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Irish Hotels and Resorts Rank Among the Best

Falls Restaurant, Sheen Falls Lodge, Kenmare


IRELAND HOPPING | By Margaret M. Johnson

Part II

If you haven’t heard the news yet, you’ll be thrilled to know that Travel & Leisure magazine just announced its “World’s Best List” with three Irish properties on it. Every year its T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, spas and more. Hotels are rated on their facilities, location, service, food, and overall value; properties are rated on their locations and amenities. I’ve spent time in all three Irish winners (in my last column I reported on Ballyfin, one of the most lavish Regency mansions in Ireland that was rated No. 2), and I’m happy to share the news of two more stunners this week!

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In October 2017, I visited Sheen Falls Lodge in Kenmare. Ranked No. 50 on the “Top 100” list, the lodge is a member of the prestigious Relais & Châteaux, a global fellowship of individually owned and operated luxury hotels and restaurants. It’s one of about 500 properties (historic landmarks, castles, or manor houses set in idyllic settings and offering exquisite cuisine) that meet strict admission standards. The rooms at Sheen Falls ( are divine; the library is fully stocked and homey; the Easanna Spa offers a menu that includes seaweed wraps, and rejuvenating facials; and the dining options, including this carrot cake, are delightful.



For the cake

1 cup light brown sugar

3/4 cup sunflower oil

1/4 cup plain yogurt

3 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups grated carrots

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

1 cup wine-soaked raisins (see Note)

For the cream cheese frosting

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 to 2 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar

2 tablespoons heavy (whipping) cream

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

2 tablespoons toasted flaked almonds

1 tablespoon toasted pumpkin seeds

  1. Make cake. Preheat oven to 325°F. Spray 9- or 10-inch springform pan with non-stick cooking spray.

  2. In a medium bowl, beat brown sugar and oil with an electric mixer on medium speed for about 1 minute, or until combined. Beat in the yogurt until fully combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition; beat in vanilla. Set aside.

  3. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Stir into the brown sugar mixture until just combined (do not over mix). Fold in carrots, nuts and raisins.

  4. Transfer to the prepared pan and bake for about 35 to 38 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. (Do not overbake; check cake at 30 minutes, then again at 38). Remove cake from oven and let cool completely on a wire rack before removing side of pan.

  5. Make frosting. In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, or until creamy and smooth. Add 2 cups confectioners’ sugar and beat until thick. Add cream and vanilla extract and beat on medium speed for 2 more minutes. Add additional 1/4 cup sugar, if needed, and salt to taste.

  6. With an offset spatula, spread frosting over top and sides of cake and sprinkle almonds and pumpkin seeds on top. Refrigerate until frosting is firm, and then cut into slices. (Cake can be stored, covered, in refrigerator for up to 3 days).

Note: On the day before baking, in a small saucepan, bring 1/2 cup red wine, 1/2 cup port and 1/4 cup sugar to boil. Pour over 1 cup raisins, cover, and let sit overnight.

On the list of “Top 10 Resorts in the U.K. and Ireland,” Ashford Castle in Cong, County Mayo, was ranked No. 5 and lauded as a resort with “a winning combination of stunning architecture, sumptuous cuisine, state-of-the-art spa, and wealth of activities on its expansive 350-acre grounds.” Situated on the shores of Lough Corrib, the castle was home to the Guinness family for more than 100 years and has operated as a hotel since 1939. Now under the direction of Red Carnation Boutique Hotels Collection, the castle was completely refurbished in 2015 with new amenities like a billiards room, cigar terrace, children’s games room, and a 32-seat cinema added (“The Quiet Man, filmed in Cong in 1951, is screened nightly). The final piece of the renovation was the addition of a beautiful spa and indoor swimming pool. Many of the original resort activities on the 350-acre estate have also been updated, including tennis on two all-weather courts; golf on a scenic 9-hole course; salmon and trout fishing on Lough Corrib with a “ghillie” (guide) if you like; riding in the castle’s lakeside equestrian center; clay shooting; and falconry at Ireland’s School of Falconry, a rare opportunity to experience the ancient art of flying hawks.

There’s plenty to choose from on the restaurant side of Ashford, especially from head chef Philippe Farineau. Under his direction, elegant breakfasts and lavish dinners are served in the George V dining room; contemporary Irish meals can be found at Cullen’s at the Dungeon and Cullen’s at the Cottage; afternoon tea is served in the Connaught Room; light lunches in the Drawing Room; and drinks in the Prince of Wales Bar.