleasant rooms, good food and shelter from a climate that most travelers would rather look at than live in.

It is not a place for a working vacation. There is no Internet access from the rooms (no televisions either, for that matter). The staff will offer time on the hotel computer but even that isn’t a sure thing: Ireland has gone high-tech as a member of the EU, but utilities still are at the mercy of North Atlantic gales.

Breakfast is as to be expected in a country inn: hearty. The thick bacon and, for those who can deal with the idea, the black pudding are particularly good. Dinner includes the usual lamb (good) and beef and some seafood, plus some interesting concoctions, such as a tartlet of wild asparagus and mushrooms.

The inn is surrounded by a rich garden of the sort that can grow only in the fog and rain and mild temperatures of an exposed leeward shore in high latitudes.

Beyond the grounds, there are extensive opportunities for tramping and touring. The lake is within the Ring of Kerry, the road tour of the Iveragh Peninsula, reaching seaward from Killarney and its lakes. The drive takes five hours.

You may want to return for byways, such as the road through Ballagh Bearn Pass. If you read the map right, this single-lane track will lead to the lakeshore road back to the inn. Or you may spend a forenoon at Muckross House in Killarney. (Don’t try a driving shortcut through the Gap of Dunloe: feet and hooves only.)

A little farther afield is the Dingle Peninsula and some remarkable dry-stone structures from the Dark Ages. Most are low domes known as beehive huts; the most spectacular is the Gallarus Oratory, a religious site dating to about 800 but looking as if it was constructed last week.

In all, Carrig House has the comforts you expect of a country inn in the British Isles as well as some of Ireland’s most picturesque landscapes and traces of its most distinctive history.

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