Kay and the late Dermot McEvilly were among the pioneers of the Irish country house movement when they opened Cashel House as a hotel in 1968. The following year General and Madame de Gaulle chose to stay for two weeks, an historic visit of which the McEvilly family is justly proud - look out for the photographs and other memorabilia in the hall.
The de Gaulle visit meant immediate recognition for the hotel, but it did even more for Ireland by putting the Gallic seal of approval on Irish hospitality and food.
The beautiful gardens, which run down to a private foreshore, contribute greatly to the atmosphere, and the accommodation includes especially comfortable ground floor garden suites, which are also suitable for less able guests (wheelchair accessible, but no special grab rails etc in bathrooms).
Kay is a caring and exceptionally perceptive host, knowing instinctively just when to make a contribution and when to hold back and give guests space.
Relaxed hospitality combined with professionalism have earned an international reputation for this outstanding hotel and its qualities are perhaps best seen in details - log fires that burn throughout the year, day rooms furnished with antiques and filled with fresh flowers from the garden, rooms that are individually decorated with many thoughtful touches.
Service (with all day room service, including all meals) is impeccable, and delicious breakfasts include a wonderful buffet display of home-made and local produce (Cashel House was the Connaught winner of our Irish Breakfast Awards in 2001).
Dermot McEvilly was an inspirational figure in Irish hospitality and he is much missed; but his legacy lives on in many ways – a current development that he encouraged, for example, is for the gardens to become a more active focus of interest; Kay McEvilly has taken this up with enthusiasm and the relaxed and informative short residential Cashel House Garden Courses with respected guest speakers have proved a great success.
Similarly, the hotel now works more closely with the equestrian side of the business, the 'Justice' Connemara and Irish Sport Horse stud and show jumping yard, which has an Equestrian Shop on site. Cashel House makes an ideal base for visiting the many shows that take place in Connemara and the surrounding area throughout the summer.
Conference/banqueting (15/80), free broadband wi/fi (ground floor); children welcome (under 5s free in parents room, cot available free of charge), baby sitting arranged, playroom). Pets permitted in some areas (stay in bedrooms or kennels free of charge). Walking, tennis. Gardens (open to the public). Well-located for local horse shows (Justice Connemara Pony & Irish Sport Horse Stud Farm is located within the hotel grounds; guests may view).
Rooms 29 (13 junior suites, 5 family rooms, 7 ground floor, 3 single, all no smoking). B&B €105pps (€75 low season).
A large conservatory extension makes the most of the outlook on to the lovely gardens around this well-appointed split-level restaurant, which is open to non-residents. Arturo Amit who has been head chef since 2003 - and joined in 2011 by well known local chef, John O'Toole - is known for cooking that showcases local produce, notably seafood.
Despite occasional world influences - in a plate of warm Cleggan mussels with tomato chilli and garlic, for example - the tone of his five-course dinner menus is classic: roast Connemara lamb is an enduring favourite and there is an emphasis on home-grown fruit and vegetables, including some fine vegetarian dishes and homely desserts, such as rhubarb or apple tart, or strawberries and cream - then farmhouse cheeses come with home-baked biscuits.
The personal supervision of Kay McEvilly and restaurant manager Ray Doorley ensures exceptionally caring service, and an extensive and informative wine list includes many special bottles for the connoisseur - yet there are also plenty of well-chosen, more accessible wines (under about €30), and a good choice of half bottles.
*A short à la carte bar lunch menu offers interesting snacks and sandwiches, but also delicious hot meals, including Irish stew or even lobster if desired; afternoon teas are also served daily in the bar.